Dressed in a white overcoat and black trousers, David Ngige stands on top of a heap of garbage.
The co-founder of Dajopen Waste Management (DWM) group in Trans Nzoia County then picks some of the trash with both hands to assess the extent of decay.
“This is gold,” says Ngige, whose 34-member group collects the garbage from Kitale town and uses it to make fertiliser.
“We recycle the waste to generate organic fertiliser, which improves the soil and boosts yields,” he adds.
Besides collecting garbage from the town, the group is also supplied with the raw material by county government trucks.
Once they get the waste, they sort it according to type, ending up with biodegradable matter such as kitchen waste and non-biodegradable material such as plastics.
But 70 per cent of the garbage they receive is bio-degradable. After sorting, they place it in a 5ft-by-6ft pit for aerobic decomposition and add, among other things, crushed egg shells, charcoal dust, tithonia weed, ash and molasses.
“We then mix the items thoroughly and cover the pit with a polythene sheet to prevent loss of elements through leaching and evaporation of nitrogen because of the sun,” explains Ngige.
Joseph Macharia, the group’s chairman, says it takes about six weeks for the garbage to decompose, after which it is harvested and sieved to eliminate unwanted materials.
“We usually take samples to the government lab for analysis. This helps us to know the nutrients that are missing, which we then add before weighing and packing the final product in 50kg gunny bags for sale,” says Ngige.
According to him, the fertiliser contains macro elements nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and calcium (Ca).
Micro elements are iron (Fe), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu). Ngige recommends the use of two 50kg bags of the fertiliser per acre on a farm that has a high level of soil acidity, but the quantity will reduce in the subsequent years once acidity is contained.
CRUCIAL IN SOIL IMPROVEMENT
“But before using the fertiliser, it is advisable to do a soil analysis to know the soil pH level and the missing nutrients.
This will further help you know the quantity of planting fertiliser that should be applied on crops,” says Ngige, adding that the fertiliser works well for all crops and is best for planting.
The group produces an average of 2,600 bags of the fertiliser each planting season, which it sells at Sh1,250 in Trans Nzoia and the neighbouring counties.
“We only produce our fertiliser during the dry period since heavy rains disrupt the decomposition process. We hope to normalise production once we get the right infrastructure,” he says.
The group has bagged several global awards for their work. They include being runners-up in the Dubai International Award for Best Practice by the UN-Habitat in 2012.
Ngige, who has vocational training in bio-intensive agriculture from the Manor House Agricultural Centre in Kitale, has also won awards for his individual work.
In January, he was among 33 people who participated in the Transformative Cities Initiative 2019 award by the Netherlands-based Trans National Institute.
A team from the institute toured the project in Kitale and it was later subjected to voting. He then emerged tops in the food systems category.
“I will now square it out with three other winners from the housing, energy and water categories in December in Amsterdam. I am grateful because I will be representing Africa in the food system category.”
The group is planning to set up a waste management factory in the region to process the garbage generated in Kitale town and its environs into fertiliser, thus keeping the environment clean and farms fertile.
Dr Kezziah Magiroi, a soil scientist at the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Karlo) Kitale branch, says they analyse fertiliser samples from the group and advise on how to improve it.
“The PH is within the levels prescribed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards, 8.7, which is Alkaline. Alkaline PH discourages disease-causing organisms in the soil,” says Dr Magiroi.
She added that organic matter is crucial in soil since it encourages the multiplication of beneficial micro-organisms, which release nutrients in a process called mineralisation.