Despite the high demand for sludge manure by vegetable farmers in Gulu, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) has said it cannot start selling the organic manure until it’s tested for heavy metals that could be harmful to humans.
Dr. Silver Mugisha, the Managing Director National Water and Sewerage who visited the sludge manure producing site located in Cubu village, Pece-Laroo division in Gulu city last week made the pronouncement after site officials informed him that the laboratories in the region currently do not have the capacity to test for heavy metals.
Kennedy Geria, the Senior Project Engineer at National Water and Sewerage Corporation said that there has been huge demand for the manure especially from vegetable farmers.
“Now that many people are going into commercial farming and subsistence farming, many will demand for this manure because it is organic, unlike the synthetic ones sold in shops,” he said.
He said that in Kampala and Arua where sludge manure plants exist, the demand has been overwhelming especially from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and from individual farmers.
“Apart from private farmers, our potential market in Gulu is Gulu University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Gulu City Authority,” Geria said.
However, Geria said customers will have to wait before they can access the manure because NWSC’s lab in Gulu does not have the capacity to test for heavy metals like copper, cadmium, lead and zinc which could have adverse effects on humans.
Geria says these heavy metals are common in industrialized cities with leather and textile industries, although he believes that the danger is relatively low in Gulu since the level of industrialization is still low
The sludge manure plant is part of the first phase of a Shs 82 billion project to upgrade water and sanitation funded by the World Bank and German Development bank (KFW).
Geria said that the sludge manure plant has a capacity to produce 3 cubic meters of sludge manure daily.
Sludge manure, which is made out of the faecal matter drained from private toilets and sewer systems, is used for growing vegetables and for other agricultural uses like balancing soil acidity.
However, if not handled well, the manure may contain heavy metals like mercury and phosphate which can cause harm like lung damage, memory problems and high blood pressure among others.
Reuben Kafero who grows vegetables like sukuma wiki, cucumbers, chilli peppers, and pumpkins said the sludge manure will improve soils on his already exhausted land.
“I will start buying sludge manure once it’s on the market because sludge manure has no effects on the soil since it decomposes,” he said.
Sandra Apio, another vegetable farmer who mainly grows tomatoes and cabbages asked NWSC to speed up the process of testing the sludge manure for heavy metals so that it can be accessible to farmers.
According to Geria, the manure will be ready in December. NWSC sells a 50kg bag of manure at Shs 5,000.
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