Live Green Magazine Issue 20

Page 1

ISSUE 20 April-June 2022

Organic farming as a way of enhancing sustainability

Sikkim is 100% organic.What are the lessons?

Farming in the Caribbean island

Can we feed 47 million people organically?

pg 10

pg 16

pg 44 Image:


Executive Editor Ruth Ndegwa

Managing Editors Ernest Chitechi, Kennedy Ouma


Pamela Okutoyi

Writers Frank Ojwang, Brian King’ori, Josphat Nyagei, Pamela Okutoyi, Vincent Kipyegon, Cindy Eman, Christine Gatwiri, Grace Kinyanjui, Abdalla Wato, Millicent Abillah, Dorah Kwamboka, Miriam Kariuki, Beth Odhil, Vida Insights, Marion Makunyo, Grace Ouma, Annancieta Mwololo,

Photography KCIC Consulting Ltd and other sources

Layout Levi Wanakacha and Brian Alili Image: courtesy


Editorial Organic, anyone? Dear reader, I’m always intrigued by how many people do not understand what organic means. I have heard people say they think it is just a marketing term, a way to get more money. It is possible, or somewhat likely, that some retailers and farmers got into growing and selling organic products for that reason…to make better profits. That happens because customers are asking for it. I mean, that is how capitalism is supposed to work, right? You produce what the market demands. I don’t think that is a bad thing. This shows the power that everyday people (or Consumers) have. That is not at the heart of what organic means. Before organic farming started, or rather I should say, when people farmed UNorganically – using synthetic, chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides produced from chemicals that were no longer


needed for war – there was a group of farmers, gardeners, scientists, and regular people who just happened to eat each day which said: “Wait, a minute! What are the effects of these farming methods?” Although they understood way less than we do now what was happening in the soil, they knew that the health of the soil and the creatures that lived there were somehow important. So, what was the catchphrase for practicing organic farming? Healthy Soils = Healthy Crops = Healthy and Happy People (plus other animals). Organic farming was (and is) all about creating and maintaining healthy farm ecosystems in the soil and everything that’s happening above the soil. Maybe you’ve come across those charts that show how nutrients in our foods have been reduced. What

does this mean? We need to eat more food to get the same amount of nutrients as our grandparents and great-grandparents. (I’m talking about whole foods, not more chips and soft drinks). If you wonder where the nutrients in foods come from, picture this. The soil web of life. We add specific nutrients (fertilizers) to the soil to grow a lettuce head to a nice big and nutritious lettuce head.

This issue of our magazine is stretching out to help you understand the concept of organic farming and how it can enhance sustainability. Our authors invite you into their own personal experiences and share stories of individuals to inspire, educate, and spread the gospel on organic farming. So, join us to explore the importance of organic farming, sustainability, and the future generation. I believe all the organizations and stories featured within this issue represent the immense scale of what is possible to achieve when farming organically in this decade.

What’s the concern? Inorganic fertilizers take away the life in the soil (all sorts of creatures doing all kinds of stuff that make a nutrientrich environment). The soil is left with Grab a drink and sit around longer for only the nutrients needed to make some inspiration! that lettuce head look like a nice big healthy lettuce head. All other valuable nutrients are lost. I bet we are on the same page now.

Enjoy the read! Pamela Okutoyi

Editor and Sustainability Communication expert


Decolonizing agriculture By Frank Ojwang

Image: courtesy

Agriculture for long was the primary and main economic activity of Kenyans in several households. Animal and crop farming empowered families economically and provided the households with nutritious food and income. In the early 1900s, missionaries introduced education and Christianity in central and Western Kenyan regions as the Muslim religion dominated the coastal areas. This was the birth of economic doom. The education system promoted education as an avenue for whitecollar jobs and better economic opportunities, creating a nuanced


perception of white-collar jobs being dignifying and farming being primitive and backward. At independence in the 1960s, only a handful of Kenyans had received formal education. They were considered the elite of the society, a position, and fete that every post-Independence generation aspired to achieve. The decline of Agriculture in Kenya As more and more children of postindependent Kenya accessed education, they started to migrate to urban areas searching for jobs. The jobs were readily available even for

students who had completed primary education. This inspired every family to send their children to school and gradually increased the number of young adults interested in urban jobs.

organic crop farming. We abandoned our nutritious crops that would have rather ecologically protected the environment. The result is climate change.

In the 1990s, more children accessed education; hence more migrated to urban areas. The most significant fraction of the land was left in the hands of aging parents. With traditional low-yield farming methods, subsistence farming was the only option. The agricultural workforce was reduced. Yields declined.

The government has a complex long-term strategy to turn around the attitudes and perceptions of future generations to adopt agriculture as the default economic activity. Civil societies and faith-based organizations are challenged too. Support the reversal of migration trends from rural-urban to an extended stay in the rural areas. More young people should be encouraged to pursue agriculture as a default economic activity for every household.

While the younger adults could have adopted better farming methods to increase farm yields, they pursued unavailable ‘dignified’ jobs in the urban areas. This birthed the phase that would result in generational poverty and unemployed city residents that left farmlands that could have empowered them economically. Going back to our roots As the years advanced, no attempts were made to deconstruct the puzzle of rural-urban migration. Its impacts include continued decline of agricultural production, increased unemployment, hidden hunger, loss of

The perceptions of farming as oldfashioned and the shame associated with agriculture need to be eliminated. This is the first step toward restoring the factory settings of Kenyan economic activities. In addition, it will set the next generations on the 100year plan to make agriculture great again, promote organic crop farming, combat climate change, eliminate food insecurity and increase the economic empowerment of the future generations.

Frank Ojwang is a doctoral researcher focused on agribusiness and innovation across Sub Saharan Africa.


Is organic farming the magic for achieving sustainability? By Brian King’ori

Image: courtesy

With the daily rise in population, scientists are developing ways of producing more food. They are inventing synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. These products save on time and labor compared to the organic methods. But did they really have the future in mind? My answer is NO. Our forefathers did it right, the natural way, and that was the best way.


Organic farming is a term that well describes a practice where synthetic fertilizers are replaced with animal manures, ashes, green manure, and nitrogen-fixing plants (legumes). On the other hand, inorganic pesticides are replaced with mixtures formed from plant extracts with pest repelling properties, like the Mexican Marigold, herbs, Eucalyptus, and garlic.

We are all witnesses to the harmful effects of conventional farming (inorganic farming). Our soils are dying. I can’t really recall the last time I saw an earthworm? Farmers are cutting down trees to give space for more farmland to feed everyone. Very few care how the next generation will be affected by the poor farming practices. Not only does organic farming aid in the production of healthy foods, but it also does that sustainably without affecting the environment. The soil is well taken care of and there is a presence of living organisms in it. Trees play a huge role in the environment. Organic farming supports agroforestry, which means maintaining a safe water table level. This is vital as rising water tables can create saline soils

that can’t support plant life.

those who totally depend on rainfall.

Again on the issue of sustainability, this type of farming does not participate in carbon emissions. The best part is that it removes a significant amount of carbon from the environment. This sounds so good, as carbon emission today poses enormous threats to human life. CO2 emissions are victims of the current climatic changes, which significantly affect farmers, especially

Organic farming ensures that trees and other perennial crops are intercropped or rotated, with the short-term crops that take 3-4 months to mature, especially in horticulture farming. The bottom line here is that organic farming is the magic portion when it comes to making sure that sustainability is achieved.


Brian King’ori is a freelance writer


Sikkim is 100% organic. What are the lessons? By Josphat Nyagei Mokaya

Recently, Sikkim state celebrated its

Image: courtesy

state. Had agriculture been a center

6th anniversary as a fully organic state. subject, they would not have been Sikkim made a mark globally with this achievement. It was the first time any government anywhere globally had attempted and successfully achieved 100% organic status. Following the conversion into an organic state, Sikkim was awarded the One World Award (Grand Prix) by IFOAMOrganics and Rapunzel in 2017 and the Future Policy Gold Award by the esteemed Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2018. There are many lessons to learn from Sikkim. To achieve this ambitious goal, the government first adopted the resolution in the Legislative Assembly in 2003. Agriculture is a state subject, so they instituted a state policy to convert Sikkim into a fully organic


able to pursue this mission. They formulated the organic policy and set up the necessary system to do what no other state had yet dared to do. Today, the approach has been lauded by the central government and organizations across the globe. India is also the country with the most considerable output of organic products globally, and Sikkim is a big reason behind this achievement. Humanity has lived through several revolutions which have changed the way we interact with nature. From the industrial revolution to the digital revolution, we have seen the world become more efficient and productive. However, efficiency and productivity at the cost of our environment are dangerous and short-

sighted. Without organic revolution,

I congratulate the people of Sikkim for

however, all other revolutions

achieving this grand feat of becoming

are incomplete. Productivity and

the first 100% organic state in the

protection of the environment must go world. I know how difficult it was and hand in hand.

how much perseverance and hard

Organic Sikkim is an asset not just for Sikkimese people but for the entire global community. It inspires the world, showing that 100% organic is not just a distant dream: it is achievable.

work it took to make organic Sikkim possible. It took the contributions and dedication of thousands of farmers, officers, resource persons, and many more. I urge us and all governments to follow the example of Sikkim.

Josephat is an experienced Agribusinessman with particular interest in food security and value addition. Email:


Banana flour: Tharaka Nithi women’s novel idea to escape poverty By Pamela Okutoyi

Image: courtesy

Banana farmers across the country

Beyond, says traditionally, farmers’

have endured many years of

obsession with certain crops has

frustration arising from a lack of

worked against them, as evidenced

market, pests, diseases, and low

in the current market oversupply. She

productivity. In seasons of high

says farmers would produce the same

productivity, many bananas

crop simultaneously, which would be

sometimes go for as low as Shs 1,000,

harvested simultaneously and taken to

to the disappointment of farmers who

the same market, yielding low prices.

invest a lot in fertilizers and labor. A Tharaka Nithi farmer has found

yielding tissue culture banana farmers

a lifeline in adding value to the

who have traditionally counted losses

harvested banana produce. The

after the market burst due to an

venture has not only increased the

oversupply,” Rose says.

product’s shelf life but has tripled earnings from the crop. Jane Rose, director of Above and


“Such has been the case with the high

Rose is now weathering the oversupply with value-added end products like banana flour and crisps

through her enterprise, Above and

Once we get the KEBs certification,

Beyond, earning farmers more than

our products will penetrate

triple the raw product. In addition,

supermarkets and other retail shops.

Rose says she engages other farmers to dry tuber crops and process them into more healthy and nutritious products.

Her future plan for the group is to make an even more significant value addition by mechanizing the process. “To impact more farmers and

“While a single bunch of bananas

livelihoods in the area, I hope that

would yield a maximum of Sh600,

through the AgriBiz program, Above

selling them in sachet crisps, where

and Beyond will be able to scale its

one banana makes one sachet, the

production by purchasing a dryer and

same bunch can make up to Sh2000.


In addition, crisps have a shelf-life of more than three months, unlike the banana, which cannot last for more than two weeks,” she says.

In addition to banana flour, the group also processes the flours from cassava, pumpkin, and crisps from arrowroots. All these crops, Rose says, are sourced

Though bananas are available round

from other farmers in the locality. The

the year, readymade flour is easier

venture has provided permanent

to use. As the bananas used are

employment for two women and one

generally grown at home, they are

gentleman who runs the facility.

usually grown without pesticides and chemicals. Hence, the flour is also chemical-free.

“It is an interesting time to be a smart farmer in Kenya. The enterprising farmer notes that the appetite for

She says making banana flour involves

value-added products locally and the

cleaning the raw materials before

opening up of regional markets are

being cut into small chips, later taken

working in our favor,” the enterprising

for drying. The drying takes three to

farmer notes.

four days before the bananas are taken to the milling machines to make flour.

Organic flours help prevent and alleviate several diseases such as blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes.

The processing and packaging are

In addition, it can easily replace

done manually at the company. It is

refined flour. Its health benefits have

later packaged and sold to health-

made it famous across the country.

conscious individuals in the area. Email: pamela


Seeking a business opportunity? Try ‘Kienyeji’ farming By Vincent Kipyegon

Image: courtesy

Modern farming forms seek to

is a critical component in organic

increase crop yield by implementing

farming that substitutes synthetic

farm practices that can decimate

fertilizers and is friendly to the soil

the environment. Additionally, these


methods require maximum input to deliver maximum output. The use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides further creates harmful effects on the farm, destroying the soil microorganisms and pollinators, causing soil acidity, and depleting soil nutrients.


Traditional vegetables, commonly referred to as kienyeji, are edible crops from the brassica vegetable family that grow naturally; they are not hybrid but rather occur naturally in farm fields or seeds propagated from existing plants. They include Africa Nightshade (managu),Sargeti,

Organic farming ensures that all farm

Amaranth (Terere) e.t.c. The high

variables coexist and benefit mutually.

nutritional content in Kienyeji food

It allows a farmer to use minimum farm

crops has made them a highly viable

input and deliver high output. Manure

food source. Focusing on these plants

can enhance income for producers

play an essential role in weight loss

and health benefits for consumers.


Kienyeji plays a significant role as

Traditional vegetables are adaptive

food for people, livestock food, pests

and resilient to unpredictable weather

repellent crops for other crops, soil

patterns. They are drought-resistant

conservation, and drought-resistant

and can withstand dry seasons

crops with essential health benefits.

with low water during dry seasons.

However, its cultivation requires

Moreover, they grow faster during the

continuous weeding to avoid nutrient

rainy seasons.

deficiency from weeds.

Kienyeji crops require minimum space

The high demand for fresh kienyeji

to grow. Kitchen gardens and storey

food sources has made it a viable

gardens are ideal for growing these

agribusiness practice with great

crops. Besides that, the crops mature

income returns for smallholder

over 2-3 months, thus increasing food

farmers. Growing these crops requires


minimum input. Using organic manure instead of fertilizers and seeds can be propagated from existing plants. The crops are tolerant of pests and diseases. These factors make it a sustainable farming model beneficial for the soil ecosystem and the farmers. They are highly nutritious. Rich in essential proteins, zinc, calcium, Vitamins B, C, and E and have rich dietary fiber. Besides its high nutritional value, kienyeji crops also promote good health; Managu, for instance, is useful for managing hypertension and diabetes. All kienyeji foods

Dorcas Rutto, a crop expert, explains that traditional crops are resistant to pests and diseases depending on the environment. “During dry spells, these crops repel pests by producing an irritating scent and bitter sap that keep leaf miners at bay during rainy periods.” Traditional vegetables are ideal for boosting income for the smallholder farmers with minimum cost input, labor, and space while providing essential health benefits to the consumers.

Vincent Kipyegon is an Agri-technology journalist Email:


Image: courtesy

Farming in the Caribbean island By Cindy Eman

“Eating local” has become a popular

depend on outside food resources

dining ethos over the last decade, but

even in the best times. Just off the

in some locations, it’s not as simple

coast of South America, Curaçao

as it sounds. Islands in the Caribbean

is one of the former Dutch Antilles

in particular have struggled with

and imports most of its dairy and

sustainability due to a multitude of

meat produce. In 2020, there was an

factors, including inhospitable farming

embargo between Venezuela and

conditions, the increasingly extreme

the islands. You could immediately tell

effects of climate change and

a shift in the supermarkets’ produce.

damage from tropical storms.


In March of the same year, the island

Living on a small island state in the

was under total lockdown due to

Caribbean and a semi-arid one, we

the pandemic. With almost no flights

arriving on the island, there was a

Forest is our pride and joy, from barren

direct impact on the availability of

land to a lush forest that provides us

fresh produce for the locals. The

with a weekly bounty.

agriculture and tourism sectors were greatly affected. And this is predicted to reoccur with the current climatic trends that are far worse than the COVID-19 pandemic.

We handed out more than 700 well-filled bags of fresh produce to our neighbors for the first year. 25 family households followed organic gardening courses to have their

In the neighborhood of Ser’i

own mini-gardens at home, giving

Otrobanda, part of the island’s

households the means to be self-

Unesco World Heritage urban capital,

reliant and maybe even grow enough

the long-term solution seemed

to share.

obvious: start producing our own organic greens! With the help of some generous sponsors and the combined knowledge of a few experts, we started doing just that.

Circular organic agriculture is also part of the program, making a case for sustainability. The project has equipped young people with entrepreneurial skills and provided

Together with the neighbors, we

them with a steady income. Local

prepared three different plots for

restaurants and hotels have also

different types of urban community

been provided with a farm-to-table

farming, and now, almost two

alternative. Above all, the initiative

years later, it has grown to 5 plots.

creates the possibility to trade

Currently working in Kenya, Roland

knowledge, services, and products

van Reenen designed our food

without money being involved. It is

forest and introduced us to syntropic

exciting to see where we will be in

agroforestry. The Ferdinand Food

another year!



Are communities the key to mass adoption of organic farming? By Christine Gatwiri

Image: courtesy

A white powdery substance

a heated discussion. Someone

appeared on the leaves of my

suggested I visit an agrovet and

bucket-grown kale. I took a picture,

buy pesticides. It was interjected by

uploaded it to a farming group, and

comments like;

asked, “Hey, what is wrong with my kale?”

practicing organic farming.’”

Within minutes I got responses:


“This is a powdery mildew fungus

The farming group is called Sacks

disease. Remedy mix milk and water

and Containers Gardening Tips on

spray during a sunny day.”

Facebook. It is a peer-led community

“Apply more water.” “Spray neem oil + baking powder.” One response, in particular, raised


“Remember we are advocating and

of people who grow in small spaces. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of farming groups on the site in Kenya alone.

Online farming communities have

agro-input dealers to advise and

everyone from someone like me who

recommend farm inputs. Alternative

cultivates in containers to people

sources of farming advice are

with large acres of land. Some

particularly crucial for small-scale

communities are more niche, e.g.,


mulberry or watermelon growers. While not all focus on organic farming, members get farming tips, ask questions, and source markets for their products across all such communities.

Small-scale farmers are responsible for about 70% of agricultural production in Kenya. Commercial farm inputs are expensive to access and apply within recommended guidelines for

When the micro-level farmers on

these farmers. Consequently, curating

Sacks and Containers Gardening

organic farming knowledge, skills,

Tips set out to farm, organic farming

and best practices in communities

is not a goal, but a means to an

ensure ease of sharing, adoption, and

end - it is accessible and affordable.


This is made possible by hundreds of thousands of community members willing to share hacks, tips, and information.

Communities - online or offline – provide an organic reach (excuse the pun) to the individual. Group psychology through informational

In easy-to-understand language,

social influence, for example, works

you learn the benefits of introducing

in favor of knowledge sharing. They

rosemary, onions, or garlic to your

promote a sense of belongingness

spinach crop (biological pest

as members offer mutual support to

control). Or how to re-use banana

ensure adherence to group norms

peels and eggshells to provide

and values.

potassium and calcium to crops. This way, communities eliminate a pivotal barrier to organic farming – knowledge.

Communities build inherent social trust. Word of mouth and social proof motivate others to take up action. For example, when a member shares

Communities dedicated to organic

a picture or story of their organic

farming have become an alternative

produce, others are inspired to try it.

source of knowledge and information.

This way, communities exchange, and

Typically, farmers rely on other farmers, market ideas, even complex ones like agricultural extension services, and

organic farming and sustainability.

Christine Gatwiri is a technology and community writer and qualitative researcher. Email:


Yes, you can farm tomatoes without chemicals By Grace Kinyanjui

Tomatoes are among the most

and late blight, powdery mildew,

popular and widely produced

and viral infections. Because of this,

vegetables in Kenya. Successful

tomato farmers invest heavily in

production of this high-value

agrochemicals, including pesticides

vegetable provides high income

and synthetic fertilizers, to protect the

to smallholder farmers and has

crop and improve production.

dramatically improved several livelihoods.

Although helpful in reducing crop damage, chemical pesticides only

However, tomato farming is also a

provide a short-term solution to

highly demanding task because of

control pests and diseases. Moreover,

the frequent occurrence of pests

because of the numerous challenges,

and diseases and the consequent

farmers have resorted to a calendar-

reduction of the crop’s productivity

based application system of broad-

and profitability. The notorious

spectrum pesticides.

problems include whiteflies, leafminers, Tuta absoluta, thrips, spider mites, and fruit worms.


Image: courtesy

A recent analysis of pesticide residues on tomatoes produced in Kenya revealed that some commonly

The major tomato diseases are

used chemicals are highly toxic and

bacterial and Fusarium wilt, early

have potential chronic health and

environmental effects. Besides, most

4. Use of commercially available

pesticide concentrations exceed the

copper-based and Sulphur

acceptable maximum residue level.

pesticides to control the significant

Organic tomato farming presents a promising alternative to chemical pesticides. It encourages the production of safe and healthy tomatoes through organic and ecologically sustainable agricultural systems. The first step towards organic tomato production is the management of

tomato diseases. 5. Proper weed control. 6. Intercropping tomato with insectrepellent crops, e.g., garlic, onions, and basil. 7. Embrace natural enemies to control insect pests such as predators and parasitic wasps.

soil fertility for better crop nutrition.

8. Adopting companion planting to

Rich organic soils are achieved by

foster biodiversity and ecological

the addition of animal manure and

balance of pests and their natural



Instead of frequent pesticide

9. Tomato crop rotation with

applications, farmers are encouraged

unrelated crops like legumes,

to adopt good agricultural practices

cereals, and brassicas.

to prevent or reduce incidences of pests and diseases. These include: 1. Transplanting of pest-free seedlings 2. Regular crop monitoring to detect early infestations and promote prompt control. 3. Use of commercial and homemade organic pesticides to control severe infestations. Examples include soap sprays, wood ash, flour preparations, neem extracts, onion,

A calculated integration of these practices will yield huge agronomic benefits such as enhanced soil fertility, reduced crop damages, and increased tomato yields and farmers’ income. An organic tomato farming approach will also reduce the overdependence on chemical pesticides and contribute to enhanced human and environmental health.

garlic, and chili pepper. Grace Kinyanjui is a PhD student pursuing a degree in applied entomology. Email:


The three R’s of organic farming By Abdalla Wato

Thanks to organic farming, natural

as peelings of tomatoes, potatoes,

resources are utilized responsibly.

onions, pineapples, bananas, and

A farmer in Wundanyi, Taita Taveta County, utilizes the three Rs of reducing, reusing, and recycling to practice organic farming. The farmer uses ground rock dust from sulfatecontaining rocks as fertilizer to grow his tomatoes and other vegetables. The rock dust adds trace minerals and micro-nutrients to the soil and feeds the beneficial microbes that live in the ground. This best explains ‘reducing’

other vegetables and fruits, to make compost manure. These plant products add various essential micronutrients to the soil. A close relation to this is the use of bone meal fertilizer. The Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughterhouse waste products. The fertilizer is rich in phosphorus and calcium. Animal bones are recycled to make

as a practice since the farmer reduces fertilizer. Bone meal can also feed the application of artificial fertilizers,

monogastric animals and is usually rich

which could harm our environment

in phosphorus and protein.

when used in excess. Too much nitrogenous fertilizer leads

incorporates management activities

to the release of harmful greenhouse

that ensure the conservation of soil,

gasses into the atmosphere.

water, air and control of climate

Asides from that, it leads to the

change and biodiversity. Soil building

eutrophication of our waterways. The

practices such as crop rotations,

application of mulch best explains

inter-cropping, cover crops, organic

reusing as a practice. The dry plant

fertilizers, and minimum tillage are

matter is not discarded but put into

central to organic practices. These

use to help conserve soil moisture

practices improve soil formation

for the still-thriving crops or prevent

and structure. In turn, the nutrients

soil erosion, which would affect the

and retentive abilities of the soil

growing crops.

are enhanced. Soil erosion is also

Recycling comes in handy when the farmer uses kitchen refuse, such


In summary, Organic farming

controlled. Groundwater pollution is inhibited by

minimum usage or the elimination

manure contributes to mitigating

of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

the greenhouse effect and global

The application of mulch and cover

warming. The hidden costs of

crops conserves water. The use of

agriculture to the environment

organic manure such as compost

regarding natural resource

manure, rock dust, and animal

degradation are reduced.

Abdalla Wato is public health student at South Eastern Kenya University, Email:


Homabay based enterprise making inroads in organic farming By Millicent Abillah

Our airwaves are filled every day with

maintaining a sustainable planet for

news of extreme weather phenomena its future generation. The answer lies worldwide, from historic floods to

in a multi-level integrated approach

fires, earthquakes, droughts, etc.

to sustainable living that involves

These climate crises are the effects of

everyone, from the individual to the

decades of man-made abuse of the

local, regional, national government,

earth. Our planet is a victim, and the

and businesses.

only way to right the ship and save the planet for future generations is to radically change our current patterns of doing and being.

against this backdrop of creating inclusive economic growth, food security, and protecting the planet.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted

Our mission is to chart a new path

the Sustainable Development Goals

for smallholder farmers in West

(SDGs), also known as Global Goals,

Kanyada, Homabay County, to adopt

as a universal call to action to end

transparent and environmentally

poverty, protect the planet and

friendly organic farming practices.

ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy

Founded ten years ago by a Kenyan

peace and prosperity.

farmer and entrepreneur, Ms. Millicent

Today, Africa must confront how to create food security and nutrition for its 1 billion+ population while


Seven Fields Enterprises was birthed

Abillah, Seven Fields Enterprises has continued to be a champion of organic farming.

To us, organic farming means that

environment fresh and clean, which

communities eat better and stay

reduces airborne disease. I can attest

healthier. The overall community

to the many wild plants on our farms

health index goes up, life expectancy

like Aloe Vera (medicinal). Imagine

increases, national productivity goes

picking the much sought-after Aloe

up, and all of these benefits come

Vera from the fields in its natural state

with no harm to our planet.

for wound healing, picking cherry

At Seven Fields Enterprises, we believe that organic farming has to be at the forefront of the global campaign to end poverty and protect the planet. We have, therefore, created a market for the local farmers to sell their products at better prices and improve their livelihoods. We have made a tremendous social impact on many rural families that rely on farming as their primary source of income.

tomatoes for your next meal, or that fresh mango under a tree.

Other benefits of organic farming include: 1. Healthier working conditions for the farmers(no harmful chemicals or pesticides) 2. Healthier human life and better living for everyone 3. Natural manure-this include green

Organic farming respects the entire

manure, animal manure, and cover

value chain of food production


by using natural farming methods from land preparation, planting to harvesting. This means that our produce is naturally grown, healthier,

4. Crop rotation- helps in retaining soil fertility. More vital yields equate to more food.

tastes better, has more nutritional

A report produced jointly by the

value, and is not genetically modified.

Economic Commission for Africa

Moreover, organic farming helps

(ECA), the African Union (AU), the

reduce greenhouse gas emissions and

African Development Bank (AfDB),

enhances soil moisture retention giving and the United Nations Development rise to higher crop yields with minimum

Programme (UNDP) asserts that


while many African countries have

With this type of farming, flora and fauna can thrive, making the

made cursory progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, much more needs to be done.

Millicent Abilah is the CEO of Seven Fields Enterprises. Email:


iPoP Africa sows real seeds for healthy snacking By Dorah Kwamboka

could not even read some of the ingredients on the snack labels, let alone pronounce them. Remember, we are food nutrition professionals. An incredibly misleading vitamins section, and hell yes, tracking those calories, protein, and fat takes the fun out of snacking. I was haunted by the words of the

My peers and I, like 78% of Kenyans, enjoy snacking. But every time we snacked, my friends, unlike me, who is naturally petite, worried about weight gain. We all know the social insecurities of weight gain, including the risk factors for non-communicable diseases. So my friends promised to stick to an exercise regime. Of course, which they did not adhere to. Does this sound familiar? Feeling guilty, we decided to cut down on snacking. We started to study snack labels. Unfortunately, most brands did not tell us how highly processed the snacks were. We


Burkina Faso revolutionary Leader on Food Sovereignty. Indeed some of the ingredients in the snacks travel hundreds of miles as we do when we choose to go on vacation. The highly processed snacks fuel the triple burden of diseases and malnutrition. The food and carbon miles only aggravate the climate injustices that Africa is already facing. These thoughts revived my lost childhood love for my granny’s delicious porridge and ugali, which came in shades of brown. I had sat at her dinner table several times. But tonight, in retrospect, I realized her dinner table was missing out on those delicacies. She, too, was becoming modernized.

Today, Millenials do not enjoy sorghum white sorghum), and brown rice. We millet or amaranth in the form of ugali

pride ourselves in a short ingredient

and porridge. They barely know these

list that you can easily pronounce,

grains, and those who know them

100% plant-based ingredients sourced

consider them food for the poor.

among farmers locally in Kenya.

It is against this backdrop that iPoP

We have also started a one snack,

Africa, an agribusiness startup, was

one tree initiative, whereby we plant a

founded. The enterprise is reclaiming

tree every time you snack with us. Our

the sovereignty of these climate-smart

goal is to turn every snacking moment

grains. It transforms the grains into

into an act of mitigating and adapting

modern snack products that enable

to climate change. At the same time,

our consumers to enjoy snacking

we are promoting sustainable and

without compromising affordability,

resilient food systems and improving

convenience, fashion-ability, and

a smallholder farmer’s income in the

health and nutrition gains.

indigenous grains value chain.

At iPoP Africa, you will find all kinds

Join iPoP Africa today as we endeavor

of popped grains snacks, from yellow

to snack on what we can control.

indigenous maize, millet (Pearl and

Snack Africa, Snack Greener, and

finger millet), sorghum (The red and

Healthier and Snack Guilt-Free!

Dorah Kwamboka is Food Scientist and Nutritionist Email:


Mushroom Farming: Graduate reaping the fruits of fungi culture By Pamela Okutoyi

Mushrooms, an ancient delicacy,

This, however, did not come easy

were traditionally picked from the

for her. She says she developed an

wild, and farmers did not grow them

interest in mushroom farming while

commercially. Today, mushroom

pursuing her degree in Horticulture

farming is a popular job source of

at Jomo Kenyatta University of

income for many young people

Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

worldwide. Armed with skills and knowledge,

mushroom center to learn how

24-year-old, Catherine Wanjiku,

mushrooms are grown. As a result, I

prepares mushroom farms, plants

developed an interest, and I did a

them, harvests, and packs them for

lot of online research to equip myself

sale. She also educates farmers on the

better,” Catherine says.

techniques of growing mushrooms.


“At campus, I used to pass by the

After completing her studies at

The enterprising farmer says she

JKUAT, Catherine secured formal

chose button mushroom production

employment to start her career. While

because it has the highest demand,

working, she enrolled in a short course

with Kenya importing up to 80,000

at Miramar International College at

tonnes to satisfy its tourist industry.

Kikuyu, where Mushroom farming

However, she is keen to point out

was taught. The course spiked her

that the button mushroom variety

interest in mushroom farming. She

is complicated to grow and thus

later quit employment to venture into

makes farmers shun away. However,

agriculture, and she has never looked

with the know-how, this variety pays


handsomely as the market is not

“It has been a tough and exciting farming journey. Every day is a learning process to perfect my craft, so I can produce more volumes,”

flooded and offers competitive prices. “Before venturing into button farming, I did a market survey and discovered that the button variety has high returns, and very few farmers in the country are cultivating it. So I saw this as a great opportunity,” she says.

says the soft-spoken Catherine.

According to the National Farmers

With savings from her previous

Information Service (NAFIS), Kenya

employment, she started her button mushroom business in a 5 by 8 feet structure which she has since upgraded to an 8 by 10 feet. She proudly operates her farm, Seta Farm, located in Mutuini village, Murang’a

produces 500 tonnes of mushrooms per year, of which 476 tons are button mushrooms, against an annual demand of 1200 tonnes. This means there is a high demand for the crop. A kilogram of mushroom is priced at

County. She harvests approximately

between Sh400 and Sh600.

800 kgs of button mushrooms from her

Mushroom farming in Kenya has

farm every month. “I have two mushroom growing houses, and I produce about 800kilograms per month that I sell mainly in Nairobi. So I can assure you the demand is high,” she says.

gained popularity as a more healthconscious generation embraces consuming this diet. Mushroom delicacy is rich in proteins, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, Selenium, and many more that help in boosting the body’s immune system.


Besides growing Mushrooms,

wheat straw or any other substrate

Catherine trains self-help groups and

made up of agricultural waste.

farmers at a fee. Gekeno Women

Almost anything cultivated on land

Group is one of the groups she

is a potential substrate for mushroom

teaches mushroom cultivation.

cultivation. You can use wheat straw,

Catherine advises mushroom farmers to construct a grass-thatched mud house for growing their mushrooms. An 8 by 10 feet structure is good enough. The house should be rodentproof to keep off rats and initially dark before introducing some light later.

rice, banana and coconut waste, maize cobs, sawdust, and water hyacinth. Catherine explains that anything from the legume family, such as bean waste, is also great because of the nitrogen content,” Catherine explains.

For mushrooms that require humid

In the future, through the AgriBiz

conditions to thrive, farmers need to

program, the prosperous farmer hopes

sprinkle water in the room daily.

to expand her farm and increase her

“In growing mushrooms, first a farmer needs to have the substrates of composting which I call hay; this is the

button mushroom production. She is also thinking of venturing into other types of mushrooms like oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

Pamela Okutoyi is a development communications professional specializing in sustainability and climate change. Email: pamela


Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) is one of the largest innovation centres in Africa supporting innovative climate change solutions and sustainable development. KCIC supports Small and Medium Enterprises through provision of business support, financing and access to information while also providing strategic direction on matters of policy, advocacy and sustainable development. To achieve its objective KCIC has two other subsidiaries namely; KCIC Consulting Limited (KCL) and Kenya Climate Ventures (KCV). Through the two entities, we support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through technical support and financing. We offer consulting services to government institutions, international organizations, corporations, SMEs, national and international NGOs, among others.


Over the past 10 years, as a strategic partner in climate change innovations, our impact on society is significant as illustrated below

300,000 Tons

USD 48,000,000

1,350 SMEs

Carbon Dioxide Mitigated by supporting key innovations across the climate change space

Green capital mobilized from financial institutions, donors, and other investors to support SMEs.

Incubated and supported in the sectors of agribusiness, renewable energy, commercial forestry, water management and waste management.

780,540 People

24,990 Jobs

USD 32,000,000

Indirectly impacted through clients interactions.

Created within a period of 10 years across the country.

Revenues generated by supported companies.

Current Openings Job opportunities: Call for mentors: Call for freelance consultants:

Follow us on:



KCIC impact in pictorials

International Forests Day event at Machakos people’s park tree planting session by Machakos BIH Officials

Garden Mushroom founder explaining how they make their fertilizer.

An AgriBiz client showcasing her improved farming technique during the Meru BIH Launch event

Co-founder of Multi- organic fertilizer exhibiting her products at the youth innovation week, Kiambu County


Lucy Mwanza, an employee of Windsor Farm showcasing tree seedlings at the Machakos People’s Park

Machakos residents picking seeds for planting in their nurseries during the International Forests Day event at the Machakos People’s Park

AgriBiz clients showcasing their products to KCIC Officials and The program donors during the launch of the Uasin Gishu business incubation hub

KCIC Officials and The program donors cutting the ribbon to officiate the launch of Bungoma BIH

AgriBiz client exhibiting her products in the Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Week happening at JKUAT Industrial Park

Uasin Gishu BIH Launch exhibitions from AgriBiz clients


Organic farming, sustainability and the next generation By Miriam Kariuki

The term organic farming may be

some of which have been

novel, but the practice is ancient.

documented, leading to banning

Historically, farming did not involve

the use of the identified hazardous

inorganic inputs such as chemical

fertilizers and pesticides in farming.

fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

The accumulation of synthetic

Fast forward to today, farming to

chemicals in soil contributes to

a vast extent involves the use of

environmental degradation.

chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and

Chemicals contribute to toxicity in the

herbicides, some of which are a

ground from overuse. With time, the

byproduct of the fossil fuel industry.

soil structure also weakens, resulting

Research has evidenced that applying these artificial and chemical inputs into farming has been detrimental to both humans and the environment. The synthetic chemicals accumulate in the soil, on the foliage, on fruits of the crops and are later

in soil erosion. In addition, residue from chemical applications in farms is often washed off into streams, rivers, oceans, and boreholes. This residue contaminates these water sources, leading to illness and death in livestock and humans.

consumed by humans and animals

Organic farming, on the other hand,

post-harvest as chemical residue

promotes sustainability. It incorporates

remains on harvested crops. This results naturally occurring inputs such as in adverse health consequences,


compost manure from animal and

plant waste to enrich soils for crop

In fact, Organic farming supports

growth. The practice also integrates

and aligns with the Sustainable

plants with herbal properties to repel

Development Goals (SDGs).

pests, insects and control disease.

Wholesome and healthy foods mean

The detriment of inorganic farming is so evident that consumers are now demanding organic produce and their corresponding labeling to ensure that they can identify and purchase that which is organically farmed. Recent reports indicate the tremendous growth in the demand for organic farm products, a signal to farmers to transition to organic farming to meet this demand. Evidence and trends show that the current inorganic farming methods do not promote sustainability due to the various adverse effects on health and nature for current and future generations.

better health, as espoused under SDG 3 (Target 3.9). The target champions Good health and Well-being by reducing diseases and death from hazardous chemicals and pollution (in air, water, and soil). Organic farming supports SDG 14- Life below Water -by reducing and eliminating the application of synthetic fertilizers, which, when washed off into water bodies, significantly affect marine life and their ecosystems. The last one is SDG 15- Life on Land is enhanced by organic farming. The practice devoid of chemicals protects biodiversity, such as pollinating insects, birds, and other plants.

Miriam Kariuki is Sustainability enthusiast. Email:


City girl turns farm enthusiast By Beth Odhil

If someone had told me that farming

undergraduate in environmental

would be what brings my loves

sustainability and Agroecosystems

and me together, I would not have

management. I fell in love with the

believed it. I grew up in the city. What

simplified production of food, organic

got me joy was the cartoon network

farming, and waste management in

after school and middle-grade books

those four years. The discovery that

like Alice in wonderland. I imagined

one can just add simple nutrients to

how I would grow up and become an

the earth and, in turn, would provide

illustrator and an author. I had built a

me with high-quality food and trees

rich world, both within and without,

under whose shade I dig knowledge I

and I was content. Then the city girl

gain knowledge was fascinating.

grew up. I went to university and did my


I remember visiting ‘Sylvia’s farm’ with my classmates. There, we sat in groups

and told stories our mothers and

using sustainable farming techniques,

fathers narrated to us about tending

building human relationships, and

to small and large farms.

enhancing the economic and social

I listened intently to Sylvia narrate how she wanted to produce good food

lives of everyone who interacts with the earth.

for her child and the community. I

Organic farming calls for 3D

watched my friends roam around

interactions when applying manure,

the garden in awe, asking, “can we

harvesting, crop rotation, and

pick this?” “How did you rear your

other techniques. We further need

rabbits?” “Isn’t it exciting watching

to understand the importance of

the sun touch the green leaves in the

protecting the earth and why our

morning?” Everyone was so in tune

parents speak so passionately of their

with each other, with nature.

farming days and try to teach us the

From my experiences in class and in the field, I understood that Organic

importance of ‘getting your hands dirty for the earth’s good.

farming was not just saving the

While I still hold on to the desire

environment. It was rebuilding my life,

to explore the world of literature,

opening me up to new loves.

I believe it is also essential to take

I started to view organic farming from a different lens. It means building relations with yourself and the earth. Understanding and taking care to give back to the soil as much as it has given to you. Tending to its nutrients,

care of the environmental aesthetics, save the trees, heal the soils, tend to the wildlife, and feed on nutritious meals. Organic farming is the index finger pointing us towards a more sustainable environment.

Beth Odhil is a lover of literature and big trees with deep roots Email:


What does organic mean for farmers? By Vida Insights

At the recently held COP26,

increasing pest infestations, floods,

participants recognized the need

and droughts, are mainly borne by

for sustainable food systems to

the smallholder farmers who rely on

ensure food security and end

climate-sensitive natural resources to

hunger worldwide while achieving

make a living (IFAD). These farmers are

climate objectives. This would be

unfortunately sidelined in global and

accomplished through a holistic

national policy debates that impact

approach, building on economic,

their sources of livelihood.

social, and environmental sustainability.


We at Vida Insights sought to collect views from organic farmers at the

The effects of climate change,

Organic Farmers Market (OFM) in

including temperature rise,

Nairobi on the role of organic farming

unpredictable weather patterns,

in enhancing sustainability. The

interviews were carried out in January

caused by crop failure and price

2022 with the written consent of the



Mr. Muthama, one of OFM’s

Ms. Muthoni, a Farm Manager at

organizers, believes that organic

Spoonrift Organic Farm in Kajiado

farming has immense potential

County, states that organic farming

for growth in Kenya. He, however,

has clear benefits to the environment

noted that the sector continues

and hence mitigates the effects of

to face many challenges such

climate change.

as inaccessibility to quality seeds,

At Spoonrift, compost manure from recycled kitchen refuse and farmyard wastes adds nutrients and necessary

contaminated water from upstream rivers, and relatively low uptake of organic produce in the country.

bacteria and fungi to the soil. This,

Mr. Muthama opined that whereas

in turn, improves soil water retention

there are apparent benefits to the

capacity, and the minimal residue

environment and economic gains

is what drains into water bodies. The

for farmers more needs to be done

farm also practices crop rotation

for the sector’s more comprehensive

which aids in maintaining soil fertility.

social benefits. He believes that

Although pest control remains

relevant legislation and awareness

a crucial challenge, short-term

strategies should be implemented.

measures have been adopted by

This will ensure that organic farming is

Spoonrift to reduce the effects of pest

socially sustainable.

infestation, including intercropping and planting insect repellent crops like the marigold.

From the views discussed above, although interest in organic food is increasing in Kenya and in potential

Kakila Organic Produce is an organic

export markets, a concerted

farm run by Mr. Ng’ang’a. He outlined

multisectoral approach, including

that, for now, the farm only manages

support from relevant government

to break even. He is, however,

agencies, will be required to optimize

optimistic that profits will be realized in

the sector’s impact on sustainability

the long run. Mixed cropping enables

and climate-resilient agricultural

the farm to mitigate against losses


Vida Insights is a Kenyan women-led social and economic research firm Email:


How to make biochar fertilizer at home

By Marion Makunyo

Biochar is a form of charcoal

during the dry season. This structure

produced by exposing organic

also attracts nutrients and stores them.

waste such as dry plant materials,

It has lower rates of nutrient depletion,

perennial weeds, and crop residue

thus enriching the soil.

to heat above 700`C in a low oxygen environment. It is an organic fertilizer that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Farmers can easily produce it using agricultural waste available on the farm and mix it with animal manure to get a nutrient-rich fertilizer at a low cost.

officer, made biochar at home on a small scale using the following simple steps; Step 1 Start by digging a cone-shaped pit. The diameter at the top of the cone

Biochar is a carbon-rich material

should be less than a meter, or it will

with a spongy, porous structure that

get too hot and need too much wood

helps water retention and drainage.

to fill. 60 cm is a reasonable size for a

It improves the soil’s ability to hold

first burn.

moisture and excess water used


Liverson Mwandembo, PlantVillage

Step 2

in depleted soils. It can attract and

Get a pile of wood together in the cone pit. Start by building a small fire at the cone base using dry twigs. Once this is going well, add more twigs and then larger pieces of wood. Let these burn until they start forming

retain water and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. It can also sequester carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere, thus mitigating climate change.

white ash.

Biochar and Sustainability

Then add another layer of wood.

Using biochar reduces the waste from

Once again, wait until this turns black

agricultural residues and provides a

and starts to develop a layer of white

way to transform waste into value-

ash. Repeat the process until you

added products. The dependency

reach the top of the cone or run out

on chemical fertilizers has risked the

of wood.

sustainability of the environment by causing various effects such as global

Step 3 - Final step

warming, imbalanced soil pH, and

Quench the fire by adding water.

nutrient depletion in soils. Adopting

Remove the charcoal and crush it into

a more natural way of farming that

small pieces. Mix the charcoal with

increases crop yields will reduce the

animal manure, and your biochar is

reliance on chemical fertilizer and

ready for use on the farm.

sustain agricultural production and

Biochar is a more permanent


alternative to increasing soil fertility

Marion Makunyo and Liverson Mwandembo are Research Extension Officers at PlantVillage Email:


Fertilizers are a disaster, abandoning them is a bigger disaster. By Pamela Okutoyi

The use of artificial fertilizers and

“We manufacture a slow-release

pesticides would possibly increase

fortified organic fertilizer known

yields. Still, these inputs are out of

as Asili granulated fertilizer. It has

reach to many small-scale farmers

carbon-based compounds; Calcium,

as they require capital and risk

Zinc, Manganese, Magnesium, Iron,

environmental pollution. Farmers are,

Molybdenum, Selenium, and many

therefore, being encouraged to turn

others that help improve plant quality.

to organic farming to improve their

Due to balanced nutrients, our fertilizer increases plants’ productivity under healthy soil and reduces toxic load by keeping chemicals out of the air, water, and soil,” said Albert Kamau, the company’s director, and maintenance manager. As a company, they want to help address the problem of soil degradation, which has been on the rise, and provide solutions to farmers

yield production. Agri Flora Organic Solutions is an early-stage company trying to promote this farming. Agriflora, which was incorporated in 2016, uses fully decomposed animal and plant waste to process organic fertilizers. The company provides clients with safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sound products.


in a country which mainly depends on agriculture to achieve food security. “Our main objective is to encourage agro-ecosystem health among farmers in the region and the nearby counties such as Nyandarua, Baringo, and Samburu, with our main target group being potato farmers. This includes biodiversity, biological

cycles, and soil biological activity,” he

has partnered with Kenya Climate


Ventures, KCV, to help them roll out a

He demystifies the misconception that

large-scale production of fertilizers.

organic farming is not productive by

“We look forward to expanding our

pointing to evidence of increased

manufacturing plant because we

productivity due to transitioning from

realized many farmers are now using

the low input systems usually found in

our products, which means we have

third-world countries.

to increase our productivity,” he

“We have received positive


feedback from farmers who use our

Since Kenya mainly depends

organic fertilizers; to them, organic

on Agriculture to achieve food

agriculture has drastically contributed

security, as a company, they want

to protecting the natural resource

to help address the problem of soil

and environment and has ensured

degradation, which has been on the

sustainable food production. They are

rise and provide solutions to farmers.

certain this kind of farming will lead to full self-reliance on food soon,” he said.

KCV has offered Agriflora business advisory services and supported them financially to continue producing

Due to the increasing demand for

quality organic manure.

their organic fertilizers, Agriflora Pamela Okutoyi is a development communications professional specializing in sustainability and climate change. Email: pamela


Can we feed 47 million people organically? By Grace Ouma

According to the United Nations,

Organic farmers contribute to

135 million people suffer from acute

sustainable and natural food

hunger, and should the trend

production and, therefore, enhance

continue, more than 850 million

food security in the country.

people will be affected by hunger in 2030. Additionally, more than 250 million of the undernourished live in Africa. These statistics paint an unfortunate reality that we need to act now. Understanding the

In Kenya, there are several obstacles to fully realizing the positive impact of organic farming on the farmers and the communities in which they live, especially for small farm holders.

challenges that affect our agriculture

These policy concerns should be the

system and exploring how it can be

priority areas for policymakers and

improved to provide nutrition to the

stakeholders if we are to realize the

millions of people at risk of hunger and

Sustainable Development Goal 2 of


zero hunger by 2030. The SDG aims to end hunger, achieve food security,


improve nutrition, and promote

value chains. It causes devastating

sustainable agriculture.

effects that could instead be

Among the most common challenges that affect organic farming in rural areas are lack of knowledge, natural disasters, famine, and uncontrolled importation of similar products that sell

avoided and significantly mitigated. Policymakers should address this state of unpreparedness and reduce the negative impact on organic farming to make it more sustainable.

at a lower price.

Uncontrolled Importation

Lack of knowledge and market

Organic farmers in Kenya decry the


government’s weak importation

Organic farming is knowledgeintensive with complex logistical processes. Besides subsidies, the government needs to support the local farmers by providing them with knowledge and access to markets for their products to improve their livelihoods. Teaching farmers how

policy that allows farm products from neighboring countries to flood the market at lower prices. This process leaves our farmers with their produce on their farms with no one to sell to. Policymakers should focus on sealing this loophole if our organic market is to thrive and remain sustainable.

to farm organically and providing

In conclusion, organic farming can

opportunities for export so that their

reduce hunger and enhance food

products can fetch better prices will

security and sustainable agriculture.

increase engagement in organic

However, it needs the government’s

farming. Suffice it to say that more

full backing by addressing the current

people demand organically grown

challenges. You cannot hope for a

foods as health concerns increase.

better future by burying your head in

Disaster mitigation

the sand today.

Famine is a frequent phenomenon in Kenya, affecting agricultural

Grace Ouma is a Tutorial Fellow at The Technical University of Kenya Email:


Can farm trash be a farmer’s treasure? By Vincent Kipyegon

Green manure, also called crop

Crop manure enhances sustainability

manure, is decomposing crop residues in three ways. Firstly, Crop manure that are broken down to provide

adds fertility to soil; soil microorganisms

essential nutrients to the soil during

decompose the organic matter from

wet conditions. These crop residues

crop residue, thus releasing nutrients

include maize straw, bean straw,

that enrich the soil. Dorcas Rutto, a

peas, wheat straw, waste silage,

crop health expert, notes that some

waste substrate, e.t.c. Crop manure

crop residues such as bean straw and

is useful in growing vegetable crops

wheat are nitrogen-fixing plants, thus

such as kales, cabbage, cauliflower,

aiding soil fertility.

and broccoli. Crop manure cuts the cost of

nitrogen to the soil, which is vital for

purchasing synthetic fertilizers,

the growth of plants and improving

prevents the destruction of soil living

the soil structure,” notes Mrs. Rutto.

microorganisms, and increases farmer incomes with zero input.


“These plants break down and release

Secondly, green manure can be used for mulching. Mulching prevents

moisture loss from the soil through

crops or soil microorganisms. Animal

evaporation during the dry season.

manure can also scorch crops if

The loss of water in crops leads to

applied in excess. “Animal manure

decreased yields and sometimes

can transmit bacteria wilt to new

wilting plants. Crop manure covers

crops when animals are fed with crops

vegetable crops during the dry season such as potato peels that previously and decomposes during the rainy

contained bacteria,” explains Mrs.

season thus, prevents soil erosion.


Thirdly, green manure prevents crops

Weed management is a crucial player

from pests and diseases. Synthetic

in organic farming, fertile soil speeds

fertilizers and chemical pesticides

up the growth of crops and weed.

disable soil micro-organisms that feed

Weeds not only compete for nutrients

the soil with nutrients; they create

with vegetables but also attract pests

acidity that discourages optimum

and diseases. Blackjack, a weed, is

performance of micro-organism that

usually infested by black aphids during

keeps harmful pests at bay.

flowering. It is essential to undertake

On the other hand, animal manure has high organic nutrients, but its

frequent weed removal to maximize crop yield from green manure.

usage is risky. Sometimes it introduces harmful pests which attack the

Vincent Kipyegon is an Agri-technology journalist based in Kericho. Email:


Entrepreneur reaping spicy returns from pumpkins By Pamela Okutoyi

For many years, pumpkins were

pumpkin processing company that

regarded as one of the less important

makes pumpkin flour and pumpkin

crops in Kenya. Pegotty Mutai and

seed oil, founded in November 2019.

her three friends, Esther, Lilian, and Wangeci, got into a partnership to change this mindset. They did extensive research on pumpkin processing and discovered how much value could be added to the product beyond making soup – which is basically what most people use pumpkin for in the country.


Mutai and her friends wanted to change the poor health habits of most Kenyans and reduce their dependence on a few seasonal crops. They knew that while many pumpkins were grown in the community, the yield only fetched low prices and is often considered “women’s food.” The thought of

Their research led to discovering

processing pumpkins was ideal.

the value addition of pumpkins into

Curious about what value could be

pumpkin seed oil (from pumpkin

added to the pumpkins, Mutai and

seeds) and pumpkin flour (from the

her friends began researching the

pumpkin flesh). The result of their

crop and discovered its nutritional

partnership is Tasher Botanicals, a

values. Pumpkins are rich in dietary

fibers, vitamins, minerals, and

It requires one to work harder and

antioxidants, and they do not increase think deeper,” says Mutai. “When cholesterol levels.

we started, we didn’t have any

“We thought of how pumpkins could be processed into flour for pastries, how it could help farmers and provide jobs to the unemployed while generating profit for us,”

knowledge on processing. We had

Mutai recalls. The four friends intend to use their business to solve social issues like youth unemployment, rural farmers’ development, food supply shortage, and a healthy food alternative. Apart from creating employment, the enterprise offers pumpkin farmers a ready market for their produce at better prices.

“The good thing about pumpkins is that they are not seasonal. They grow after six months and keep growing for the next six months without planting a fresh seed,” says Mutai.

to attend several pieces of training and learn the type of equipment we required and how to use them. Unfortunately, this equipment is costly, and we have not been able to afford it on a large scale. Currently, we are doing small-scale manual production, which is slow and not of good quality,” she says. Finding an appropriate location for her company to meet the Kenya Standards Board’s requirements and convincing people of the product’s health benefits were other challenges the business faced in its first months. The value addition process is currently being done at home, where they are using unconventional methods to extract oil and process the flour. Manual production affects profit margins. Due to the slow and manual process of value addition, the business cannot keep up with client orders, thereby losing potential loyal

At the moment, Tasha Botanicals is the customers,” Mutai adds. only pumpkin processing company in Machakos County and its environs.

Mutai says their business has made tremendous progress in its elementary

Indeed, it couldn’t have been that

months despite these challenges.


The company has been able to gain

“Running a business isn’t an easy task.

market acceptance through trade shows, exhibitions, and advertisements


which she uses to raise awareness of

entrepreneurs. She says that you will

the health benefits of pumpkins. She

achieve what you set your mind to do

wishes to mechanize the company’s

and just start small and grow.

value addition processes and set up a production facility for pumpkins’ processing and value addition. Currently, the company has developed a prototype of both pumpkin flour and pumpkin seed oil. “Tasher Botanicals has sold 30 bottles of 100ml that they sold at Kes.500 per bottle to their close circles, which were mainly repeated orders,” she explains. “We are also happy to partner with Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, which has supported us in developing a business plan with a marketing strategy and a project implementation plan.

In the future... The enterprise hopes to supply its products to all regions in Nairobi. Mutai is confident that Tasher Botanicals will offer health and nutrition-conscious individuals, invalids, or people with special needs and dry food consumers a better and healthy alternative to flour and oil. The financial assistance from KCIC has enabled the enterprise to purchase equipment for pumpkin processing, including an oil expeller, solar drier, packaging materials, and working capital. The success of Tasher Botanicals is not only a win for Mutai and her friends. She says that the

KCIC has also enabled us access

company is creating employment

to information on any funding

opportunities and helping eradicate

opportunities available and

poverty while at the same time being

mentorship with a more profound

a source of nutritious and healthy

analysis of value addition project



“Having our business has afforded us to be job creators and create impact in the community– which has always been my dream,” Mutai concludes.

What can we learn from Mutai’s experiences? Mutai attributes the success of her venture in the market to perseverance, hard work, and the openness to learn from other


Pamela Okutoyi is a development communications professional specializing in sustainability and climate change. Email: pamela

Insects for poultry feed who would have thought? By Annancieta Mwololo

A sustainable future for all has been a

a sustainable waste disposal solution.

recurring theme in major international

BSF eggs are incubated in organic

conferences. Many commentators

waste collected from markets. This

acknowledge the importance of

enhances the cleanliness of market

sustainable agriculture in realizing

areas and provides administrators with

a sustainable future for everyone.

alternative waste disposal solutions.

Organic farming is a mechanism

Additionally, the waste from BSF can

for producing quality food for

be used to make compost manure

humanity while doing little harm to

used in farms to increase crop yields.

the environment. While organic crop farming has been widely explored, organic poultry farming remains understudied.

Recent research shows that using BSF larvae as chicken feed supplements positively impacts a farmer’s income. Among these benefits is reducing

Although conventional commercial

the cost of rearing the birds and

poultry farming remains popular,

increasing profits. Additionally,

insect-based chicken farming could

chickens gain weight faster when

soon be the typical means of rearing

they feed on BSF larvae than on


conventional feeds. Therefore, they

As an organic poultry farming method,

become ready for the market sooner.

insect-based chicken farming employs Feeding chicken on BSF larvae is safe insects such as black soldier fly

as the flies do not transmit diseases.

larvae (BSFL, Hermetia illucens) as an

Further research has shown that

alternative to commercial chicken

insects such as BSF have a more

feeds. These flies are easy to breed

nutritious amino acid composition,

and contain high levels of a protein

supporting the immune system. As

crucial for the growth of birds.

such, BSF-based poultry farming is

Besides being environment-friendly and a protein source, BSFL also offers

beneficial to the health of those who consume the chicken. Relatedly, the


excreta from BSF-fed chicken can be

and can be grown sustainably on

used to enhance soil fertility which is

diverse organic waste streams.

suitable for crop yields.

Although there may be uncertainties

While breeding insects as poultry

associated with the use of insects in

feed may be a peculiar notion at the

poultry farming, these uncertainties

moment, it cannot be disregarded

rarely border on quality or

entirely. Insect-based poultry

sustainability. Instead, they could

farming provides a sustainable way

be related to consumer attitudes

of producing poultry feed with low

or legislation. However, there is little

environmental impacts. Chicken

doubt that insect feed is an organic

feeds derived from insects such as BSF

method of poultry farming that will

provide excellent nutritional quality

ultimately enhance sustainability.




A publication of Kenya Climate Innovation Center. Strathmore Business School Building, 3rd Floor, Ole Sangale Road, Madaraka, PO Box 49162 – 00200, Nairobi, Kenya. (+254) 703 034 701 |


This document was produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.