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Mulch is a protective covering of organic material laid over the soil around plants to prevent erosion, retain moisture, and to enrich soil. Paper mulch, made of magazines, boxes and other paper materials, is laid on top of traditional materials such as grass, fruit peels and leaves. This technology is especially appropriate in dry areas where water is not sufficient because it helps to control water loss.

Demmy Lucas is an entrepreneur in Arusha-Tanzania and one of the recipients of a PICO grant offered by ECHO East Africa. Demmy uses paper mulch to control weeds, improve soil fertility, and control moisture in her plot where she plants lemongrass.

Originally, Demmy planted maize in her plot, but the yield was poor because she was giving away the maize trash after harvesting. By mulching the maize trash back into her field she was able to marginally increase her production.  When she started spice processing, she planted lemongrass on the same plot to minimize the cost of buying it from the market. 

On a suggestion from an ECHO Intern, Brian Lawrence, who was staying with her family at the time, she began to use paper mulch before adding other trash. Her plot’s yield in lemongrass tripled, and she found an added ecological benefit in putting paper litter to use in her field.

Demmy said; “As an entrepreneur, I wish to spread this knowledge of paper mulch to other people especially families/farmers with small plots in order to conserve environments and at the same time increase their yield in their small plots since the soil will be fertile and moisture well controlled. With increased field, families/farmers will reduce hunger and malnutrition in the community”.

Additional Resources

Sustainable Agriculture: Chapter 12 - Mulching

ECHO Asia Notes: Gardening Without Digging

ECHO Gardening Hints: No-Till Gardening


This method was popularized by Ruth Stout in her book "The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the Famous Year-Round Mulch Method"– August, 1971 (Out of Print)