Eugene Habiyaremye used to be one of the poorest farmers in the village of Shyogwe, near Muhanga in southern Rwanda. But since he began using a mixture of human and cow urine on his tomatoes, he has become very successful. “I started in 2004, after hearing on the radio that diluted urine could be a good fertilizer,” he said.
Mr. Habiyaremye explains, “You see these big calabashes? I put the urine of cows in this one and human urine in the other. I cover them for two weeks. Then I pour a certain amount into the tanks, according to the water it already contains.” This method ensures that he dilutes the urine with the right amount of water in the tank. He filters the mixture. Then he waters the tomatoes with it.
Emile Mbaraga is an agronomist. He explains, “The urea in the urine contains 60-80% nitrogen, which, if used undiluted, will burn the roots of many plants.” He recommends that farmers add four litres of water to one litre of urine for watering vegetables. For bananas, dilute one litre of urine with one litre of water. And for maize, add two litres of water to one litre of urine. These proportions work during the dry season. Mr. Mbaraga says that in the rainy season, you can add less water to the urine. This is because “ … the rainwater dilutes the urine which fertilizes the plant.”
In Rurama, a village in the Eastern Province, farmers have used urine fertilizer to start cultivating bananas again. Sylvie Uzamukunda is a community worker, trained by a local NGO. She says, “Not only were the banana plants old, but combined with [the] lack of fertilizer and water in the region, we expected them to die out.”
The farmers from Rurama received training on using urine, and visited other communities who use urine in their fields. Ms. Uzamukunda says, “We collect the urine in small buckets and then put it in jerry cans. We cover it to stop the bad smell and the flies, and store it in a safe corner.” They managed to save their bananas. Ms. Uzamukunda says, “We strongly recommend that the members of our cooperatives imitate the farmers who use the cow and human urine.”
Eugene Habiyaremye inspired his neighbour Faustin Uwanyirigira. “I am a welder and bricklayer,” explains Mr. Uwanyirigira. “But I became interested in tomatoes. I now grow tomatoes in this plot. I never miss money in my pocket now. My family and my neighbours also eat these tomatoes.”
Eugene Habiyaremye sells his tomatoes to a supermarket in Kigali. He points to the other side of the mountain, where he grows pineapple, and says “Those pineapples also earn me a lot of money.” He can now support his family of six, and send his two children to school.
Emile Mbaraga says that Rwandans are generally ashamed to use human wastes as fertilizer, while cow urine is no problem. “There is still a lot of work to be done to change people’s attitudes to this resource. Human wastes are readily available and can be useful for maintaining kitchen gardens, for example.”