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Rare grass farming wins accolades for Voi entrepreneur

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By -PASCAL MWANDAMBO | May 21st 2013
Paul Mwadime Kombo inspects Msinga vetiver grass farm. Inset is a fish pond stabiles with vetiver grass. (PHOTOS: PASCAL MWANDAMBO/STANDARD]

By PASCAL MWANDAMBO

Nairobi,Kenya:THUMBS UP: Grimshaw, the chairman of Vetiver Network International has described Kombo as among the “giants” of vetiver in Africa and among the few farmers to adopt the  Vetiver system.

Voi grass farmer and environmentalist Paul Mwadime Kombo can aptly be described as a man with green fingers.  With the passing of each day, his star seems to be rising.

It is apparent he is destined for greater heights in his ambitions to ensure environmental issues in Taita- Taveta County and Kenya as a whole are taken care of seriously.

 The farmer who has earned a name for growing and distributing the world renowned Vetiver grass says the economy of the country hinges on proper environmental management.

“I was elated recently when my environmental conservation efforts earned me a slot to participate in the Prestigious Green Award nominee in the individual category,” he said.

 “I showcased my entry “Promoting Vetiver Technology for Soil and Water Conservation” as I was the only Kenyan who came up with such a project.”

Green Award

 Kombo was one of the two nominees from Coast region to participate in last year’s Prestigious Green Award, which was formerly known as Presidential Green Award.

 The farmer who has a fifteen-acre piece of land at Msinga in Voi says the Vetiver grass technology system is the best for soil conservation.

“Food production status in our country has gone down drastically and one of the reasons is loss of soil fertility due to soil erosion,” he said. “For Kenya to be in a position to feed its people there is need for more elaborate and sustainable soil conservation technologies such as vetiver system.”

 And if the compliments  of the likes of  Dick Grimshaw and Elise Pinners  are anything to go by, then Kombo deserves to be heard beyond the borders of the East African region.

 Grimshaw, the chairman of Vetiver Network International has described Kombo as among the “giants” of vetiver in Africa and among the few farmers in the country to adopt the  vetiver system.

On the other had Pinners, who is the associate director of Vetiver Network International based in Nairobi described Kombo’s Vetiver grass nursery in Voi as “the mother of Vetiver nurseries” in Kenya.

The stoic farmer wants road contractors and designers to adopt Vetiver technology for stabilising road infrastructure as well as landscaping.

At the family level, Kombo has been able to raise his family well from the proceeding from the rare grass. He has been able to put up a house at Kaloleni in Voi while his wife and three children have been well cared of, thanks to Vetiver grass.

The farmer is grateful to Mzee Esau Mwanganda(73) from Sagalla in Voi who sold him the first 200 strands of the Vetiver grass. From there, he propagated the grass at Sagalla, where he cultivated  the grass on a three- quarters of an acre piece of land in 2001.

More plantations

He then shifted to a bigger portion of land in 2004 at Gimba village near Voi town where he put five acres of land on vetiver grass.

 “Things were going on well till October  2008 when arsonists who I believe were unhappy with my project invaded my farm and burnt down the grass farm, probably as a way of forcing me to abandon the project.

Not the  one who gives up easily, he moved to Msinga near Tsavo East National park where he began to cultivate the grass on 15 acres of land.

Even though the area around Msinga suffers regular invasion by marauding jumbos, he was not about to be discouraged  by these setbacks. He valiantly went on with his ambitious project.

“For now I am not looking back and my plans are to have the largest vetiver grass nursery in East and central Africa” says Kombo beaming with confidence.

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