When he left his formal job 10 years ago, Albert Kakande chose to go into agriculture. It was because he was looking for value for his time, something he hadn’t seen as an employee. He also needed an equal measure of growth for his effort, which he believed farming would give him. His love for agriculture and science were the main driving factors because with this Kakande was not stepping into the unknown.
However, enjoying commendable yields meant using inorganic inputs. Over time, Kakande has realized increasing trends of declining soil, plant and human health. “It was a blow to the dreams that had brought me here and I couldn’t sit back and hope things would get better. As such, I began to examine what could be done to restore the health of the soils, especially in Mende sub-county of Wakiso district where I reside,” he shares.
It was here, in 2019, that Kakande’s idea of organic soil nourishment (organic fertilizers) was born. It would be a year later that his journey of producing organic inputs would begin.
While he speaks with such mastery now, Kakande says the start was shaky, a matter of trial and error, with experiments here and there. “Over time, I developed a wider range of knowledge which I shared with other farmer groups and then networked with agribusiness NGOs,” he shares. We partnered to form Mende, Masulita and Gombe (MEMAGO agroecology group), to champion sustainable organic farming practices starting with communities in Wakiso district.
What made this trip plausible was the knowledge he had gained about managing and managing agriculture as a business. Subsequently, Kakande then began to experiment on his own fields. Over time, the referrals start coming in.
Kakande’s first client as an agricultural consultant was Grace Kabuye, a maize farmer from Bukasa village, Kituntu sub-county, Mpigi district. Initially, Kabuye practiced farming haphazardly, so the journey began with calculating expected yields per acre, using the right seed, the right spacing and the right time. Kakande also taught him to eliminate any unproductive physical features in his field, such as anthills and shrubbery, which would compromise targeted yields by reducing productive space.
“I also taught him that using genuine fertilizers can exponentially increase yield and therefore income, as opposed to the usual haphazard cultivation methods where the seed sown will depend entirely on nature for its survival,” says Kakande. . Impressed by Kakande’s knowledge, Kabuye later became a major user of his organic fertilizers.
There is a lot to learn from his first client and the lessons Kakande took from that was how to price the consulting service. “For example, at first I wanted to give him free advice, but later I reconsidered and charged him Shs 100,000,” Kakande shares.
He also learned the importance of valuing time and expertise because he understood that farm consulting is serious work that tasks the brain with thinking about suitable solutions to farmers’ problems.
“I then decided that it should not be offered at a ridiculous price, which caused him to adapt to my efforts. Today I charge between 300,000 and 500,000 Shs depending on the distance from the farm,” he says.
After dealing with several clients, both individual and collective, Kakande now uses cost-benefit analysis to price its products and services. “In this mode, I will calculate the input required to get a targeted output. It is the amount of money I will need to produce a given unit of fertilizer compared to the amount of money we expect to earn per unit of production,” he shares.
While Kakande’s home is located in Nkoowe, 13 miles on Hoima Road, for his consultancy work and production of agricultural inputs, he farms in different areas. “For example, I grow short-term horticultural crops such as watermelons and pumpkins in Butambala, maize and beans in Nakaseke and sometimes cassava,” he shares.
Save referrals, Kakande gets clients through social media, exhibitions, referrals from radio and TV shows he is invited to teach farmers on.
When the trials seemed to yield tangible results, Kakande turned to other bio trainers to bring to life what his experiments had brought. “I followed several trainings on organic agriculture, through the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in Eastern Africa and the Knowledge Center for Organic Agriculture, as a multiplier (organic farmer trainer). I also completed a master facilitator (master trainer) training,” he shares. Through networking and constant practice of organic farming, Kakande has ensured that these trainings are fully supported by the training organizations. “I improved my agroecological expertise/scientific knowledge on organic farming, the trainings also improved my skills in training farmers. I also became better at advocating agroecological practices,” he says.
In dealing with farmers and farmer groups, Kakande is encouraged to continue to champion organic farming. In this capacity, he trained several groups of farmers in organic farming practices. “Most are now able to make their organic agricultural inputs on the farm,” he says.
This joy is multiplied when he hears farmers such as Kabuye, Suzan Birungi, Janet Rwihandagaza and many others testify to the increase in yields.
Its innovation journey has seen several setbacks such as the long and costly journey of certifying organic inputs before they are accepted for public consumption by state authorities. There is a lack of adequate mechanization to initiate mass production.
Farmers also do not adopt organic agricultural inputs due to their volume which is not appealing to farmers. “They are used to using small amounts of inorganic agricultural inputs, but organic inputs may require double that. For this reason, they are discouraged from adopting organic inputs,” says Kakande.
He is also saddened when the farmers they have shown and educated about the dangers of using agrochemicals continue to use them.
Kakande started the organic journey with a wish to be a champion in promoting best agroecological practices that will transform and improve soil health. “Although this is happening slowly, I believe that in a few years efforts will restore the farm train to its original track,” he shares.
He believes the dream will be further strengthened as knowledge about the benefits of eating organically grown foods is embraced and improves people’s health. “We also look forward to increased adoption of our biological innovations,” he shares.
In terms of expenditure, sourcing raw materials from farmer-producers remains expensive, especially the collection of rabbit manure and organic slurry. Other production costs include packaging materials and fuel to run the granulation machine. Currently, Kakande plans to produce solid fertilizers, including:
MEMAGold Jimusa (granular fertilizer), a combination of compost sludge (the stuff left over after making biogas from cow dung) and rabbit waste. “While many can use compost slurry in liquid form, we are looking at issues of transportation and ease of handling, creating a sold, granulated fertilizer.”
Bio-char where different sets of plant residues are burned but each material is carefully selected to produce a desired nutrient. For example, for nitrogen, tithonian (ekimyula), caliandra, legumes (beans, peas), any type of dry manure is used. Potassium comes from dry peelings such as bananas, cassava and sweet potatoes, corn stalks (they also contain phosphorus), corn cobs (they also contain magnesium, cassava and manganese). “We combine these materials and burn them in carbonized environments with limited oxygen to achieve carbonization. At this point, we have carbon that the soil needs for better production. These ingredients also give us more soil nutrients like iron,” he shares.
Bokashi, is an easy to make fertilizer and serves two purposes as it is a complete fertilizer but it is also used to feed microbes (they are responsible for breaking down food, fighting soil diseases). To do this, we use coffee husks, clay soil (alternatively, you can use good soil commonly known as black soil), molasses, manure, corn or rice bran, yeast, charcoal dust, ash and water. The process is that yeast, water and molasses are mixed together in a single drum. Then on bare soil, lay the coffee husks and water the mixture, then loam/clay soil and water the mixture, followed by any form of dry manure and then water the mixture. Next comes the charcoal dust, then a layer of bran, the ash. It’s the first day. “If you still have the materials, you can redo the staking starting from the bales but only going up one meter to facilitate handling. This mixture is supposed to create a lot of heat but it should not be exposed to heat above 55 degrees Celsius. On the second day, you will mix the ingredients, as you would with sand and cement, and this is done in the morning and evening. After mixing, you sprinkle the liquid to lower the temperature along with molasses as these provide energy to the spoilage microbes. To avoid the rain, you provide shelter but not tightly to allow oxygen to flow. The heat produced decreases on the fifth day and we let it cool for another 10 days. Then the fertilizer is finished. It is mixed with the garden where you want to plant,” he explains.
Kakande also makes pesticides from tephrozia (muluuku), phytolacca (oluwoko), neem, pepper, garlic and table vinegar.