Farmers Can Earn Income Producing Compost

Soil health

Notes to broadcasters

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There is great concern among smallholder farmers over the decline of soil fertility in arable lands in sub-Saharan Africa. This decline is partly due to increases in cropping intensity, as many smallholders try to cope with less than one acre of land, and partly due to the limited use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers. Continuous cultivation of land depletes soil nutrients, leads to declines in soil organic matter, and damages soil quality, all leading to reduced yields.

Many mixed farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa compost on-farm organic matter to maintain soil productivity. Many kinds of on-farm wastes contain sufficient organic materials for composting. Materials for composting include solid wastes, food wastes, industrial by-products, sewage sludge, agricultural residues and domestic waste. For some of these wastes, it’s important to separate the organic matter from inorganic materials such as glass, plastic, and metals. Because the organic component of the waste is quite varied, it will not help crops very much if added directly into the soil without composting. Composting transforms the organic substances by changing them into minerals and more complex compounds that can be easily absorbed by plants.

Compost has many economic benefits for the farmer. For example, it is inexpensive to produce, can be made with locally available materials, improves soil fertility, is environmentally friendly, does not require a great deal of skill or technical know-how, is inexpensive to purchase, and boosts food production. Further, as shown in this script, producing compost for sale can earn a good income for smallholder farmers, especially if they work together.



Romano Afwande: A smallholder farmer working with ARDAP on a composting project.
Boniface Omondi: Project extension officer from ARDAP.

Good morning, listeners. Today’s program is aimed directly at smallholder farmers. It talks about the economic benefits of using and producing organic compost. Our program is based on a Kenyan farmer’s recommendations and experiences with a local charitable organization called the Appropriate Rural Development Agriculture Program – ARDAP. ARDAP is an organization in western Kenya which promotes food security and a host of other important issues. You will hear an open discussion between a farmer named Romano Afwande and an extension agent named Boniface Omondi. The farmer gives a practical perspective on working with compost, while the extension agent shares with us some of the technical aspects of the topic. Let’s listen.

Introduce theme music, and then fade out.

Romano Afwande:
Good morning (afternoon, evening). I am Romano Afwande, a smallholder farmer working on a composting project in western Kenya.

Boniface Omondi:
And I am Boniface Omondi, an extension officer from an organization called ARDAP. We are conducting a composting project with a group of smallholder farmers in western Kenya. We are both here to talk to you today about the benefits of compost, and especially the benefits of producing and selling compost.

Romano Afwande:
From what I understand, organic composts are a kind of fertilizer which is made on the farm and which has very minimal chemical contamination.

Boniface Omondi:
That is true. There are several kinds of organic fertilizers. There are composts, but there are also other kinds of organic fertilizers, including liquid or tea manures, improved fallows and green manures.

Romano Afwande:
And there are a number of ways to make compost. You can make compost in a compost pile or heap, or you can make compost in a basket or bucket. You can also add inorganic sources of plant nutrients to the compost while it is being made. This strengthens or fortifies the final compost. When people ask me about the benefits of using organic composts, I tell them about the changes that have happened on my farm. For the last year, I have participated in a composting project. The part of my farm on which I have used compost has improved in terms of soil structure and texture. This means that the soil is able to hold water for a longer period. It also means that the roots penetrate deeper into the soil. This improves my yields and the hardiness of my crops. Crops with deeper roots can better withstand dry periods.

Boniface Omondi:
ARDAP operates an outreach program in western Kenya in which farmers band together to grow large amounts of compost, and to use organic composts and composting processes on their farms. Producing compost for sale can earn a good income. A farmer can increase his compost production and sell the compost not needed on the farm to other farmers. In our area, there are 10 farmer households who have formed a group to produce compost for sale. They produce 80 tons per year. Fifty tons are sold and 30 tons are applied on members’ farms.

Romano Afwande:
Producing compost is good work for young people as well. It is labour intensive, meaning that it takes a lot of hard work to create compost! For young people in smallholder households, it’s a good alternative source of employment.

Boniface Omondi:
To make the maximum profit, some of the farmers who are making compost are also growing high-value, short-season horticultural crops, such as tomatoes, sweet pepper and indigenous vegetables. These crops need high fertility. They benefit a great deal from the incorporation of compost into growing plots.

Romano Afwande:
You can strengthen organic composts by adding raw materials with lots of nutrients to the compost. Some examples of these high nutrient additives are rock phosphate, effective micro-organisms and biogas slurry.

Boniface Omondi:
Even though the market for organic compost is not as well-established as the market for synthetic fertilizers, compost producers are beginning to do well. Here in western Kenya, the farmers who produce compost sell to a network of buyers which includes vegetable growers, owners of tree nurseries, owners of medicinal arboretums and growers of horticultural crops. Many of the buyers are producers who raise and sell seedlings.

I want to thank our two guests today for sharing so much with us. It has been interesting to be with them in the studio. We hope that our dear listeners have learned about the benefits of being a small compost producer. With that we come to the end of our program. Thank you to both of our guests. You are welcome back to our studio any time.

Romano Afwande and Boniface Omondi:
(in unison) Thank you.


Theme music to end the program, then fade out.


Contributed by: Macdonald Wesonga and Justus Makhulo for ARDAP Kenya, East Africa.
Reviewed by: Anthony Anyia, Research Plant Physiologist, Alberta Research Council, Canada.

Information sources

Canon E.N. Savala, Musa N. Omare and Paul L. Woomer, editors, 2003. Organic Resource Management in Kenya: Perspectives and Guidelines. Forum for Organic Resource Management and Agricultural Technologies (FORMAT), P.O. Box 79, Village Market 00621, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, Tel.             +254-20-6752866      ; Email:, website:

Available on-line at