Sylvia Kuria grows a variety of crops such as tomatoes, onions and capsicums as well as sorghum and millet on her farm in Ndeiya, Kiambu County, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
But Kuria does not grow the crops using conventional methods that involve the use of fertilizer and pesticides, she grows them using agroecological methods that include organic farming.
“I don’t use pesticides and inorganic fertilizers at all because my goal is to ensure that I farm sustainably,” Kuria, who is among a rising number of farmers in the East African nation adopting the methods, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
This season, having known that the rains would be erratic as forecasted by the weatherman, she went for millet and sorghum, alongside other crops. She explained that farming a variety of crops on the same land, however tiny, is one way of embracing agroecology for sustainability.
“These crops support each other, making the soil more fertile. Thus, one does not need to use inorganic fertilizers,” she said.
Kuria sells her organic produce through a shop that she owns on her farm. “A bunch of vegetables that would sell at 20 shillings (about 0.19 U.S. dollars) elsewhere goes at a higher price at my shop and people still buy,” she said.
George Kyalo, a resident of Nairobi, said he grows flowers alongside his vegetables in his kitchen garden because they attract insects that feed on aphids and other pests, which attack the plants. “This enables me not to use pesticides at all thus growing the crops organically and in a sustainable way,” he said.
Martin Kimani, a programs officer at Kenya Organic Agriculture Network, said many Kenyans are currently aware of food safety issues thus forcing farmers to grow their crops in a safe way.
“At markets, consumers are asking how the food is produced and if they don’t get an assuring answer, they move to where they can get safer food. That is why organic markets are coming up,” he said. And it is currently easier for farmers in Kenya to sell their organic produce informal outlets like supermarkets because sellers know it moves faster.
It is the same case with exporting organic produce, noted Kimani, adding organically grown produce fetches more in both local and international markets. With the benefits of agro-ecological farming spreading, national and county governments in the East African nation are integrating agroecological farming policies in their agriculture laws.
Emmanuel Atamba, an agro-ecology advocate at Root to Food, an organization that champions food safety, noted that initially, issues of food safety in Kenya mainly focused on export produce but this is changing, with the reversal being pushed by consumer demands. Enditem