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Home / Crop

What I’ve learned from years of organic farming

Less than 500 metres from Mukarara town in Gathuthi sub-location, Nyeri County, is a four-acre farm owned by Terrah Nderitu, a 70-year-old organic farmer.

Right from the farm’s gate, it is clear that order is critical as neat subdivisions have been made to accommodate different types of crops.

“I like to arrange my farm neatly like a house. Every crop has its corner and it sits there. That way, I am able to manage weeds easily. I use no chemicals, so everything here is natural,” Nderitu says as he ushers Smart Harvest into the farm.

The farmer grows both cash crops and food crops to keep his income steady.

For the cash crops, Nderitu has more than 1,000 coffee stems, about 5,000 tea stems and 50 trees of grafted Hass and Fuerte avocado varieties.

To supplement his income, he leases the coffee and tea section, earning on average Sh50,000 to Sh100,000.00 per season.

From the Hass and Fuerte varieties, Nderitu earns between Sh25,000 to Sh30,000 per season.

Erratic rainfall

Being in a region with erratic rainfall, an issue further compounded by climate change, the farmer harvests water and stores every drop for future use.

“Here, rain water is like gold. Whenever we receive it, I make sure I collect every drop and store it for later use.”

He harvests water from his gutters, and directs it into storage tanks. All the water collected this way is used for farming, especially during the dry season.

Nderitu also takes advantage of the hilly terrain in his farm. He has a water pan located on higher ground that makes use of gravity to water the crops lower down.

To augment his farming, he grows arrowroots, and not in the traditional water-logged areas.

He explains that such areas have been affected by climate change over the past few years and are fast drying up, making it impossible for arrowroots to grow there.

As a coping mechanism, Nderitu has learnt a new method that allows the crop to grow with less water.

The farmer reveals that he grows his arrowroots in trenches lined with a polythene paper and filled with a mixture of soil and manure.

The medium is also mulched to create a moist environment that enables it to hold water for longer.

Labour or attention

The arrowroots mature between six and nine months. Though they take a while before maturity, he says the beauty of growing the crop is that it does not require a lot of labour or attention.

Today, Nderitu is not only assured of a harvest, but his income is also guaranteed because the crop is popular with buyers for its nutritional value.

Additionally, the farm is also surrounded by different trees that include indigenous, exotic and fruit varieties.

With these agroforestry practices, Nderitu has created a micro climate that protects his crops against extreme weather conditions.

This way, he is able to control temperature, sunlight exposure and his crops’ susceptibility to wind, storms and rain.

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