Farmer banks on new farming model to grow healthier food

Sylvia Kuria at her farm in Lare, Maai Mahiu, on the outskirts of Naivasha town. She is a successful agroecology farmer. [File, Standard]

The bumpy ride off the Maai Mahiu-Naivasha highway to Lare village in Nakuru County is a test of nerve as trucks ferrying quarry materials from the site zoom past in the opposite direction. 

Tucked in the middle of a noisy quarry harvesting environment is Sylvia Kuria’s agroecology farm (a type of farming that works with nature).

On a 10-acre plot, Kuria has naturally grown kale, spinach, and other green vegetables in her homestead creating a refreshing atmosphere for incoming visitors. She converses with her workers who are busy with different activities on the farm making inquiries on farm operations while taking notes.

Taking The Smart Harvest team down memory lane, she narrates how her farm journey started a decade ago.

“To be honest, when I commenced farming about 15 years ago …I didn’t even know there was a word like agroecology,” she says.

 “I was basically farming using synthetic fertiliser. I later realised it was not sustainable…this putting of chemicals into the soil. I learned that I needed to do different things like crop rotation, water harvesting, creating micro-climate and agroforestry.”

After years of applying chemically manufactured fertilisers to her farms, Ms Kuria embraced use of natural fertilisers.

Six years down the line, she has paid attention to the new farming techniques as she embraces agroecology- a farming method aimed at increasing yields while reducing environmental impacts. Using drip lines and sprinkles, the farmer wholeheartedly took up farming technology, taking on a capital-intensive venture.

Natural pest control method

“We have made good use of solar as a source of energy. Unfortunately, many farmers do not have access to finances to facilitate automation,” she says.

Heaping praise on agroecology, Ms Kuria employs different strategies to achieve the best end product including companion planting.

Sylvia Kuria at her farm off the Maai Mahiu-Naivasha highway in Lare village, Nakuru County. [File, Standard]

“We normally plant crops that help repel each other’s pests. For example, onions and carrots work very well as companions. Leek onions and cabbage also help. Leek repels an insect called diamondback moth- a very destructive pest,” she explains.

Ms Kuria, says in line with agroecology, she does crop rotation, to manage pests on her tomato farm.

She cites a case where a space within the farm where she planted tomatoes attracted a lot of spider mites infestation, and managed it with agroecology strategies.

“We cured that through crop rotation we were able to get rid of the pests. We also make our own pesticides,” she says.

“The most common pesticide is an ash-made concoction, which is mixed with Tithonian diversifolia- grown as a companion plant and neem oil (muarobaini)”.

She reveals that the key to fighting pests is through working on the soil to grow healthy plants that naturally repel pests and diseases. Marketing the farm produce has not been a problem for Kuria since she decided to set up her own shop to sell the produce.

She encourages organic farmers to get links that will enable them to effortlessly sell their much sought-after organically produced crops. However, she has made a call to the government to put up legislation that will guide agroecological farming by suggesting a ban on highly hazardous pesticides.

“We should copy what other countries are already doing. The government should also give farmers organic inputs when distributing synthetic fertilisers. Generally, we should have a policy on waste management,” says the passionate farmer.

Kenya is among the countries in East Africa that are being supported to come up with a National Strategy for agroecology transformation.

She hailed Biovision Africa Trust for working with smallholder farmers to increase agricultural production and improve human, animal, plant, and environmental health by providing relevant and effective information based on research and proven practice.

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