James DuPont (35) from Manzini, in the centre of eSwatini, is one of the pathfinders to successfully produce an organic fertiliser. It has brought much-needed relief to farmers who have been struggling for years to realise meaningful returns from their produce.
“I have stayed in Europe and have seen a huge shift from chemical farming to organic farming and I wondered why this is not done in eSwatini,” he reflects. “I wanted to be the first to introduce it in the country as no one produced it.”
This has seen him winning some awards in several locally sponsored business competitions such as the kickstart competition and a reward from Swaziland Beverages. “Winning the grand award amounting to E120 000 was huge to me as I was still a novice in the business,” says the excited DuPont, whose business now employs at least 40 workers.
He is now expanding his fertiliser supply and market to South Africa and aims to distribute it to the rest of the continent. “When I saw the idea in Europe, it inspired a sense of responsibility to take care of the soil and quality of the produce in terms of nutrition and size. Very soon, we will be promoting organic living in Africa just like it is happening in Europe,” he says.
Good things take time
It hasnʼt been easy for DuPont to perfect the product. At first, he recalls that he received feedback from different farmers who had used the product. They said it stinks and grows unwanted weeds. Essentially, more tests and fine-tuning needed to be done. DuPont has further ensured that it adheres to standards set for fertiliser manufacturing and conducted tests on its efficacy at laboratories in South Africa.
These processes were necessary to get the business registered and the fertiliser approved by relevant ministries in eSwatini. Besides the local market, he says the fertiliser is now available in some South African local stores.
“Farmers were given the fertiliser to use and we have been monitoring how it responds each time.” He explains that several studies have been completed to improve it. The fertiliser is exclusively produced with animal waste. To be specific, it’s made from the waste of five different animals. “If I list the animals I’d be giving away my secret,” he says, before adding: “People must wonder.”
DuPont says the Russia-Ukraine conflict has tilted the balance in favour of his business. “Our fertiliser was a bit more expensive than the sold chemical fertiliser which disadvantaged us a great deal. Now with the war, prices for the chemical ones have grown disproportionately,” he explains.
Business is doing well
DuPont says his business has achieved serious strides. “Farmers who started using it saw an increase in size and taste of their products. They kept on coming in for more. I have also got a contract to supply some government institutions who do farming at large scale,” he explains, adding that the support within the eSwatini ministry of agriculture has been good.
Many visit the farm in search of ways to make the fertiliser, mostly those who are doing subsistence farming and backyard gardens. “The response and testimonies of farmers have challenged me to do more and thrive to increase the quantity.”
He adds that the farm is open for farmers willing to come for learning on how to develop the fertiliser, especially those experiencing unfavourable weather patterns affecting the farming industry.
Innocentia Simelane (33) is a small-scale farmer of maize, sweet potatoes, and cowpeas in the Mbulungwane area in the Shiselweni region, eSwatini. She’s been using the fertiliser for the past two years. Since she began, she says her maize yield has doubled. She explains that the fertiliser is economically friendly for her. “I only apply the organic fertiliser once in a yield, yet with chemical farming, I used to apply manure and chemical fertiliser in one yield,” she says.
‘Food is medicine’
Sethembunziyedwa Masuku (22) grows legumes and maize from her five hectares in the Shiselweni region. “I am an organic farmer and believe in recycling living organisms,” she says. Whenever she looks at her yield she rejoices because before she started using the fertiliser, she’d get produce that was less than a hectare. “I have been using the fertiliser for five years and it maintains the originality of the crops.”
DuPont says, “It always warms my heart, in particular when seeing women in agriculture, taking this seriously.” Anyone who ventures into organic food production plays a crucial role in resolving health issues and poor soil quality, which by extension plays an important role in environmental justice. “Food is medicine. What we eat matters a lot in our health.”