Uganda: a fly to the rescue of farmers hit by soaring fertilizer prices

Uganda: a fly to the rescue of farmers hit by soaring fertilizer prices

When fertilizer prices skyrocketed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Peter Wakisi worried about the future of his farm and family. Then a fly came to the rescue of this villager in central Uganda.

Peter Wakisi is part of a program to breed and sell black soldier fly larvae started by a Dutch startup to help local farmers.

These tiny larvae have an insatiable appetite for organic waste, and their powerful stomach enzymes turn them into fertilizer.

Peter Wakisi strings several thousand of them in drums in his village of Kawoomya Nyiize in central Uganda. And the benefits exceed his expectations.

“The dung from black soldier fly waste, mixed with organic waste and pig manure, is harmless to the soil and costs much less than non-organic fertilizers, prices of which rose with the war between Russia and Ukraine,” explains the father of four children.

“By using organic fertilizers, I have reduced my chemical fertilizer expenses by almost 60%. My plants are healthier and the yields are better now,” he adds.

Especially since he sells the insects to scientists after the larvae hatch for three times the price of the larvae.

This program is managed by Marula Proteen Limited, a Dutch startup based in the capital, Kampala, and partially funded by the Dutch government.

“The material produced by black soldier flies is packed with healthy microbes that provide important nutrients,” says Tommie Hooft, director of Marula Proteen.

“Soil that doesn’t replenish its organic potential eventually becomes depleted and plant yields drop dramatically,” he points out.

– Local and inexhaustible –

For Scola Namataka, a single mother from the village of Nakirubi in Kayunga, breeding insects that are known to feed on excrement was unthinkable.

“I said it wasn’t possible to breed these maggots,” says the 30-year-old, reaching into a canister to pull out a handful of wriggling larvae.

But with cash flow dwindling and soil on the family farm deteriorating, she had no choice when she heard about the program in March.

Since she enrolled, her crops have been thriving, she says. And she has also gotten used to the pungent smell of the larvae rearing facility in her garden.

Since the war in Ukraine, the black soldier fly has become a real alternative for fertilizer-dependent farms, especially in Russia.

“Our organic fertilizer is produced locally and is always available,” explains Tommie Hooft.

The adult females lay hundreds of eggs during their two weeks of life, and with the voracious appetites of the larvae, which multiply their original size by 6,000 times, there is little risk of running out of manure.

Marula Proteen also sells fertilizers to large companies like Clarke Farms, which owns 1,500 hectares of coffee plantations around 300 kilometers west of Kampala.

– Small fly, big effect –

The Dutch startup has teamed up with the municipality of the capital Kampala and collects between eight and ten tons of waste every day, mainly at markets, which is then used to feed the larvae.

“Enriching soil with organic nutrients is a sustainable process that builds resilience in soils that support plants,” says Ruchi Tripathi of the NGO Volunteer Service Abroad (VSO), which has partnered with Marulo Protein.

In her opinion, this little black bow tie is a solution to many problems.

“It improves food security, reduces dependence on expensive petroleum-based chemical fertilizers, which helps combat climate change,” she continues.

In addition, Peter Wakisi was able to rent a tractor, feed his children and pay the school fees for his four younger siblings.

The father no longer has to worry about the rising fertilizer prices. “I gave up chemical fertilizers,” he says.


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