Uganda: Farmers increase crop yield by using human urine as pesticide and fertilizer

August 05, 2019
A translation for this article is available in French

The rains have just begun and it’s a busy time, with farmers spending most of their energy planting and weeding. Sam Olang is holding a hand hoe and weeding groundnuts, maize, and bananas.

Although he weeds his field in good time, Mr. Olang says infertile soil and pests are a big menace and reduce yields. So he uses human urine to control pests and as a fertilizer.

He says, “I got this knowledge [of using human urine] from college and decided to apply [it] in my farm to improve yields.”

Mr. Olang lives in Te-Obia village in northern Uganda’s Lira district. For a long time, farmers in his area have been getting poor yields, and could not manage the high cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. But his farming changed for the better in 2016 when he tried this new practice.

He explains the simple method for turning human urine into a useful fertilizer and pesticide. He collects urine in a bucket and later pours it into a 10- or 20-litre jerry can to ferment. He ties a lid on top to prevent air from entering, and also to prevent the urine from evaporating and polluting the place before fermenting.

After 21 days of fermentation, the urine is ready to use. Mr. Olang mixes one litre of fermented urine with five litres of water. He uses a knapsack sprayer to apply the mixture to the leaves and stems of his groundnut, maize, and banana plants.

Because his harvest has increased since he started applying human urine, he no longer buys chemical fertilizer or pesticides.

He used to harvest between 100 and 150 kilograms of maize and groundnuts, but now harvests 300 to 400 kilograms per crop from a half-acre. Mr. Olang’s monthly income has also increased. He was earning 150,000 Ugandan shillings a month (about $40 US), but now gets 300,000 shillings ($80 US).

Ocira Patrick is one of the farmers who learned how to use human urine from Mr. Olang. Mr. Patrick used to harvest 300 kilograms of rice.

He says: “After we were trained on how to use the human urine as a pesticide and as a liquid fertilizer for crops, I started spraying it on rice. I managed to harvest 300 kilograms from a half- acre.”

But some people don’t feel comfortable using human urine in their fields. Grace Adong is a neighbour of Mr. Olang and is scared of eating crops that have been sprayed with urine.

Ms. Adong explains: “I didn’t know that urine can be used as a pesticide and fertilizer. After seeing Mr. Olang using it, the smell was so strong that coming into contact with it was disgusting.”

Mr. Olang says that human urine isn’t poisonous and does not harm crops, soil, or human health. He adds that, to avoid the smell, farmers need to cover the bucket and place it in a good storage place. He sprays the urine a few days per season, with the last spray approximately six weeks before harvest and sale.

He says that farmers need to use gloves and gumboots during spraying to avoid direct contact with the urine.

Mr. Olang says one advantage of using human urine is that, because it’s made at home, it doesn’t cost anything.

Docus Alum is the agricultural officer for Lira district. He says that human urine kills some crop pests and that it has high levels of nitrogen, a key nutrient for crop growth.

Mr. Alum says, “Urine has no harm to crops and human beings. I encourage farmers to use it in order to increase crop production because it is easily available and it is cost-effective.”

Mr. Olang plans to construct a separate permanent building to store human urine. He also wants to train more community members on how to use urine as a pesticide and fertilizer.

He says: “With the income I generated from selling the crops, I bought two goats which have reproduced—and now I have seven. I also bought 10 chickens, and I am able to pay school fees and provide basic needs for my family.”