Joseph Wachira, 28, a former banker, believes that the future is in the soil and he will dig it up.
The desire to earn from the soil saw the economics graduate from Kenyatta University quit employment some four months ago to venture into organic vegetable farming.
“I worked in the banking sector in Othaya, Nyeri, for two years as a credit officer but my desire was to farm,” says Wachira, who farms on three-quarter acres in Muhakain, along Limuru — Mai Mahiu highway.
“I quit after talking to my uncle Evanson Kahoro, who offered me the piece of land where I farm organically.”
But quitting to farm was not an easy decision for Wachira, who faced numerous questions from family members.
They were dismayed by his decision to quit a permanent job to venture into the unknown.
“It requires lots of inner strength to quit. My family was shocked when I broke the news three months after my resignation. I had to deal with hard questions like what will you be doing? Where will you get cash for your needs? How are you going to adjust from an office into farming?” he explains.
Wachira grows amaranth, collard greens (sukuma wiki), spinach, managu and courgettes — all which he does organically.
“I have partitioned the land into small plots, on which I plant different crops. Spinach plot hosts 324 plants, for instance,” he says.
Being a first time farmer, Wachira says he is doing things small as he learns the ropes before he actualises his big plan.
“I use simple irrigation methods, a watering can and sprinklers sometimes to water my crops. My goal is to move to drip system,” says Wachira, who invested some Sh40,000 in the business, which went on land preparation, seeds, water tank, sprinklers and watering can.
REPELLANT OF INSECTS
The farmer says he choose organic farming because his research showed it would give him an edge in the market.
“I use natural ways to rid insects off the farm, pests and weeds, instead of commercial pesticides. For rodents, I make sure that my farm is clean, while I ensure there's timely weeding,” he says.
“Mulching helps suppress the weeds and I mix Mexican marigold with hot pepper and water to kill aphids,” he adds.
To make the organic pesticide, he cuts the marigold at flowering stage, chops 2kg of it and mixes with hot pepper in a drum, adds 20 litres of water and then covers it.
“I allow the mixture to stay from three to five days, stirring every two days to hasten the decomposition rate. To use, I remove the content and sieve the extracts, dilute with 10 litres of soapy water and spray,” Wachira explains.
According to Wachira, the Mexican marigold can also be planted around the vegetable field to repel various insect pests.
“This plant is a good repellent of insects thus keeping them away from the farm,” he says, adding he uses animal manure to grow the crops.
So far, so good for the farmer as he delivers 250kg of vegetables a week to various clients, including mama mbogas, at Sh50 a kilo. “I’m also fortunate to sometimes deliver some of my produce to customers in Nairobi.”
Nicholas Osumba, an agronomist at Ngongoseke Farm in Tanzania, says organic farming reduces costs as one can use plants like marigold to prepare pesticides that effectively kill pests.
“Mixed cropping also helps in increased productivity fetching more income for the farmer because one diversifies,” he says, adding that animal manure stimulates the activities of soil organisms to release nutrients, as well as influencing the availability of soil phosphorus on acid soil.