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SMALL HOLDER FARMERS EARMARKED TO BENEFIT FROM VERMICULTURE.

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SMALL HOLDER FARMERS EARMARKED TO BENEFIT FROM VERMICULTURE.

Experts in Organic Agriculture are equipping 13,000 small holder farmers in the country with skills in vermiculture in an effort to scale up production of safe food while improving their incomes.

Executive Director of the Grow Bio sensitive Center Kenya Samuel Nderitu says as Organic farming gains traction in the country, farmers are not adopting the right practices for efficiency and this is not helping to rebuild the soil structure damaged by synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

He says inappropriate practices of organic farming are bound to raise the acidity of Kenyan soil by lowering the PH below 4 and this is inimical to the quest for food sufficiency, wealth productivity and a healthy nation.

The farmers in Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos and Murang`a Counties are learning how to rear red worms and making high quality vermi-composts using farm and kitchen waste as a way of increasing Nitrogen and reducing the acidity in their soils.

The worms produce vermi liquid or tea – a pest repellant- that farmers can spray on their crops to ward off diseases and other forms of pest triggered destruction.

Participants are also learning how to cultivate plants rich in Nitrogen and Phosphorous to feed the worms for high quality vermi liquid that they can use in top dressing on their farms.They learn how to make various types of composts too.

With the help of Nderitu ,a farm hand, 60 year old Wanjiku Ndung`u scours up manure from a section of her three acre land in Makongo village along the slopes of Elementaita hills in Gilgil Sub county.

She stirs soil replete with red worms, rabbit, chicken droppings and decaying leaves and assorted kitchen waste in preparation for manure for the next planting. Then, she stirs a concoction of vermi tea and herbs for spraying on her two-week old kales which have already been booked by a nearby restaurant.

Wanjiku says that news about one of her neighbor’s grandchildren  having been diagnosed with throat cancer two years ago made her rethink how she grows her food and the type of food she cooks for her family.

The vegetable farmer decided to stop using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in growing her vegetables and instead opted for manure and bio pesticides for safety and profit.

Since she started producing her kales organically, she says, she has frequented less at the local health center for treatment.Wanjiku adds that as her clientele expands by day, she has not been able to satisfy the demand for organic vegetables.

Nderitu says the initiative has been extended to five primary schools in targeted Counties to help inculcate in participating children the value of cultivating and consuming organic food in the face of rising cases of non-communicable diseases in the country.

He also cautions farmers against using raw farmyard manure without enriching it with enough vegetation rich in Nitrogen and phosphorous saying this leads to farms yielding below their potential just like farms laden with synthetic fertilizers.

The Director of Advocacy on Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), Mary Irungu says, organic agriculture is the key implementation pillar of the Government`s agenda of sustainable food sufficiency. She appeals to stakeholders to lead concerted efforts to supporting organic models of food production for increased healthy food in the country.

Irungu says the demand for organic food on local and global market is rising and farmers must adopt use of bio-pesticides and appropriate manure to produce healthy food that they can sell at competitive prices on the lucrative markets for organic food.

She says PELUM Kenya is bringing together 40 Community Based Organizations in the agricultural sector across the country in a joint advocacy program for competitive organic farming models to help cascade practices of organic food production in high potential peri urban and rural areas.

Irungu notes that with competitive skills in organic farming, 20,000 small holder farmers will be able to participate in the advancement of the quest for a food sufficient nation while they live off their agribusiness ventures.

Wanjiku ,just like her other 12,000 colleagues, hopes that the initiative will be sustained and more farmers enlisted in the bid for production, consumption and sale of healthy food in the country that is grappling with a heavy burden of lifestyle diseases which health practitioners have roundly attributed to consumption of substandard food.

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