By Joseph Mukubwa
FARMING in Kenya is increasingly becoming an expensive venture to undertake as the cost of inputs continue to skyrocket. Leading the pack is the cost of fertilizers whose high prices have left many farmers with no choice but to either apply inadequate or none at all.
But one farmer, 62 -year old Waweru Gikunju from Kiawara village in Nyeri County, is not one of them. Mr Gikunju is making a fortune by literally turning trash into cash in form of organic fertilizer which he uses to grow crops in his farm and sells to farmers at affordable prices. The material he uses to make the fertilizer is what many people consider garbage and throw it away.
Some of the components he uses include banana and orange peels, egg shells, blood from slaughter houses, wood ash, animal bones from hotel waste, pigweed (Amaranthus), tree marigold, Tithonia diversifolia (locally known as Maruru) and Cassia spectabililisleaves (Mwinu).
Gikunju says the idea to make organic fertilizer was born when he was challenged by an agricultural officer to try organic farming as the acidity level in his farm where he grew coffee bushes rose to high levels.
“Though the challenge by the officer gave me a second thought, I had foreseen a looming drop in crop production way back in 1998 as the cost of chemical fertilizer continued to escalate in the country.” Gikunju says.
His breakthrough however came ten years ago after he attended a two-week workshop on organic farming at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The workshop acted as an eye opener where participants were taught how to make organic fertilizer from readily available materials.
In his ‘light industry’ located in Kiawara area, Gikunju who only managed to attain primary level education after he left school in 1973 produces around eight tones of fertilizer in three months.
“What I produce is very low compared to the high demand by the farmers. Recently a certain farmer ordered nine tonnes of the fertilizer which I could not deliver ,” he says.
The man who now qualifies to the title of an industrialist by virtue of his work and no formal education also offers employment to close to ten people.
“My work was at the beginning not welcomed by my family and neighbours but they have all learnt to appreciate my efforts since I have sustained the family with proceeds from sales whereas the local community benefits from the jobs I offer,” he proudly says.
A 50 kg bag of his organic fertilizer goes for Ksh 2,500 whereas he acquires a profit of Ksh 500 in the same bag after deducting the production costs.
The major challenge says Gikunju, has been to acquire materials since he is forced to go as far as Mbeere in Embu County to source some green weeds which are mainly used during the manufacturing process.
To enhance the quality of his organic fertilizer, Gikunju rears some special breed of worms imported from South Africa whose urine is used to quicken the decomposition of the weeds and other materials used.
His technique of making this fertilizer is fast gaining popularity and attracted people from within and without the country interested in both using and producing it.
“I at one time trained a lady from Zambia who was fascinated by the simplicity of the technique I use to produce the fertilizer,” Gikunju says.
Gikunju has so far been invited to showcase his work in past five Agricultural shows in Nyeri Kabiru-ini showground which he finds effective as farmers have embraced the fertilizer.