Youths make a killing out of bat droppings

A group of youths from Kitengela are making are having a field day selling bat droppings, commonly known as guano, to farmers in neighbouring locations, as it emerge that the droppings carry twice the amount of crop nutrients than conventional fertilizers, promising them continous supply of fertilizer at a time when farmers are grappling with erratic fertilizer supply.

Some years back, the youth, like their families treated the bat droppings as a nuisance and even organized days when they would do a clean up and discard them in nearby bushes. And therein lay the beginning of a journey that has created jobs and livelihoods to over 50 youths in the area.

Youth working on the nearby farms noticed vegetation around the area where they discarded the droppings flourished more than the rest of the vegetation. Months of close monitoring and consultation with local agricultural officers confirmed to them that guango was a nutritional superior fertilizer. “We were about five of us who were doing manual jobs, so we toyed with the idea of collecting and selling the droppings to neighbouring areas,” says Mutheki Koome the group leader.

But the selling would be a hard one, with the idea of courting the menace that has been the droppings to the farms being inconceivable to all the farmers. Undisturbed by the cold reception, and now in constant consultations with local agricultural officers, the group set up demonstration plots to convince and convert the doubting farmers. “Of course it came at a time when the farmers were reeling from an unprecedented rise in fertilizer prices and were planting without fertilizing their lands,” Koome said.

Three months to the demonstrations, the group had managed to get over 100 consistent farmers as their customers from the neighbouring Makadata, Muthwani and Sofia areas.
Now 16 months into the business the group boasts of more than 500 farmers 50 more members from an initial five.
Bats are notorious for defacation with Special birds journal approximating that a bat can produce half a kilo of droppings in a night. This is what has inspired the group. Collecting guango from some 20 homes, twice a week, the group gets about 15 bags of 90kg bags in every collection. Farmers sell the droppings at Sh10 per kilo. “Most of them dont want what they regard as the tedious and disgusting process of climbing the ceilings and collecting the droppings. So they would rather we do it and then we agree on payments,”said Joshua Mwero another youth member.

The group then packages the fertilizers in small bags to sell in the market where heightened awareness has seen an increase in uptake. An erratic supply of conventional supplies, even the government subsidized one, and the rising prices have also conspired to endear the farmers to guango fertilizer. On a good market day the youth group sells upto 200 kilos. “That is enough to cover the cost of buying packaging bags, a small allowance for our youth members and still get profit,”said Koome who hopes to transform the venture into a big fertilizer plant in future.

The highly nutritious fertilizer, with nitrogen for green growth, phosphorus for roots and flowering and potassium for strong stems,is however completely strong and might burn the crops. Local agricultural extension officers and scientists have trained the youth on ways of reducing the strong burning effect. Once the youth purchase the droppings they leave the guano on the soil for at least a week, watering it regularly. “This also means it has shaped itself in a way that it can be packaged in the bags. The plants respond well to the diluted one,”said Jathan Kioko an extension officer in the area who further adds that its odourless nature makes it more attractive to more farmers.

Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter