In reaction to fertiliser shortages worldwide, Ugandan farmers are reaching for an alternative way to fertilise their fields—maggots.
The fertiliser shortage is credited mainly to the Russia/Ukraine war. Together, the countries are responsible for the export of nearly 30 per cent of nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilisers across the globe.
The organic process of producing fertiliser using maggots is simple. The maggots – larvae of the black soldier fly – are placed in large vats or tubs full of fermented food waste (the fermentation process softens the waste). There the maggots go to work, eating the food waste over a period of about a week. As they digest the waste, enzymes break it down and the insects’ faeces then become usable fertiliser.
Uganda is known for growing cotton, tea, tobacco and coffee – the latter of which brings in the highest revenue stream in the region. But with synthetic fertilisers in short supply, prices have doubled or tripled for the crop-boosting inputs. In sub-Saharan Africa’s growing regions, most farmers are operating small, primarily family-run farms with tight budgets, leaving producers unable to afford the new and higher prices of synthetic fertilisers.
And in Uganda, the maggot-filled vats are quickly becoming a hot commodity. Agricultural officials in the country are distributing the vats for free, taking interested farmers’ names down on a list to receive some of the fertiliser-producing insects.
The number of farmers in Uganda’s farm districts using the larvae farming programme facilitated by waste management company, Marula Proteen, and agricultural exporter, Enimiro, has grown from just two farmers in January, 2021, to more than 1,300 participating farmers today.
And thanks to the process, farmers aren’t just getting nutrients for their crops. Once producers get the vats, they are guaranteed a “three-fold cash profit” after 14 days of raising the larvae on food waste, according to the AP.
The farmers then get to keep the cash and the fertiliser the maggots produce and the waste management company gets a growing population of maggots to keep the programme which originated in 2017 going.
The larvae farming programme is not unique to Uganda. It also exists primarily in regions that continuously suffer from drought, including Nigeria and Kenya.
SOURCE: MODERN FARMER