Farmers with small portions of land have been urged to move towards organic agricultural system which focuses on achieving maximum yields, and simultaneously increasing biodiversity and sustaining the soil fertility
Founder, Global Intensive Agriculture Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK) Sam Nderitu, who trains small holder farmers agroecological farming in Kiambu County with the aim of improving their living standards noted going organic is the most sustainable way of farming because it entails improving the soils using the resources that the farmer has.
One of the benefits of going organic is addressing issues of climate change through not using pesticides and another is production of chemical free foods.
“Global intensive targets small holder farmers who own one to five acres of land and and want to increase production,” said Nderitu.
He explained that going organic means using what they call a closed loop system where all the food produced can be recycled, meaning by products and waste can revert to the soil as manure.
He added that that through feeding of livestock the farmers can also produces manure by converting the family manure into “Boma composting.” Boma compost is manure that has more carbon materials or carbon resources than nitrogen so a farmer doesn’t need to pump in a lot of nitrogen in the soil.
Nderitu said to grow subsistence food for the family , a farmer requires at least an eighth of an acre,
“An eighth of an acre is able to feed one person throughout the year and sell the surplus to put money in the farmers pocket, what is required is the skill,” he said.
Going organic does not happen overnight, it takes about six years to fully transition from conventional to organic farming.
“It is a process which entails reducing to stopping the use of conventional inputs and adopting the organics. One will have to use a lot of organic matter, pump it into the soil as they reduce chemical fertilizers,” said Nderitu.
Kenyan soils, he said, are acidic and that is why food production has been declining. “I am not saying that soil that has higher acidity levels is totally bad because there are some crops that like that kind of soil, but majority of crops do not like 4.0 pH and below acidic levels thus reviving the soils is going organic.
According to Nderitu, any cured manure has the elements that is needed by the plant, because one feeds the soil and the soil feeds the plant as opposed to applying chemical fertilizers in the soil which feeds the plant and destroys the soil.
Food and farming systems expert, Emmanuel Atamba said the most important conversation should be on agroecology and how it is the way to go to transform the food systems.
He quoted data from FAO, which indicates that more than 750 million people globally are affected by food insecurity, a clear indicator of failure of agriculture.
“Agroecology for me is a paradigm shift where we are looking at how to reinvent our agricultural activities so that we align ourselves with nature rather than working against it,” said Atamba.
He added: “Today, the country talking about the the cost of fertilizer and despite the government subsidizing and re-subsidizing it is still not affordable. In agroecology we are talking about access to seeds that are productive, that are viable, that are climate resilient.”
Matters of going organic is about farmers, producers and the whole value chain changing the way we perceive food and agriculture, not only as a victim of climate change but also as a potential solution to the climate crisis.
He added that Kenya needs to redesign its food production systems taking into account the current climate crisis and the solution is recognizing farmers.
“Going organic is a timely conversation especially now that all of us are worried whether we are going to have a meal 10 years from now or not. This is the time to ask ourselves why are we worried, why are we scared? Because basically we are standing on shaky ground. We are standing upon a system that is not sustainable, that is not resilient, that cannot see us through the next few generations as humans,” Atamba said.