Daniel Wachira’s 10 acres in Chaka, Nyeri County, hosts a variety of vegetables, fruits and livestock.
Wachira has neatly divided the farm into different portions to enable him grow the various plants and keep the livestock that include chickens.
On the pawpaw farm, the trees are sagging with heavy fruits awaiting harvesting. In between the pawpaw plants, grown some three metres apart, are his vegetables.
“I have been a horticulture farmer for the past 10 years, farming mainly capsicum, carrots, coriander (dhania), Chinese cabbages, sukuma wiki, spinach, passion fruit, pawpaw, lettuce, spring onions, tree tomatoes, sweet potatoes and traditional vegetables,” says Wachira, who grows the crops organically and also keeps bees. He uses rabbit urine and manure, crop waste as well as dung from cow, goats and chickens.
“I ensure the manure is well composted before applying it on the crops. I keep 120 rabbits, 300 chickens, 50 goats and 30 dairy cows,” he says.
He has planted Mexican marigold weed on the fringes of his farm; the crop acts as a pest repellent, warding off insect pests such as aphids.
He makes organic pesticides from a mixture of pepper, garlic, pyrethrum and aloe vera, which he uses to fight common pests such as cutworms and aphids.
“I mash the crops and boil, ending up with a concoction that I mix with water before spraying. It is an effective pesticide,” says Wachira, who also uses tithonia and lantana camara to make foliar fertiliser and pesticide.
“Just like with the other crops, these must also be cut into pieces and then mixed with water and left to mature. They are good for use after 21 days,” he says.
Wachira observes that growing the crops organically has given him a niche market. He sells his produce through his own farm shop.
He runs the shop dubbed Fazenda Organico in Nyeri Town through which he sells all his produce to residents and supplies to markets in the town and in Nairobi.
“Through the shop, I have managed to get rid of brokers since I can control the prices depending on demand and supply. Buyers also know where they can get organic produce,” he says.
He sells a kilo of vegetables that include spinach at Sh20 per bunch, noting that the market is dictated by the seasons.
He pasteurises the milk he gets and sells it at Sh50 a litre at the shop, which is equipped with a milk ATM. Rabbit meat is sold at the shop upon order at Sh700 per kilo of meat while eggs sell at Sh15 each. Before opening such a shop, he says one needs to conduct research to understand the market.
“And you should be honest with your products. That is, do not lie that you are not using chemicals whereas you are not farming organically.”
Robert Thuo, an agriculture specialist in Nyeri, says in best farming practice, farmers need to incorporate integrated pest and disease management and safely use chemicals.
“Using one of the methods and leaving out the rest gives room for breeding of pests. Cultural methods including spraying pepper or using ash to protect the crops from being ravaged by aphids or other pests works well but they should also be backed by pesticides,” he notes.
For tomatoes, he observed that planting Sodom apple on the periphery of the farm in a line will help trap pests that attack the crops while to protect maize, a farmer should plant Napier grass or desmodium, which attract pests.
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