1. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Bats leave good fertilizer on village ceilings (Syfia Grands Lacs)

| May 25, 2009

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A villager from Bandundu recalls the day a group of youths arrived at his door. They wanted to negotiate a price for bat droppings, also called bat guano. At first, he thought they were crooks. But the youths reassured him, and soon they were climbing up to his ceiling. The youths collected 10 litres of guano that day. The villager pocketed 1,000 Congolese francs (about 1.3 American dollars or 0.95 Euros).

The sale of bat guano is no joke in Bandundu, a town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. For two years, farmers have been gathering guano from their ceilings. Some people earn money by scraping ceilings and selling it in the market.

It all started when women arrived at the local military base two years ago. They found their ceilings covered with bat droppings. It may not have been a pleasant sight, but the women soon learned that guano is an excellent fertilizer.

The practice quickly spread around the military camp. It’s now the most popular fertilizer for kitchen gardens.

Elysée Mitinso used to fertilize with dead leaves. Her harvests were good. But with bat guano, they’re even better. She used to harvest four baskets of vegetables. Now it’s six.

But those who use bat guano have a warning to other farmers. Since guano is such a strong fertilizer, it must be used carefully. Otherwise, it can burn your crops.

Begas Edgar Tanza teaches agricultural science at the university in Bandundu. He explains how to use bat guano safely. First, you must leave the guano on the soil for at least a week, watering it regularly. Next, you must thoroughly mix the guano into the soil. These steps reduce the harmful acidity of the guano.