Farmers in Wakiso district have found 'magic manure' in the excretions of rabbits. The farmers say they use rabbit excretion especially urine as 'magic manure' to rejuvenate failing soil fertility, treat cassava mosaic disease, banana wilt and tomato blight disease as well in coffee plantations.
John Kyeyune, the chairperson of Kabumba Hunger Free Cooperatives Society Limited, a multi-purpose cooperative society in Busukuma municipality in Wakiso district, says rabbit excretion has transformed the way they undertake agriculture.
"We harvest the urine from the rabbits, and after we go and pour it around the plant base, and in about two weeks, the plant changes and you no longer see the disease." said Kyeyune.
The cooperative with 283 members has been working towards making their community hunger free since 2015. When they started, malnutrition was a major concern among children. Kyeyune says most members practiced inter-cropping due to lack of adequate land, growing a mix of perennial and seasonal staple food crops, which were in the end, grossly affected by wilt diseases.
Today, Kyeyune’s average annual income stands at Shs 5 million from his 2-acre piece farm. He spends the income on his family and school fees for his six children with the elder one in university.
Since discovering the 'magic manure', the farmers want to scale up the rabbit rearing project to empower households against declining soil fertility and cassava mosaic disease as well as the banana wilt disease as climate change alters their farming seasons.
Bananas, cassava, beans, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, sweet potatoes and maize make up the bulk of the daily diet of most rural families in Uganda providing optimal plant proteins for the body. Anything that destabilizes the value chains of these crops directly affects food security of the farmers.
“It is no longer secret that the rains are not there when you expect them to fall. Producing enough food for the families has become extremely difficult today. The beans, cassava, maize, tomatoes and bananas are no longer giving us the yields we used to harvest.” Kyeyune explained with anxiety in his face.
Ever since the farmers stumbled on to the 'magic manure' on the farm, their agriculture story is changing bit by bit. Last year, President Yoweri Museveni piloted an on-the-farm irrigation technology employing the use of water bottles for irrigation.
Many farmers have since adopted the technology across the country to save their plants under bad weather. Maria Mpata Kitaaka, a social worker training the farmers on rabbit production, says the urine is also useful in treating passion fruit disease, which affects its yields and quality.
"We use its urine to treat passion fruits - different diseases that attack passion. You can use that urine, filter it, properly put it in a pump and then spray on passion fruits and then on matooke for the banana wilt…When you have that problem, just pour the urine and the 'thing' will be ok. Even cassava, when you pour urine; the cassava will be ok, the yield will be very big and very long and it will be very sweet." said Kitaaka.
According to Farm Radio International, a Canadian charity dedicated to promoting agriculture around the world, innovative farmers create change and improvement in their family lives and their communities. They are farmers who look at difficulties as challenges, who study situations, experiment and devise new ways to tackle problems.
The charity organization says sometimes the farmers come up with completely new methods of farming. At other times, they borrow solutions from elsewhere and adapt them to their own unique circumstances.
With 69 per cent of Uganda’s 42 million population employed in agriculture as smallholder farmers, on the farm innovations is critical for food security and economic development.