Besong Elliot is the kind of guy every young person should meet. A SANR senior in transition, he describes himself as a team player, hardworking, friendly, and creative person who loves to see everyone around him succeed.
In the short time spent with him talking about his organic fertilizer, I deduced he is humble, focused, an optimist and an achiever.
He took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with CACOM.
What was your dream before CUIB?
There were many things running through my mind and to be honest I came to CUIB with the intention to study food science and bio technology not knowing it was under agriculture. I only discovered it was part of agriculture when I went through the brochure. I was like wow! Luckily for me the holistic approach to agriculture in CUIB, has given me knowledge on the different fields I could pursue for my master’s degree.
You are into the production of organic fertilizer: bio-char, how did you come about such a project?
When I got into the SANR, (I came to realize that there is more danger using chemical fertilizers, than when we work with our own natural environmental materials which we can also use as fertilizers. Aside the fact that chemical fertilizers are expensive./ I realized it was dangerous and costly using chemical fertilizers as oppose to using our own natural materials which are readily available.
If we look at organic fertilizers, we realize the materials used in making them are readily available, and will reduce farmer’s cost.
Also while growing up as a child I use to farm with my grandparents and to be honest I never saw them use chemical fertilizer, most of the times I found my grand mum using wood ash and it was when I started studying agriculture that I realized that she was using wood ash an organic method to farming. That was when my interest began and since then I have loved to do organic stuff- the zeal to find out what organic fertilizers can do. The reason I got to work on the bio-char for my final year research project to find out the benefits particularly to farmers.
What is bio-char and what are the materials you use in the production? How much time does it take to get to the final stage?
Bio-char is an organic product highly rich in carbon produced in a system that makes little or no use of oxygen while burning. The materials are found in nature; dry leaves from plants, maize cob, palm bunches and sawdust. I most often use sawdust. It takes about 1-2 hours to get the final product, however, the time is determined by the dryness of the raw material.
What are the advantages of using organic fertilizer, bio-char as oppose to chemical fertilizers?
Bio-char is cost-effective first off to farmers. When it is applied to the soil, it gradually breaks down into the soil releasing nutrients, so if a farmer applies it in the first year of production the farmer may get an increase in yield but not as much as during the second year when the fertilizer must have decomposed releasing more nutrients in the soil. Farmers will not need to buy fertilizers always.
It is environmentally friendly since its nutrients are natural and will cause no harm on water bodies and soils whereas chemical fertilizers get leashed in to rivers and affect marine life. It causes eutrophication- a situation where the amount of oxygen is reduced and fishes start dying.
When you use organic fertilizer you are sure that what you apply is free and coming from nature thus the fear of sickness is absent. However, excess application of bio-char or organic fertilizer may retard or hinder growth.
Have you started working with farmers?
Yes, I have met a few farmers and some others met me when I was working on the production of bio-char. The asked questions, I explained to them; they got interested and wished to use the fertilizer. A farmer asked for it and luckily I had what was left of the first production which I gave him to use on his yam farm. He is going to be proof of bio-char and hopefully spreads the news.
I want to do a farmer’s on farm research. I will go to their area, get a sample plot, use the normal fertilizers the farmers use and then use bio-char on partitioned portions of the plot so they can see the difference.
Have you encountered challenges?
There are a lot of challenges when it comes to organic fertilizers because unlike chemical fertilizers farmers are familiar with organic fertilizers are rare. It is a major problem because most of them do not believe that organic fertilizers can actually beat the chemical fertilizer market.
What are the prospects for this project?
In the next 5 years I wish to see it as a business platform where I can actually get the material, process them and then supply to farmers. I plan to do a collection, burning and packaging of bio-char as well as carry out a research again on what quantity to use on a hectare to actually permit us know what quantity to sell to farmers for each given area.
What words of inspiration to all who ignore agriculture?
It is true a lot of people tend to neglect the agricultural sector particularly the youths, who fail to understand that our parents are getting old and it is time for the youths to take over.
I will want the youths to know that agriculture feeds the world. Everyone needs food. I encourage young people to see it as a platform to come together to produce the different agricultural products that will help the population and themselves. You can start a business without waiting for the government or any organisation.
Message to the students of CUIB
They have good lecturers who give them notes and all they need, but I want them to know that they have at least 95 % role to play in their studies. Thank God for the internet today, they should make good use of it; however, they should focus on searching information that will help them. They should help their lecturers help them. Lecturers are facilitators- they are there to guide students.
Do not look at friends; know it is your responsibility to think that if a lecturer is absent you can do what you want.