To lower acidity in the soil and reap a good harvest, Mr Gikunju uses special compost that he manufactures and sells to colleagues. A grandfather is making a fortune from organic fertilizer, which is fast gaining currency in many parts of Nyeri. Mr.Waweru Gikunju, 62, was at first alarmed when his farm was found to have high acidity levels 10 years ago. He was advised to use organic fertilizer to improve the soil’s fertility.
“It was in 2002 when I was told that the soil in my farm was very acidic due to prolonged use of organic fertilizers,” says Gikunju. He recalled a technology that he had learned about during training in 1999 at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture (JKUAT) and regretted not having applied it on his farm earlier.
Animal waste and compost are widely used as manure, but as Gikunju says they do not contain all the nutrients required for the crops to grow well. He, therefore, used the technology taught at JKUAT to make organic fertilizer at home. He applied the fertilizer on his farm and the results were amazing, he says.
His neighbours, mainly relatives, became interested in his fertilizer when they saw its effect on his farm. Mr. Gikunju started supplying them with the fertilizer for free. That marked the start of his life as a technologist and entrepreneur. Word went round that his product was working miracles on farms, leading to its wide adoption in the region.
He went for further training at JKUAT in 2003, after which he ventured into fulltime enterprise. “I refreshed the skills I had acquired and gained deeper insight into the technology. Then I ventured into fulltime production of organic fertilizer”, he said. At first, it was not easy. The work was labour-intensive, time consuming, and expensive. But he acquired space on the outskirts of Nyeri town to establish the Nyeri Light Industries.
He used Sh90, 000 to buy the materials required to make the fertiser.The technology he uses is not common in Kenya. The materials used include egg shells, blood, leaves form specific plants, vegetable waste, urine from bugs imported from South Africa, ash, chicken manure and powdered bones.
In the beginning, it was challenging to get all the materials, but things have now changed, “I had to transport the materials from as far away as Mbeere. The cost of transportation was high, in addition to the fact that I hired people to help me collect vegetable waste at the market”, he says.
The different components are mixed in specific ratios and the process takes about six months to be completed. He mixes 5,000 kilograms of the materials – except the powdered bones, urine, and blood, which are reserved for the final stages. They are then kept in a dark room, where the decaying and fermentation process takes place. He gets 3,000 kilograms at the end of the process.
Impurities are then removed and another process starts. The product is divided into equal quantities and put in containers where the animal blood and urine are added. After two weeks, the resulting product is mixed with powdered bones and is now ready for the market.
One packet of the fertiliser is sold at sh50 and lasts long in the soil, Gikunju says.
“The fertilizer is different from other forms of manure. It is rich in nutrients and is used in smaller quantities”, he says.
One coffee tree, for instance, uses 300grammes of the fertilizer while it would need 20kilograms of animal manure or compost, he says. The fertilizer variety has high levels of iron, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and ammonium, he says. Mr. Gikunju supplies the fertilizer to agrovets in Nyeri town and his direct customers are mainly farmers.
Occasionally, people from other places seek information on the technology from him. Mr. Gikunju utilizes agriculture trade fairs to sell his product and create awareness about it.
In a good season, he makes at least sh100, 000 which is complemented by coffee sales. This has supported him and his family over the years. He has employed three people to help process and package the fertilizer.
By BERNARDINE MUTANU