admin | January 24, 2022
Peninah Muthoni farms in Karungaru village in eastern Kenya. Mrs. Muthoni is experimenting with using bokashi, a type of fertilizer made from a mix of farmyard waste. The region where Mrs. Muthoni lives has experienced droughts in recent years. But using bokashi has helped restore soil quality and grow vegetables where the soil is poor. It takes only two weeks to make bokashi. The fertilizer is composed of a variety of household and farmyard materials, including charcoal dust; manure; rice, wheat, or maize; molasses, and topsoil to introduce more microorganisms. By using bokashi to replenish her soil, Mrs. Muthoni has been able to grow enough food for herself and her 14 children, and have a surplus of food for others.
Peninah Muthoni farms in Karungaru village in eastern Kenya. Mrs. Muthoni is experimenting in her gardens with the use of bokashi, a type of fertilizer made from a mix of farmyard waste.
She completed a course in 2019 with and organization called Resources Oriented Development Initiative (RODI) Kenya, where she learned how to create and use bokashi. The fertilizer is made by fermenting organic material to create nutrient-rich compost that helps to restore low quality soil.
The region where Mrs. Muthoni lives has experienced droughts in recent years. But using bokashi has helped to restore soil quality and grow vegetables where the soil is no longer arable.
Patrick Gicheru is a leading scientist in Kenya, and directs the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization. Mr. Gicheru says the most common reason for depleted and under-nourished soils is overuse, especially when the field is planted repeatedly without being left to fallow.
It was originally thought that poor soil quality in Kenya was due to acidity. But after surveying the country, it was discovered that soils across the country are deficient in zinc and potassium. This is an indicator that the soil has been overused, and that crops have been replanted every year without replacing soil nutrients. Bokashi helps replenish the missing minerals to create more rich and sustainable soil.
It takes only two weeks to make bokashi. When they know how, farmers can make bokashi themselves using locally available materials. But there is a very specific method to create bokashi, and so many farmers and organizations have begun to produce the fertilizer commercially to spread its use across Kenya.
The fertilizer is composed of a variety of household and farmyard materials, including: charcoal dust; manure; rice, wheat, or maize; molasses, and topsoil to introduce more microorganisms.
The challenge with bokashi is that it requires time to make and to restore fields, and some famers desire quick results. Because of time constraints and higher costs, some farmers are hesitant to purchase bokashi instead of chemical fertilizers, or even to produce it themselves.
Philemon Olembo is a maize farmer with a four-acre farm. He prefers chemical fertilizers because they are more concentrated, more accessible, and more reliable.
According to scientists, although chemical fertilizers are cheaper in the short term, their use can harm microbes in the soil which are key to replenishing nutrients to grow good, wholesome foods. In addition, chemical fertilizers must be reapplied every season, whereas the premise of bokashi is to leave the soil nourished for multiple seasons.
In the first season of using bokashi, farmers require 20 50-kilogram bags per acre and each bag costs 2,000 shillings (US $17.50). This is why cost is one of the largest deterrents to using bokashi. Now organizations such as the Resources Oriented Development Initiative offer courses on how to make bokashi—to reduce the cost for small-scale holder farmers such as Mrs. Muthoni.
By using bokashi to replenish the soil in her garden, Mrs. Muthoni has been able to grow enough food for herself and her 14 children, as well as have a surplus of food for others.
RODI has partnered with farms run by 35 prisons across the country to educate and implement the use of bokashi, and is working with 28 schools across Kenya. The organization strongly advocates for the government of Kenya to invest in agricultural research on bokashi, and to spread knowledge and awareness about this technique.
This story is based on an article titled, “For Kenyan farmers, organic fertilizer bokashi brings the land back to life.” To read the full article, go to: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/11/bokashi-fast-decomposing-bio-fertilizer-proves-effective-for-organic-farmers-in-kenya/
Photo: Mrs. Muthoni in her garden. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu for Mongabay.