UGANDA: Fertilizer from composted rubbish revives Mbale’s farmers (IRIN)

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Wasagani Wambale’s two-hectare field produces only half the bananas, potatoes, tomatoes and onions it did in the past. He says, “This place was wonderful. I could harvest 150 bunches of bananas on average from each hectare. But in the late 1990s, my crop yield started falling.” Mr. Wambale is a farmer in Nabika Village, Mbale, eastern Uganda.

A new composting plant in Mbale may help improve his yields. The plant produces compost from organic waste. Bernard Mujasi is an official with Mbale District. He explains, “We have lorries collecting [organic] garbage in the town and market places. This garbage is taken to the compost plant for producing the compost fertilizers.”

The Mbale plant is funded by the World Bank and managed by the Uganda National Environment Management Authority. It is a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project. The CDM finances projects in developing countries which aim to reduce emissions of gases known to contribute to global warming.

Methane is one such gas. Rotting organic material, such as vegetable peelings, produces methane. Rhoda Nyaribi works with the compost project. She says, “Here we are turning garbage into fertilizer instead of leaving it to rot, emitting methane.”

The project was established in January 2010 to help clean up Mbale Town. But it also produces about 15 to 20 tonnes of compost per day. Farmers can buy a kilogram of dry compost manure at the plant for 100 Ugandan shillings (about four American cents). By comparison, half a litre of fertilizer spray costs 3,000 Ugandan shillings (about one dollar thirty cents).

Crop yields in this hilly region have been badly affected by declining soil fertility. Mr. Wambale explains: “The banana quality got bad; the suckers starting growing stunted and even the vegetables didn’t do well.” But agriculture officials expect food production in the area to increase, now that organic fertilizer is more readily available.

Mrs. Nyaribi says that farmers come from as far as northern Uganda to buy the compost.