Purpose. Waterleaf production is an emerging crop enterprise and is a reliable source of livelihood for many unemployed women around peri-urban centres and rural areas in the southern region of Nigeria. Its production is most hindered by low soil fertility caused by continuous cropping and increasing alternative land uses among others. In response to low soil fertility, Waterleaf farmers have resorted to the use of organic manure and or fertilizer to enrich the soil. In an attempt to develop an appropriate policy framework that would encourage sustained use of soil enhancing materials among small scale farmers, the study compared the economic performance of the organic manure-based and fertilizer based Waterleaf farmers in Uyo agricultural zone of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Methodology / approach. The study was conducted in the southern region of Nigeria. Waterleaf farmers were selected using random sampling and the data was obtained using a well-structured questionnaire. Inferential and descriptive statistics including multiple regression technique based on Ordinary Least Squares estimation technique were employed. Results. Empirical results showed that the following socioeconomic characteristics were statistically different between Waterleaf farmers using organic manure and those utilizing fertilizer: age, education, household size, years of membership in social organization, access to extension services, farm size, and farm income. The results further revealed that organic and fertilizer based Waterleaf farmers earned income (gross margin) that averaged at N17835.00 and N18783.12 respectively, for a single production cycle and it was statistically similar. The OLS result showed that education, farm income, and gender had a significant positive impact on the gross margin of organic manure users while stem cost household size, membership in social organization, labour cost and farm credit showed a significant negative effect. Also, farmers’ age, farm income, and household size showed a positive effect on the gross margin of fertilizer based farmers while education, marital status, stem cost social organization, labour cost, the quantity of Waterleaf stolen, gender and farm size showed a significant negative impact. The findings also revealed that the level of commercialization in organic manure farmers was higher and statistically different from fertilizer based farmers. Empirical results showed that farmers’ age, education, farming experience, farm size, and social capital formation have a positive influence on the level of commercialization of fertilizer based farmers while gender, household size, and a household dependent ratio showed a significant negative effect. On the other hand, education, gender, farm size and extension service have positive correlations with the level of commercialization of organic farmers while household size, household dependent ratio, and marital status have a negative impact. Originality / scientific novelty. The study has developed out of absolute necessity to sustain Waterleaf production as a means of livelihood for thousands of resource-poor farmers and unemployed women in the region. This is the first attempt to analyse the production performance of categories of Waterleaf farmers practising different soil management techniques in the region. The findings satisfied a priori expectations and reflected the extent of economic and environmental deterioration engulfing the small scale farmers in the region. Practical value / implications. The study has identified policy variables that will enable policymakers to develop a sustained policy framework that would enhance the use of manure and fertilizer by small scale farmers in the region. To further enhanced sustainability of Waterleaf enterprise, it is recommended that, adult education should be encouraged and extension services, strengthen as well as planned subsidies for fertilizer and other farm inputs for Waterleaf farmers in the region.