How to create value for yourself and the customer. The Unsavory Story of a Ugandan Farmer and How His Soils Lose Their Fertility.

(Long Read)

For a whole week apart from Sundays when he must go to church, Mukasa goes about

Banana farmer
Matooke bunches to the city for sale

clearing his half an acre piece of land that formally was occupied by a forest. Every day from 5am until 12 noon and later in the evening from 5pm to sometimes 7pm, and in most cases until when he can see no more, this 40yr old farmer of four works his land. He heard a rumor that in a space of a few months the demand for maize would peak and is determined to seize upon the opportunity. Why not? Students all over the country will be reporting to school soon.
Fortunately for him, a couple of months down the road the harvest is bountiful and he gets to cash in on his labor. Mukasa is now a millionaire in Ugandan shillings. To Mukasa the future is bright. He sets about replicating the same success on his half an acre piece of land and the yields come in as usual. However, this time round, instead of the 150 bags of maize like before, there’s a dip of five bags. His harvest clocks in at 125 bags. To him, that’s negligible and shrugs it off.
In the third season, the whole story changes completely. Our friend notices that his maize plants are unusually stunted, attacked by pests, they are yellowish and the whole garden looks so bad. There is simply no corn this time round. The millionaire status is now no more and he doesn’t understand it at all. Like so many farmers in rural Uganda, he hangs up his cape and hits the bottle like never before. At the peak of his misery, his wife and four children take the blunt of a defeated father and defender.

The lessons:

A part from this tale being so common and sad, there is so much that we could learn from it. Mukasa is a perfect representation of so many across the many fields of commerce and entrepreneurship.

  1. He is a limited creator of commerce. Like so many around Africa, Mukasa can only utilize potential that has been availed him by nature. Anything beyond that meant he was out of the game. He was done and finished all over. You might have not noticed but unknown to Mukasa was that the bountiful two harvests were because of the soil nutrients previously added to the soil by decaying leaves and other bio-mass from the forest that occupied the land before. He didn’t realize that while he sold several tones of the corn to feed students, he sold the minerals, phosphates, nitrogen and so on as well leaving his soils more barren each time. All these nutrients ended up in the school pit latrines. On his other half acre, the same phenomenon happened to his tomatoes. This time round he sold off the nutrients to Kampala dwellers who left these somewhere in Sheraton and eventually in a sewage tank.
  2. Mukasa had the wrong assumption about what he was doing. To his meek mind, Mukasa operated under the assumption that since the land was going nowhere the yield too was going nowhere. He failed to take advantage of his curiosity the moment the harvest from his second planting dipped. What would have saved him would have been a simple question of ‘why the difference between the yields this time around?’ In all spheres of business, asking the important questions will determine how long you get to survive in that business. Asking is the first step to discovery and doing better.

So how on earth do you help Mukasa and others like him?

You will notice that I mentioned Mukasa being a limited creator of commerce and how this played out for him. To Mukasa and so many others productivity begins and ends with what the external environment can offer. Isn’t this the problem that’s with Africa in general? To our friend production started and ended with the soils. But what if he knew better? What if he understood what really was happening? That all of the soil nutrients that previously were in his soils have ended up in Kampala and some secondary school. He would have thought of a way to address this strange thing.
Before we go further, what about what he consumed? Where did all that waste end up? It was all dumped and concentrated in a pit. You can see where I’m headed. An understanding of this will translate anyone into an unlimited creator of commerce. For Mukasa and all around the country, what previously was in our gardens has ended up concentrated in our pit latrines and sewers and finally in our lakes. This is an inefficient way to live and do agriculture and eventually, an unsavory critical point will be reached.

Sustainable agriculture in a mere sentence

For Mukasa to transition into an unlimited creator of commerce he has to understand the underlying cause of his declining yields and there devise a clever way to reverse the damage his enterprise was suffering from. Let’s assume I’m Mukasa in this article, just for today. What would I do? First of all people consider wastes as useless and being Mukasa I would take advantage of that. Waste is usually free. So here are the steps I would take:

  1. I would go to schools that cook on firewood and ask for all the ash they’ve got. If schools are far, I would go to my goodly neighbors and ask for their ash all the same.
  2. Secondly, I might as well take advantage of sewage from these schools taking care to avoid raw sewage. It’s disastrous.
  3. I would learn how to make bio-char and most importantly but lastly
  4. I would befriend a scientist, a botanist and if I can’t, I’d pay for a similar service.

Why am I saying this? It’s because as a humble and meek Mukasa I did fail spectacularly and in a big way. But wait, what the heck would I need the ash for?

How to make your own organic NPK

First of all ash is an oxidized form of nutrient mineral elements that previously were in Mukasa’s and other farmer’s soils, taken up by whatever grew on theirs soils and incorporated into their structures. When dissolved in water, a generally alkaline solution results. Urine, yeah that’s right, we all piss. Urine on the other hand has a high concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus. Collecting urine and adding it to the ash makes a natural and organic concoction of the so called NPK fertilizer that in addition has magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese and all sorts of mineral elements a plant requires for growth. Once harvested, care should be taken to leave the urine standing for up to 3 – 4 weeks to allow for protein break down de-acidification.

One liter of urine should make a total of five liters of fertilizer applicable either directly or through fertigation. Add 10 spoonfuls of ash to five liters of the fertilizer and shake vigorously to dissolve. This fertilizer solution can be applied via drip irrigation.

Well folks, that’s it for now.

Don’t forget to comment and send us an email for further one on one guidance.

As always, thank you.

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