Alex Lumu, a farmer in Nkonjo village, Masaka district, grows soy beans on an acre of land using composite manure as fertilisers and cow’s urine as pesticides. This is known as organic farming. Lumu vowed never to use chemical fertilisers on his land.
Each of the 55 families in this small village has demarcated a piece of land for organic farming experimentation to find its sustainability and profitability. A year since adopting the practice, most farmers’ harvest remains low. This is attributed to loss of soil fertility due to chemical fertiliser application over the years.
To improve soil fertility and tackle environmental and health concerns that have become synonymous with the use of chemical fertilisers, a group of Indian scientists have introduced organic fertilisers onto the Ugandan market.
Dubbed bio-tech manures, the fertilisers are 100% natural and contain all the nutrients and micro organisms required for proper plant growth.
Speaking at the launch of the fertilisers at Serena Hotel in Kampala recently, Dr Rajesh Sharma, the lead scientist of the India-based Prathista Industries, which manufactures the fertilisers, said: “A pilot organic fertiliser project on small farms at Kakira Sugar Works and smallholder cotton farmers in the area had led to a tremendous increase in yields.”
Research at Makerere University for the past two years showed that organic fertilisers lead to higher yields compared to chemical fertilisers.
“The plant takes up 100% nutrients,” Sharma said.
Prathista Industries developed the bio-tech in 1996 after scientists realised that even with the application of chemical fertilisers soil fertility was declining.
“Continuous use of inorganic fertilisers produces an imbalance in soil nutrients, which affects the PH (the degree of acidity and alkalinity) of the soils, reducing its fertility gradually,” he said.
Rose Anyango, a farmer from Lango Cooperative Union, who attended the launch, said she had used organic fertilisers successfully.
“Before I took on organic farming, I would harvest 300kg of cotton per acre, but since last year when I adopted organic farming, the yields have increased to 600kg per acre,” she said.
Application of the bio-tech manures depends on the type of crop.
“Different crops need different dosages, but these may vary, depending on the climatic conditions and soil type,” said Sambi Reddy, the senior marketing manager of JN Agritech International, the company distributing the fertilisers.
He added that one would need 25kg of granule fertilisers for one acre. “Under normal circumstances, one needs sh85,000 to farm an acre of land with the organic granules. This is cheaper compared to chemical fertilisers where a farmer spends sh120,000 per acre.
Speaking at the function, agriculture minister Hillary Onek urged the private sector and all stakeholders to promote organic farming to tap the big international market.
The new organic fertilisers have been certified by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Organic Movement of Uganda.