Please, give me broken flowers

Dutch flower farmers in Ethiopia work with local miners to re-mineralize exhausted soils and use farm waste to make organic fertilizers.

Rocking Soils works in Dutch-Ethiopian flower farms.  These farms operate often in erosive soils with low fertility levels. Fertilizer is their largest production cost. At the same time they face problems to process their organic waste. The quality standards of the flower export market are high. More than 30% of the produced flowers are broken or damaged in some way and are rejected at the farm. More flowers break on their way to the airport and will not reach Europe.


Finding good cheap resources to feed soil’s system is a profitable venture. Composting broken flowers is a new trend. Compost enriched with rock dust improves the soil quality of these farms and minimize the need for other inputs to correct nutrient deficiencies and combat pests.

In Holleta, we work at a 25 ha farm employing 550 Ethiopian workers. The farm produces Hypericum, Eryngium and Hydrangea and is implementing a program to produce most of their inputs by composting and fermenting waste and prepare mineral solutions.  This program will improve soil fertility, reduce costs and create a toxic-free working environment. More and more Dutch and Ethiopian farmers see the returns of this system.

The impact of this project goes beyond the borders of the farm. Each of the 550 workers have small family farms back home. Family farms are the backbone of the local food supply chain. These farmers are learning to use local resources to grow their food and feed their families with healthy and affordable food.

Tanzanian Farmer Training Centers

More than 2800 farmers in 4000 hectares of the Usambara’s mountains produce export quality organic coffee for decades. The last years farmers form the cooperative experienced decrease of coffee production and quality due to decline of soil fertility.

Agriterra and Rockin Soils organized in November 2012 the first training on composting with microorganisms in the Farm of the cooperative in Soni, Tanzania. A first group of 20 coffee farmers learned to gather waste materials form their farms, mix them with rock dust from local quarries, inoculate with local microorganisms and manage the fermentation process to produce compost and foliar organic bio-fertilizers. In July 2013 these farmers master the art of composting.They have tested their self produced bio-fertilizers in their own land and on different crops. The positive results of these first trials motivate them to go further and train their neighbors. A bunch of them converted their farms in Farmer Training Centers. Nothing official nor complicated, They just share their experiences.

The new Farmer Training Centers  in the Usambara Region will show farmers and future trainers how this technology works. In the next two years more than two thousand farmers in the region will receive training to use their farm’s waste and local agro-minerals to restore the natural fertility of their soils.

Urban cows and organic gardening in Addis Abeba

In march 2013 Rocking Soils and MetaMeta circular economy started to test the production of organic fertilizers in the urban environment. With basalt rock dust, cow dung and a few more materials we mounted a system that is been tested for urban gardens in the city.

In Addis Abeba people enjoy the best fresh milk. Lack of refrigeration facilities forces urban farmers to keep dairy cows in the city. Many urban farms in Addis supply the largest amount of fresh milk to the Ethiopian middle and low class. Local cows are  kept nearby the urban mills where the flour from maize, teff, wheat, chickpea, beans, among others is produced for the people and the husks are set apart for the cattle living next door. It minimizes transport proving that best logistics are where you do not need transport.

The presence of cattle in the city means also that small amounts of fresh cow manure are often available in the urban environment. Often is this resource underused. Sometimes this manure is dried and sold as fuel for the kitchens, but due to the smell this practice is slowly been abandoned in the urban areas. This manure is an excellent resource for the urban organic gardener.

Many gardeners already showed their interest as they are aware of the high prices of the artificial (imported) fertilizers.


From left-up and clockwise: Mothammed, Mulu, Sandra, Abebbechm, Afra & Ruben … more photos