A group of vanguard women farmers from Banana Hill area of Kiambu county have perfected the art of turning colon waste and blood from a local butchery into a much sought after fertilizer that is providing a cheaper alternative for farmers struggling with high prices of conventional fertilizer, while removing the waste stench and mosquitoes from the area.
The group of 21 women saw a widow of opportunity four years ago when residents continuously complained an awful stench from the local butchery. A simple advise from a graduate student from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology on ways of turning the filth to gold has now seen them clean the environment and given them earnings through sale of fertilizer to the farmers.
The women have entered into an agreement with Simon Njoroge, the owner of the abbatoir who allows them to clean the slaughter house and collect both the colon waste and blood free of charge. “We all benefit. We assist him clean his slaughter house which was nearing closure by the Ministry of Health Officials due to accumulated waste, and he allows us to get the waste free of charge,” says Liberata Wanja one of the women in the group.
The women then ferry the colon waste on a wheelbarrow to the group leader’s small farm Grace Muthoni.
They also work as a team in ferrying litres of blood as well from the slaughter blood pit to her farm.
They mix the colon waste with animal blood using a shovel before adding an Effective Microorganism which is commonly branded as EM-1. This they buy from local agrovet shops for Sh250. EM-1- is a substance experts say speeds up decomposition by breaking down unwanted biological materials which while reducing the awful smell also improves soil quality through aerating the soil and increasing the nitrogen and phosphorus level to the decomposed matter, nutrients plant need for optimum growth. EM-1 can also be used to recycle kitchen waste.
Every week Njoroge slaughters around 15 animals, a number the group says give enough colon waste for making sufficient bio fertilizer as the fertilizer is commonly referred to.
“We turn over and over the hip of waste and animal blood in order to mix it properly,” says Liberata. Bio-fertilizer takes 21 to 30 days to be ready.
When it’s ready, the women sieve it with a homemade wire mesh to remove unwanted particles before packaging it ready for sale. “When it's ready it has an early soil aroma. You can’t believe it the smelly stuff we get from the slaughter house,” says Jemimah Wandoho another group member.
Farmers in the area and beyond form their largest clientele with the women selling 12 bags of 50kilo bags on a typical day each at Sh1500. For convenience to all farmers they also package it at 2kg bags each at Sh100.
The venture which caught the Ministry of Agriculture officials from the area, saw the officials carry samples for testing, attesting its viability and nutritional value to plants. So impressed were the officials that they are now building a storage facility for women's fertilizer, having first donated to them wheelbarrows, shovels and hand gloves to make their work easier.
Bio- fertilizer does not contain any harmful chemicals which may kill living organisms in soil, and has been hailed as one of the ingenious alternatives that farmers are developing following unprecedented rise in commercial fertilizers which have gone up in price by as much as 115 per cent over the last two years, despite government subsidies and extra imports to cover the shortfall in the market. This even as soils in the continent continue to heavily be depleted off the main nutrients required for growth.
Scientists estimate that soils in sub-Saharan Africa are being depleted at annual rates of 22 kilograms per hectare for nitrogen and 2.5 kg/ha for phosphorus leaving the farmers with soils that cannot sustain any yields, which explain the heavy reliance on synthetic fertilizers.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter