Back in 2008, Simon Ntubiri, a farmer in Riiji village, Katheri East in Meru County, grew arrowroots, coffee and passion fruits conventionally; using synthetic fertilisers.
For Mr Ntubiri, as for many other farmers, fertiliser application was the surest way to bumper harvest.
And he was right. But as time went by, Mr Ntubiri’s relentless investment in synthetic fertilisers bore little fruit as the farms became too acidic and crop productivity began plummeting.
Disturbed by the dwindling productivity, the farmer made a decisive move in 2012 to start applying agricultural lime, crop wastes and animal manure to neutralise the acidity and enrich the soil.
About six years ago, his work was further simplified when a local farmers’ self-help group known as Imenti Community Based Organisation (ICOBO) —which specialises in adding value to vegetables and fruits for export —began making organic fertilisers from banana and potato peels.
The farmers’ group, which buys bananas, arrowroots and sweet potatoes from local smallholder farmers in the county realised that rather than dispose of the peels from the commodities, they could process them into something useful.
Once the bananas, arrowroots, and potatoes arrive at the facility for processing, they are washed and peeled. These are then dried using solar energy inside a greenhouse made of polythene bags and wooden poles.
The products are then milled into a fine flour before being mixed with lime and other animal wastes, turning them into high quality fertiliser.
The fertilisers are then weighed and packed into 50 kilogramme bags, which cost Sh1, 250 each.
Joakim Kiambi, director ICOBO mills, says their group buys fresh farm commodities such as bananas, potatoes and arrow roots from local farmers before processing and packaging them for sale.
“We used to throw away the waste after peeling the banana and arrowroots. But a research on how to use it led us to making the product that enhances nutrients in the soil,” recalls Mr Kiambi.
On a good day, the group makes up to 15 bags of the fertiliser weighing 50 kilogrammes each. It is also packed into smaller quantities of 30 kilos for farmers who require less quantities.