Farmers in the Yala area of Siaya county are using anthills to fertilize their soils in the sandy soils at a time when the price of chemical fertilizers has gone beyond their reach. In a discovery that the farmers chanced by sheer luck and which has become the subject of research by scientists, anthills have become a boom among farmers to an extent that new business ventures selling the anthills have cropped up.
When the farmers mix the anthill soil into their top soil during land preparation, it acts just like the fertilizer improving the soil texture and clay content. A kilo of the anthill soil goes for Sh200 and farmers with half an acre use on average 10 kilos to mix with the top soil.
“The anthill has been our saving grace in the wake of escalating chemical fertilizer prices. We don’t know what we would have done especially because our soils require a boost and the fertilizer prices have gone sky high. From the markets and shops you can tell how important the anthill soil has become to farmers,” said Gerald Munaku one of the pioneer farmers of the anthill soil use in the Yala.
Jamila Wamae another farmer using the anthill hails it for its ability to provide excellent organic manure, especially for poor soils that do not hold water. “They help retain soil moisture and texture and they assist the soil hold each other together ensuring crops are not easily swept by floods or strong winds,” she said.
Murimi Mwikali a researcher working with the farmers in understanding how anthill soil works in farms agrees that there are huge benefits on farmlands. He says anthills are important for clay content improvement and soil texture so that the nitrogen and other plant nutrients and micro nutrients that are important to the growth of the plant remain available in the soil,” said Murimi.
He however cautions farmers to have the anthill soils tested before applying for purposes of ensuring a good balance of nutrients in the farm. “Ants pick different forms of soil. It is important to note that some of the soils are alkaline and could be dangerous for the crops,” Murimi added.