• Compost manure is also critical in improving soil structure which aids in improving water retention.
• Kenyan farmers have for the longest time gone about the issue of compost manure wrong, with many collecting animal waste and spreading it on the field immediately.
The recent attempts to ban compost manure through regulations point to a disconnect between the law of agriculture in Kenya and the realities of agriculture the world over.
Compost manure is widely used in the best food producers in Africa such as Uganda, who we import cereals from, to the most food-secure nations such as Israel—a large desert that has bloomed against all odds.
People often confuse compost manure for fertiliser or even organic fertiliser. Compost manure is not fertiliser, despite its critical role in enriching soil health. Compost manure increases living matter in the soil through micro-organism, it increases fertility of the soil elements through nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous and it also suppresses diseases in the soil.
Compost manure is also critical in improving soil structure which aids in improving water retention especially in desert conditions of Israel, where water is rare and each droplet is recycled.
Israeli farmers, who have had to farm under the worst conditions on the sandy rocky desert with little water, bear witness to the usefulness of organic compost manure. Israel puts heavy emphasis on compost manure; quite understandable as the soil they call sand is more rocks than sand.
Nations advancing in agriculture are not running away from the use of compost as it is readily available and lack of proper composting leads to greenhouse gas emissions
Farmers harvest sand from one area and spread it over their fields before mixing or spreading compost. In orchards, trenches of compost are used to enhance soil structure and composition. While the farmers can make their own compost manure, it is also commercialised.
One such commercial compost producing facility is Compost Sde Eliyahu, owned by a community village (Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu) which has a compost facility of approximately 30 acres. The capital-intensive operation annually receives 120,000 tonnes of animal manure from a 30km radius and sells 80,000 tonnes of compost in bulk to farmers.
The raw materials are 70 percent cow manure, 25 percent chicken manure and five percent wood and vegetable matter. These raw materials are composted for three to four months before a sample is sent to the lab to test for N-P-K, C: N, pH, EC, coliform and E-coli, and pesticide. It is sifted for use in horticulture to remove wood pieces and stones.
If Kenya is to speak of food security, it is anticipated that the country will look at irrigation for a year-round supply of food and increase its arable land through farming in the northern arid areas. After all, the soil conditions of our North are heavenly compared to the desert of Israel.
Nations advancing in agriculture are not running away from the use of compost as it is readily available and lack of proper composting leads to greenhouse gas emissions.
Kenyan farmers have for the longest time gone about the issue of compost manure wrong, with many collecting animal waste and spreading it on the field immediately. Proper compost making requires proper fermentation of up to four months, heaped and buried, with constant turning to allow entry of oxygen necessary for this process.
If Kenyans aren’t properly composting manure, the solution is to train farmers on proper techniques or commercialise composting, not ban it
While no one is running away from the fact that compost manure as done in Kenya could easily spread pathogens, the solution is not using a heavy fist and tough regulations that will curtail food security while we import from Uganda, which solely relies on compost manure for farming. The law must meet the farmer's needs. After all, there are agricultural sectors that have been strangled to death by cartels' use of the law.
Use of compost enhances organic farming. For crops such as coffee, the best producers in terms of quantity and quality rely on compost manure as the only addition to soil. Most only add artificial fertiliser after eight years of compost manure to replenish soil nutrients.
The sole use of compost has allowed such farmers to earn extra income abroad from organic certification. Kenya heavily invests in training agricultural extension officers. If Kenyans are not properly composting manure, which would help eliminate pathogens, the solution is to train farmers on proper composting techniques or seek commercialisation of composting instead of a total ban on compost manure use.
Simply put, people don’t grow plants, they grow soil which grows plants.
Advocate of the High Court and a Mashav alumna