Expensive fertilizers push farmers into organic farming

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Expensive fertilizers push farmers into organic farming


Use of organic fertilizers in Machakos County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February reduced shipments of key fertilizer components.
  • In the face of global shortages, the price has risen day by day, reaching 6,000 shillings per 50-kilogram bag, nearly double the price a year ago.
  • Some farmers have found an answer in organic fertilizer, which is not only cheaper but also easily accessible and environmentally friendly compared to the synthetic type they used.

The sustainability of agriculture has come increasingly into question in recent weeks as fertilizer prices soar.

Supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February reduced shipments of key fertilizer components such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from the two countries, which are among the world’s largest suppliers.

In the face of global shortages, the price has risen day by day, reaching 6,000 shillings per 50-kilogram bag, nearly double the price a year ago.

Farmers have been forced to make tough choices – either dig deeper into their pockets to access this much-needed agricultural input that is crucial for higher yields and better pest control, or minimize their costs by reducing the acreage they they put into production.

Some large-scale farmers, particularly in the North Rift, have reportedly opted for the latter option, which analysts say will worsen the country’s already precarious food security situation.

But for small farmers, the choice is not so black and white. Being more dependent on agricultural enterprises for family subsistence, they have to put every bit of the small area they have into production and all the inputs they can get to ensure better yields.

These farmers found an answer in organic fertilizer, which is not only cheaper but also easily accessible and environmentally friendly compared to the synthetic type they use.

One of them is Scolasticah Wambui, which grows maize, beans, as well as vegetables like kale, spinach and cabbage in Gakonye, ​​Kiambu County.

Ms. Wambui says she stopped applying synthetic fertilizers to her plants because she could not afford the products. The fact that their application also made his soil toxic played a role in the change.

On her two-acre farm, for example, she was buying five 50-kilogram sacks of fertilizer for about 3,000 shillings each before prices skyrocketed, meaning she was paying around 15,000 shillings a year. Today, to buy the same input, she would need at least 30,000 shillings.

“If I buy fertilizer at this price, it means my income will drop by almost a quarter if market prices remain constant,” she told the business daily.

Instead, she now uses Mazao Flourish, a liquid organic fertilizer that costs her Sh500 per acre, saving her a lot of money. Fertilizer is made from living organisms and microorganisms that control plant diseases and increase yields.

She raves about the fertilizer, saying he has seen it help minimize damage from diseases caused by several soil fungi while helping her plants overcome environmental stresses through increased development. roots.

Real IPM, the company behind the Mazao Flourish brand, works with farmers to raise awareness, focusing on short-term returns and the benefits of increased income.

“I wish I had known about organic fertilizers earlier. I have never harvested such good yields from my land in the past 10 years.

“Thanks to the products I sell, I am now able to comfortably meet all my household needs, but not just school fees and medical costs, while saving on my profits,” adds Mr. Wambui.

Moses Bikokwa, a green bean farmer also from Kiambu, says his crop production has increased by more than 20% since switching to organic fertilizers.

“I am able to harvest so much more on the same field. For example, last season I harvested an additional 300 kg of green beans from my one acre farm.

Likewise, he saves about 30% on the cost of agricultural inputs that he would otherwise have incurred with synthetic fertilizers.

The biggest challenge for bio-fertilizers is the change in attitude, which contributes to slow adoption by farmers.

They have been using the same farming methods for so long and it takes some time to convince them to adopt new farming techniques.

Real IPM managing director Samuel Ngugi told Business Daily that the tide is starting to change, however, as other farmers see the real benefits of early adopters.

Mr. Ngugi claims that their product reduces fertilizer use by 25% in addition to increasing yields by up to 25%.

“Our technology works and we are working with our partners to ensure that all farmers benefit from it,” says Ngugi.

Unlike synthetic dressing, Ngugi estimates that farmers can save between 30 and 40 percent on lost farm income by using environmentally friendly enrichers.

“Farmers don’t have to worry about soil acidity because Mazao Flourish is an organic blend of beneficial microbes, which are living organisms that promote growth by increasing the supply of primary nutrients to the plant,” adds Mr. Ngugi.

The company, based in Thika, Kiambu, also operates in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and South Africa.

It has employed over 100 Kenyans in the supply chain.

The company, which has reached 10,000 farmers through its network of agro-vets and distributors across the country, produces 5,500 liters of bio-fertilizer per week, an annual production of 286,000 litres.

Demand for organic manure is also expected to rise after the Department of Agriculture capped subsidized fertilizer sales at 20 bags, meaning large farmers will have to look for alternative manures.

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