Rag To Riches: A Look Into How A Malawian Man Collects Urine To Make Fertilizers

Industrial fertilizers dominate the market globally and are more expensive than organic fertilizers. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also exacerbated the global supply of fertilizers, as the two countries control at least 30% of the market.

In Malawi, however, entrepreneur Goodfellow Phiri is repurposing human urine to create fertilizer. While his initiative predates the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it will assist farmers in his community in avoiding the adverse effects of the war on fertilizer supply.

According to DW, his initiative has aided in the transformation of the lives of local farmers in Lilongwe’s capital. Additionally, it paves the way for more environmentally friendly agriculture, one that is less damaging to the environment and enables continuous farming.

 

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Human urine has been used as a fertilizer for centuries due to its high concentration of phosphorous, nitrogen, potassium, and trace elements that plants require. Additionally, it is more affordable for Malawian farmers. A twenty-liter bucket of Phiri’s fertilizer is approximately US$8, while a fifty-kilogram bag of chemical fertilizer is approximately US$30.

Phiri, 64, has been collecting human urine from his urine-harvesting plant in Lilongwe for nearly ten years. Individuals must pay at least 60 cents to use one of the two urinals located in Area 25’s Nsungwi Market. He recently told DW that he collects 20 liters of urine per day.

“It may appear to be a small amount, but you must dilute it tenfold with water to make 200 liters,” he explained.

Phiri retains the urine for a week in airtight containers before processing it in tanks. He noted that the processing removes the “odor” of the urine, making handling more comfortable.

According to a farmer who has been using Phiri’s organic fertilizer, it is unique and has resulted in a good harvest.

“Unlike chemical fertilizers, this [organic] fertilizer is unique,” James Isaac explained. “As you can see, I used only this fertilizer on this maize field. We inject the liquid fertilizer into holes, just as we do with chemical fertilizer. I’ve had successful harvests in recent years, in contrast to when I was using chemical fertilizers.”

Apart from assisting farmers and profiting from the sale of his urine fertilizer, Phiri’s initiative has benefited residents, who fill buckets with urine and sell it to Phiri for money. The Malawian entrepreneur’s urine fertilizer idea began as a small family business called “Urine for Wealth,” but the venture has grown to include funding from non-governmental organizations.

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