An innovative Ugandan has introduced an organic vegetable fertilizer which doubles yields coming at a time when the demand for organically grown foods is on the rise especially among the health conscious middle class.
Having attained immense organic farming knowledge from Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF), Joachim Birungi set out on a mission to empower his fellow Ugandan farmers in adopting the healthy and sustainable farming techniques. After training at KIOF I worked at Dyna Farm where I acquired more knowledge. It’s after serving in Kenya for over five years that the ambitious youthful Birungi relocated back to Uganda to share his new found knowledge among farmers.
He introduced a number of technologies that support urban farming. One of those techniques is the fish tank / bucket model where fish are reared on improvised water holding surfaces and water routinely changed. This model did not only prove to be an ideal side hustles for the urban dwellers or farmers with small land but also gave birth to the now famous and effective organic fertilizer that also doubles up as an organic pesticide.
Made from locally available materials, the organic pesticide is proving to be a household name among many organic farmers in Uganda. The ingredients for making the solution include waste water from the tank fish ponds, human urine, ash, hot pepper, Phytoplacca leaves (oluwoko), neem leaves and milk if the solution is to be used on tomatoes. Farmers interested in adopting the organic solution fertilizer and lacks source of waste water from the fish tank pond purchase the water fromthose doing fish farming. Birungi explained that there are farmers who are now selling the water with a 20 litre container retailing between Ush1500-3000 depending on each individual farmer.
The collected human urine is left in the open for over 30 days to reduce the acidity. The leaves from the herbs are pounded and mixed with water. Eventually the waste water from the pond, human urine and the herb mixture are mixed and kept in a container which is left open for fermentation to take place in a period of about 14 days. Ash speeds up the fermentation process and if the container is covered then due to excessive heat and pressure that builds up during the process, the container may burst. The waste water from the fish tank pond takes the biggest percentage of the ratio during the mixing about 80 percent.
The mixture is then sieved to separate the water from the solid components. According to Birungi, the solid matter from the mixture is used by farmers for mulching. “This in itself acts as a herbicide and pesticide. When used together with the solution, it guards against infestation of pests like cutworms, fruit flies among others. “The organic solution when sprayed on vegetables like kales, egg plants, green berries (Ntula), Amaranth (dodo), Solanumaethiopicum (Nakati) among others has over 95 percent effectiveness. It helps in doubling the yields and even development of bigger fruits and leaves. This in addition to the fact that it’s chemical free,” added Birungi.
Currently the demand for the organic ally produced products is on the rise for both export and local market. In Central region where Birungi began his campaign, the practice is wide spread with over 200 farmers adopting it. Birungi alluded to the immense market available. “The market is lucrative and underserved. We supply super markets and on average our prices are always triple compared to the other products produced using conventional techniques.”
Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The demand for organic foods is primarily driven by personal health and environmental reasons and the United States has the biggest demand for organic foods with statistics indicating an estimation of about $42 billion spent on organic foods in 2014.
According to Musa Muwanga Chief executive officer for National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU), the demand for organic products in Europe and Unite states of America has been growing by 15 per cent every year. Globally, Mr Muwanga estimated the demand for organic food at over $70 billion (nearly UGX200 trillion).