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Why more farmers in Kenya are embracing organic farming

By John Shilitsa | August 13th 2016

Organic farming is being fronted as the solution to emerging lifestyle diseases and environment conservation. As a result, most of farmers are taking it up.

William Luchera, 69, is one such farmer, practising organic farming on his one-and-a-half acre parcel in Mundaha village, Khwisero, Kakamega County.

The demand for food grown using organic manure has been overwhelming. Experts recommend such food as it minimises chances of lifestyle and chronic diseases.

Dr Simon Wesechere, the Rural Information on Agriculture Development and Environmental Conservation (RIADEC) director, says food grown organically enjoy overwhelming demand, particularly in foreign countries due to its richness in natural nutrients.

Luchera does not only grow tissue culture banana and other high value food crops, but also nurtures (hardens) banana plantlets, which he sells to research institutions, schools and farmers to earn a living.

Through this venture, Luchera is raking in tens of thousands of shillings. He says that in a good month he makes over Sh30,000 from the enterprise.

His crops are certified and the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has offered to sell some produce for him. He has released 250 plantlets to KALRO to sell for him at Sh200 each.

Luchera established a banana plantlets hardening net shed on the farm to nurture and develop them for the market.

"This is for semi-hardened (germinating) plantlets under strict observation and leaving them to develop (harden) for two months before actual planting," says the former Bukura Agricultural College employee.

The net shed cost him Sh18,000 to put up. It has turned him into a celebrity farmer in the area. Local Agriculture Ministry officers use his land as a demo plot.

Luchera is among farmers from Kakamega and Vihiga counties who received training in organic farming by Sustainable Organic Farming and Development Initiatives five years ago.

"All 20 members of Mundaha Organic Farmers benefited from the rigorous training geared towards empowering the ordinary farmer," he says. The training served as an eye-opener to him and was the beginning for his venturing into agribusiness. Luchera began by growing passion fruits, mangoes and rearing honey bees.

"I would export my fruits to Nairobi where each mango was sold at Sh20," he says, adding that demand for honey was overwhelming in Kakamega where he had a ready market.

Martin Kumbe, who is in charge of the Sustainable Organic Farming and Development Initiatives, says he was impressed by Luchera's commitment and interest in farming and decided to support him to set up the plantlets shed for bulking.

He says the farmer has his work cut out already, "He must produce as many of the clean plantlets as possible to satisfy the demand in Vihiga and neighbouring counties."

Khwisero Sub-County Agribusiness officer John Manyasa said the venture could not have come at a better time.

"It is encouraging that many farmers in the two counties have embraced banana farming. This will help us have enough material to run a multimillion-shilling banana processing plant in Khwisero," he says.

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