To Stephen Omonding’, the phrase ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ relates very well to his life.
The 54-year-old is utilising factory waste to grow healthy indigenous vegetables on his four-acre farm at God Nyithindo village in Muhoroni Sub County.
Omonding’ uses the waste to nourish his vegetables like African nightshade (managu), spiderplant (saga) vegetable cowpea (kunde) and African kale (kanzira).
“As you can see, my vegetables are very big and healthy. Many people do not believe that the secret is sludge. I get this industrial waste from Agro-Chemicals and Food Company Ltd factory in the neighbourhood and use it on my farm,” he says.
Here is how he ‘processes’ the sludge, which he obtains for free: after collecting it from the factory, he lets it settle for a few weeks before ploughing is done. He then mixes it evenly into the soil.
Omonding’ has segmented his land into smaller plots measuring between five by four metres to five by ten metres. A full wheelbarrow of the sludge is used in each plot.
Planting is done after the soil is fine enough. And within three weeks, Omonding’ starts to harvest his vegetables.
The segmentation of the parcel enables him to easily manage the farm, as well as plant and harvest at different times, within the year.
“My harvest is twice what I used to have before I discovered the sludge. I always have vegetables, even when other farmers are complaining. I always spread the planting, and ensure that once one plot is harvested, it is immediately prepared for another planting,” he says.
Once sludge is used in the farm, Omonding’ says it takes another year or two before it is replenished, as a single application provides nourishment for a year.
So how safe is this sludge? According to Peter Macharia, the head of Environment and Safety at the company, the waste, which contains about 90 per cent water is channelled to a drying bed.
The bed is made up of ballasts and sand, which see water escape through seepage and treated before being released to the environment, while solid part of it left to dry before being scooped out for farm use.
“Previously the sludge was being disposed as waste, but we realised farmers were scooping it to use on their farms. We got curious, did our investigations and discovered it had benefits,” says Macharia, adding that the factory is yet to commercialise the trade.
Although farmers love it and the benefits are evident, Macharia agrees that more research needs to be done on the sludge before commercialising it.
“But as we still look into all that, we will continue giving out the sludge free of charge to the farmers, even as we create awareness on its benefits so that the farmers can take it up,” he says.
Like other farmers, Omonding’ learnt about the benefits of the sludge when he spotted some farmers throng the factory premises to scoop the unprocessed sludge. And soon he discovered it, he has never looked back.
With the sludge, he has cut on production costs because he no longer has to use fertiliser. His immediate challenge is disease and pest control. Luckily for him, because of the size of his vegetables, market is never an issue.
“People come from Kisumu, Muhoroni, Awasi and even Nandi to buy my vegetables. It is a good business,” says Omonding’ adding that he harvests at least three times a week, with each harvest earning him at least Sh3,000.
Omonding’invested in indigenous vegetables 10 years ago after he learnt about the increasing demand for the vegetables because of their high nutritive value.
“Apart from the bulk sales which I do, I also receive retail buyers daily, some of whom saying they have been advised by doctors to take a lot of these vegetables,” he says.
The vegetables are fast maturing, ranging between three to six weeks, and can be harvested for three months before the land is prepared for the next planting.
They are not labour or capital intensive. In future, he plans to expand the farm, but in the meantime, the rewards are paying off.
“My last born is in university, and I have educated all my children with proceeds from the farm. The future is bright,” says the father of six.
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