When he left formal business 10 years ago, Albert Kakande chose to start farming. It was because he was looking for value for his time, something he didn’t see as an employee. He also needed an equal growth scale for his efforts, which he thought cultivation would give him. His love for agriculture and science was a major driving factor because, with that, Kakande wasn’t diving into the unknown.
However, enjoying commendable returns means using inorganic inputs. Over time, Kakande realized increasing trends of soil dwindling, plants and human health. “It was such a blow to the dreams that brought me here that I couldn’t sit back and hope things would get better. As such, I began to study what could be done in order to restore soil health, particularly in Mindi Sub-County in Wakiso County where I reside.”
Here, in 2019, Kakande’s idea of biological soil nutrition (organic fertilizer) was born. A year later, his journey of producing organic inputs will begin.
While speaking with such perfection now, Kakande says the beginning was shaky, a matter of trial and error, with trials here and there. “Over time, I developed a broader range of knowledge that I shared with groups of fellow farmers, and then reached out to agriculture-based NGOs,” he shares. They have teamed up to form Mende, Masulita and Gombe (MEMAGO agroecology group) to support sustainable organic farming practices starting with communities in the Wakiso region.
What made this trip believable was the knowledge he gathered about running agriculture and running it as a business. After that, Kakande began to conduct experiments in his own fields. Over time, referrals started pouring in.
Kakande’s first client as an agricultural consultant was Grace Kabuye, a maize farmer in Bukasa Village, Kituntu Sub-District, Mpigi District. Initially, Kabuye was blindly practicing farming, so the journey began by calculating the expected yield per acre, using the right seeds, the right spacing and the right timing. Kakande also taught him how to eliminate any physical non-productive feature from his field such as anthills and shrubs that would jeopardize target yields by reducing productive space.
“I also taught him that using native fertilizers can greatly increase the yield and thus increase the income, as opposed to the usual random farming methods where the sown seeds will depend entirely on nature for survival,” Kakandi says. Kakande was impressed by Kakande’s knowledge, Kabuye later became a prominent user of his bio-fertilizer.
There is a lot to learn from the first client and the lessons Kakande took was how much the consulting service cost. “For example, at first, I wanted to give him free consultations but later I reconsidered and charged him 100,000 shillings,” Kakande said.
He also knows the importance of giving value to time and experience because he realized that agricultural consultancy is a serious task that costs the mind to think of appropriate solutions to farmers’ problems.
“Then I decided afterwards that it should not be offered for a ridiculous fee and thus raise it to suit my efforts. Today, I get paid between 300,000 and 500,000 shillings, depending on the dimension of the farm.”
After dealing with multiple clients, both individuals and groups, Kakande now uses cost-benefit analysis to price its products and services. In this mode, I will calculate the required inputs in order to get the target output. This is how much money I would need to produce a given unit of fertilizer versus how much money we expect to earn per unit of production,” he shares.
While Kakande’s home is located in Nkoowe, 13 miles off Hoima Road, for his consulting work and agricultural input production, he is grown in different areas. “For example, I grow short-term horticultural crops like melons and squash in Puttambala, corn and beans in Nakaseki and sometimes cassava,” he shares.
Save Referrals, Kakande gets clients through social media, exhibits, and referrals from radio and TV talk shows he hosts for Farmer Education.
When the experiments seemed to yield tangible results, Kakande looked to other organic trainers to explain what his experiences held. “I have taken several training courses on organic farming, through the East African Organic Farming Knowledge Center and the Organic Farming Knowledge Center, as a multiplier (organic farm coach). I have also trained as a lead facilitator (lead trainer),” he shares. Through outreach and consistent practice of organic farming, Kakande has been fully trained by training organizations. “I have improved my agroecology/scientific knowledge on organic farming and the exercises have also improved my skills in farmer training. I have also become better at advocating ecological farming practices,” he says.
By engaging with farmers and farmer groups, Kakande is being given a push to continue advocating organic farming. As such, he has trained several groups of farmers in organic farming practices. “Most of them are now able to make their own organic agricultural inputs on the farm,” he says.
That joy is doubled when he hears farmers like Kabwe, Susan Bironji, Janet Ruyhandagaza and many others testify about increased yields.
His inventive journey saw many hiccups such as the long and costly journey to obtain organic input certification before it was accepted for public consumption by state authorities. There is a lack of sufficient mechanization to produce large quantities.
Also, farmers do not eat the inputs of organic farms because of their size, which the farmers themselves do not like. They are accustomed to using small amounts of inorganic agricultural inputs, but organic inputs may require twice the amount. Because of that, they are not encouraged to adopt organic inputs,” says Kakandi.
It is also sad when farmers have shown and educate about the dangers of using agrochemicals, and are still going ahead and using them.
Kakande started the organic journey with the hope of being a champion in promoting the best ecological farming practices that will transform and enhance soil health. “While this is happening slowly, I think within a few years the effort will return the agricultural train to the original railway,” he said.
He believes that the dream will be further enhanced as knowledge is embraced of the benefits of eating organically grown foods and promoting people’s health. “We’re also looking to increase the uptake of our organic innovations,” he shares.
As far as expenses are concerned, getting raw materials from outside farmers is still expensive, especially collecting rabbit dung and bio-mud. Other costs of production include packaging materials and fuel to operate the pellet machine. Kakande is currently looking into the production of solid fertilizers and these include:
MEMAGold Jimusa (pellet manure), a mixture of compost slurry (the material left after making biogas from cow dung), and rabbit waste. “While many may use compost slurry in liquid form, we look at the issues of easy transportation and handling, thus making the fertilizer sold and packaged.”
Bio-char is where different combinations of plant residues are burned but each material is carefully selected to produce the desired nutrients. For example, for nitrogen, tithonian (ekimyula), caliandra, legumes (beans, peas), any type of dry manure is used. Potassium is obtained from dry peels such as bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, corn stalks (also contain phosphorous) and corn cobs (also contain magnesium, flour and manganese). “We collect these materials and burn them in carbonated conditions with limited oxygen to get charcoal. At this point, we have the carbon that the soil needs for better production. These components also provide us with more soil nutrients like iron.”
Bokashi, a compost that is easy to make and serves two purposes because it is a complete compost but is also used to feed microbes (they are responsible for breaking down food and fighting disease in the soil). To do this, we use coffee husks, clay soil (alternatively, you can use good soil usually known as black soil), molasses, manure, corn or rice bran, yeast, coal dust, ash, and water. The process is to mix yeast, water and molasses in one barrel. Then on bare ground, one places coffee husks and sprinkles the mixture, then clay/clay soil and sprinkles the mixture, followed by any form of dry compost and then sprinkles the mixture. This is followed by coal dust, then a layer of bran, then ash. This is the first day. “If you still have the material, you can repeat the installation process starting with the husks but you can raise them only 1 meter for easy handling. This mixture is supposed to generate a great deal of heat but should not be exposed to heat above 55°C. The second day, you will mix the ingredients as you would with sand and cement and this is done in the morning and evening.After mixing we spray the liquid to reduce the temperature plus add molasses as it provides energy for the microbes responsible for the breakdown.To avoid rain, it provides shelter but not tightly to allow oxygen to flow through it The resulting heat is reduced by the fifth day and we leave it to cool for another 10 days. Then the fertilizer is complete. This is mixed into the garden where one wants to plant,” he explains.
Kakande also makes pesticides from tephrozia (muluuku), phytolacca (oluwoko), neem tree, pepper, garlic and table vinegar.
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