Mar 15, 2017

Using organic fertilizer to increase crop yields

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), drought in the Horn of Africa is triggering a humanitarian crisis with food insecurity and affected livelihoods. In Kenya, as at mid last year, 2.7 million people are feeding less yet what they eat is less nutritionally diverse.

ECO Group East Africa distributes OpenAll, an organic soil fertilizer technology. The product corrects and improves depleted soils hence contributing to improved yields as crops are able to cope with drought as well as rainfall variability. Unlike chemical fertilizers, OpenAll organic fertilizers allow for gradual release by microorganisms in the soil that provides a much more efficient transfer of nutrients from the fertilizer to the plant.

This gradual release also leaves behind an organic soil-repairing residue each season, which restores the depleted vitamin and mineral content of the soil. OpenAll also increases water absorption rates, dramatically reducing the water requirements.  It is environmentally safe and easy to apply.

OpenAll can be used for products including horticulture, floriculture cocoa, coffee, palm oil, and most field crops—all of which grow throughout many parts of East Africa.

Stanley Gichuru whose farm we visited in Meru County, is the chairman of the farmers group. He leads a group of 113 registered farmers but currently around 70 are active. His farm was used as a demo site by Eco-Group as part of the POC grant that they were awarded by Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) to pilot their organic fertilizer. Stanley has grown maize and potatoes at the demo farm. He also grows kales and spinach in his homestead.

The farmers in the area have been educated and this has been a big win in creating awareness on the effects of climate change and enlightening them on modern and effective ways of practising agriculture. He indicated that the farmers were willing to learn if training is provided and they are looking for sustainable ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change in their attempt to sustain food production.

There was a clear difference in yield from the adjacent farm on the same piece of land, that used traditional methods of farming.  From the demo site Stanley was able to harvest 11 bags of 50 kilograms which he was able to sell in the market for KSh.2000 per bag.  Usually he would harvest an average of 7-10bags of 50 kilograms. There were other significant differences from the demo farm. The maize had uniform growth, the yield much higher and the farmer indicated that the growth rate was much faster as compared to the adjacent farm which employed traditional farming. Potatoes on the demo farm were healthy looking, stems were stronger and this was beneficial in avoiding blight which can be devastating to the potato farm once it strikes.

Stanley suggested that one demo farm is not enough for one area, to come up with comprehensive findings. “The performance of a demo farm can be affected by several other factors. For instance, the commitment of the farmer to the product, the knowledge and understanding of the farmer on how to use the fertilizer,” noted Stanley.  In the area, a total of 17 orders of the product were already placed showing the impact the product has had to the farmers. He has also been receiving support from SNV and Kilimo biashara as they try to empower the small scale farmers.

By Elizabeth Kago

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