Sanergy’s trial farm shows benefits of using Evergrow Organic Fertilizer
Declining soil fertility paired with a rapidly growing population is a perfect storm for food systems. Kenya’s agricultural productivity has declined steadily since the 1960s, and, at the same time, the Kenyan population has been adding about 1 million people per year, most of them in urban areas. The World Bank projects that by 2033 half of Kenyan residents will live in cities.
These trends are creating an untenable situation: Already, over 10 million Kenyans are food insecure, while 80 percent of the population relies on agriculture to earn their livelihoods.
Unless farmers focus on restoring soil health, crop production will continue to decline. The most effective way to restore nutrients to soil is to apply organic fertilizer to replace the organic matter that the soil is missing. However, very little organic fertilizer is produced domestically in Kenya; most of what is available to farmers is imported and thus prohibitively expensive.
In order to restore their soil fertility and boost their agricultural productivity, Kenyan farmers need organic fertilizer that won’t break the bank.
To meet this need, Sanergy has produced Evergrow Organic Fertilizer since 2013. We co-compost the waste we collect from our Fresh Life network with organic waste from around Nairobi to create, a nutrient-rich, pathogen-free organic fertilizer, which increases crop yields while improving soil health.
In 2015, we began trialling and selling Evergrow with farmers, helping them get the most out of the product. To provide further support for our customers and to demonstrate the efficacy of our product on a variety of products, we recently set up a trial farm in Machakos County.
Soil scientist Sam Mugu runs the trial farm, where he and his team are working to determine how farmers can get the best results from Evergrow. Sam and his team run trials to determine optimal application rates of Evergrow and chemical fertilizers for different crops. These trials also help determine the crop yields the Farm Star sales team can promise prospective customers. They recently completed a round of trials on tomatoes, cabbages, green capsicums, and onions, testing a range of inclusion rates for Evergrow and chemical fertilizers.
“Our core observation has been that crops planted using Evergrow and chemical fertilizer were ready for harvesting in 9 weeks instead of the normal 12-16 weeks after planting,” says Sam. In addition, all crops grown with a combination of fertilizers were healthier throughout the planting season, and there was early flowering and fruiting for tomatoes and capsicums. This resulted in a greater yield during the harvest.
Crops planted solely with Evergrow remained healthy throughout the planting season and flowered beautifully, but the resulting fruits themselves were smaller than those planted with a combination of Evergrow and synthetic fertilizers. By comparison, crops that used neither Evergrow nor synthetic fertilizers produced the smallest yields and were the least healthy, with only a small number flowering and fruiting.
“Evergrow works very well alongside chemical fertilizers,” says Sam. While chemical fertilizers are designed to provide an immediate boost of nutrients needed by crops, Evergrow works by releasing its nutrients to the crops at a slower rate. The result is that both the crop and the soil are replenished for a longer period.
For the coming planting seasons, starting next month, Sam and his team will replicate the first season to determine the long-term effects of using Evergrow. After three identical seasons, they will then try new crops, including potatoes, and work to further narrow the field of possible inclusion rates of Evergrow and synthetic fertilizers to ensure we are providing the best advice we can to our Evergrow customers. Prospective customers are also invited to visit the demo farm – soon to be joined by others in the Mount Kenya region – to see the results of using Evergrow for themselves.
By demonstrating that Evergrow can help Kenya’s farmers feed Kenya’s growing population, we are also proving that valuable end-products can be derived from waste. In this way, we can address two problems at once: strengthening Kenya’s food systems while also cleaning up its growing cities.