What you need to know:
- A 90kg bag of well-composed manure goes for as high as Sh1,000 currently as demand outstrips supply.
- To process the manure, farmers need to heap animal waste and cover it with raw twigs or wide leaves like those from bananas.
- Though organic farming is believed to be labour-intensive, it has long-term benefits to the soil, environment and consumers.
One of the resolutions you should make as a farmer this year is to make your own manure on the farm to not only cut costs but also better your soil and the environment.
You see, livestock manure has become the new gold on the farm as enthusiasm towards farming, especially in urban areas surges.
A 90kg bag of well-composed manure goes for as high as Sh1,000 currently as demand outstrips supply.
But as a crop farmer, before you rush to purchase manure, you should know what you can buy and what you can make on the farm.
Seeds of Gold spoke to Samuel Nderitu, the founder of Grow Bio-Intensive Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BIAK), which is based in Thika on easy-to-make organic fertilisers.
Nderitu notes that one can ‘manufacture’ various types of organic manure from kitchen and farm waste, weeds, egg shells, vegetable peelings and dry leaves, among others.
Below are the different kinds of manure you can easily make on the farm:
Farm waste manure
This is made by decomposing waste from the farm, compound and kitchen. After gathering enough raw materials, one has to dig a shallow hole on the ground.
This, Nderitu says, allows micro-organisms to come on the surface. The micro-organisms are key in breaking down the raw materials to decompose it.
On top of the loose soil, materials for making manure are placed, starting with things like dried maize, sorghum and millet stalks.
On top of these, one places green materials mostly nitrogen-rich plants like sesbania and lucina. The heap is then topped with kitchen waste, and the process is repeated until the heap reaches 3m in height.
The heap is then left to decompose for three months. Throughout the decomposition time though, farmers need to pour water to aid the process, especially if the manure-making process is not done during the rainy season.
“You end up with a cleaner environment and your own organic manure, at no cost,” says Nderitu.
This involves rearing red worms, which breakdown manure by feeding on the green materials as provided by the farmer.
Besides the manure, one gets compost tea which the can use for top dressing crops.
“We feed the worms on specific plants to get particular nutrients from the tea,” explains Nderitu, who rears the worms.
To get phosphorus for example, the red worms are fed Russian comfrey, commonly known as mabaki.
After feeding them, water is poured over the worms to wash down nutrients into harvesting tanks. Farmers then irrigate their crops with the nutritious tea to make them thrive.
Many farmers, as Nderitu explains, use raw livestock waste on their farms. However, for good results, the waste should be left to decompose to ensure it cures fully.
To process the manure, farmers need to heap animal waste and cover it with raw twigs or wide leaves like those from bananas.
The heap is then left to decompose for three months, before it is ready for use.
When it is fully cured, it supplies nutrients to the soil. On the other hand, when not fully cured, it takes time to cure, instead of feeding the soil.
This is made from materials from crops like rice or coffee husks. Rice husks is better because it decomposes better, says Nderitu.
To make the compost, farmers need to add baking yeast to the husks, then charcoal and quarry dust. Quarry dust is better than charcoal dust as it has more potassium.
Molasses is mixed with yeast and added to the rice or quarry dust little by little. This mixture is mixed twice a day to enhance good decomposing. It takes 14 days for this kind of manure to be ready.
Mary Irungu, an advocacy officer at Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) Kenya, an organisation that advocates for agro-ecology, says organic manure are safer.
“There is no reason why grassroots farmers, most of whom are smallholders, do not embrace organic farming, first for their own health, as well as for the health of other consumers,” says Irungu.
She adds that though organic farming is believed to be labour-intensive, it has long-term benefits to the soil, environment and consumers.