ORGANIC FARMING COMING OF AGE.
Salome Njeri, a smallholder farmer in Karirikania village in Kuresoi North, Nakuru County tried a number of farming practices in an effort to get better harvests but her yields kept dwindling year after the other.
Salome, like most conventional farmers, ploughed her two-acre farm, applied a little compost manure and synthetic fertilizers then let her crops grow.
“That is how i have been farming for a decade. I could only manage 11 bags of maize or thereabouts which was quite low compared to the money i spent buying inputs,” said Salome.
Salome was first trained by Necofa on organic agriculture back in 2004 and started a small kitchen garden before extending the practice to the entire farm, in addition to organic farming her group back then,Utugi Self Help group, was also trained on table banking, harvesting and drying of Mau Forest stinging nettle. Since then Salome has been practicing organic farming for over a decade by applying the principles such as compositing, integrated pest management, crop rotation etc, these practices have enabled her to produce healthy food for her family as well as cutting down production costs, enhancing soil fertility and conserving the environment.
Salome farms in her 5 acres where she utilizes organic principles. Crops in her garden range from fruit trees, vegetables (both exotic and indigenous) medicinal herbs, pepper, garlic, onions, pyrethrum, potatoes, peas, and she utilizes useful plants like Mexican marigold, black jack, stinging nettle and aloe Vera to make natural pesticides.
The garden serves as a training centre for community groups and visitors who visit her place to learn about organic farming. Salome is a chairlady of Furaha self help group which engages in various income generating activities such as table banking, leasing out chairs & tents and farming, she engages about 200 community groups within the sub county on organic farming.
In October 2015, a competition among farmers was conducted by five organizations namely; Pelum Kenya,Necofa,Meap,Ardp and Baraka Agricultural College to determine the most innovative farmer along parameters such as crop diversity, water harvesting, family involvement, soil fertility management, initiatives to learn and share knowledge, agro forestry, animal husbandry, among others, Salome’s garden emerged the best and she hosted World food day celebrations which was graced by the Nakuru County Director of Agriculture, farmer groups, local leaders, schools and community members.
The garden has opened a host of opportunities for her such as trips to Italy in collaboration with Necofa/Slow food central rift convivium, learning workshops with Pelum Kenya, United Nations among others. She has become a farmer champion and advocate, and was recently elected as the farmer representative in Kuresoi North Sub county potato board.
Salome and her group members proudly earn income from their organic farms, through selling of potatoes, garden peas and assorted vegetables. They sell locally and also to outside markets especially Nakuru and Nairobi Counties. Through their hard work they have improved their household’s living standards and empowered themselves financially, socially and economically.
Mrs. Mary W. Karanja