Kirinyaga is a three hours drive from Nairobi. We make our way through the greenery that greets us to a small village in this Central part of Kenya to a village called Kiamumu where we find the Kiamumu organic farmers group. Here, farmers are wary of the chemical components that make up the fertilizers and to them the best option would be to go the natural way and make their own manure. This shall ensure that they live longer and healthy lifestyles, one farmer informs us.

It’s worthwhile to note that the oldest member of Kiamumu organic farmers is Mzee Jackson Gatimu who is 88 years old. One look at him and it is surprising that he is actually 88. He is healthy, does not use a walking stick and he is a very good conversationalist. Being a member of Kiamumu organic farmers group, he says that the fruits have been tremendous.  We ask him what keeps him strong, “I drink a lot of goat milk,” he answers.

Gatimu is keen farmer specializing in macadamia farming as well as bee keeping. At the end of the month, he takes home over Shillings 100,000.

“I have learnt a lot with regards to organic farming since I joined Kiamumu. When OAIC gave us grant sometime back in early 2000, I got my share of Shillings 3,000 and I decided that I wanted to venture into the macadamia business. I had heard through the radio what one required to do to start  and also through my peers and I decided to try this type of farming which was not very popular amongst many people and see how far I could get,” he states.

If one wants to become a macadamia farmer, they have to be patient. The plant takes five good years from the time it is planted until it has matured and ready for harvest. Mzee Gatimu uses the grafting technology.

“I bought macadamia seedlings and waited for five years to start harvesting but the results have been tremendous. Today, when I harvest, I could make up to Shillings 160,000 every month. One kilogramme of macadamia goes for Shillings 75. I harvest throughout the year or sometimes 9 months consecutively. For the 8 years that I have been involved in this farming, the profits have been remarkable,” he says.

He says that some of the challenges that he faces are the little rascals who will not be deterred by anything from stealing the macadama nuts. Animals like the monkeys and the squirrels are also a threat to the plant as they eat and destroy them.

The fact that Mzee Gatimu has a ready market for his type of farming is encouraging. Although he is a peasant farmer who also keeps cattle and grows regular crops, he says that since he started the macadamia farming, to him that was and continues to be a gold mine and he has is not about to look back. The cattle give him milk which he cherishes for his good health.

When it comes to bee keeping, Mzee Gatimu says that this is the easiest type of farming one can indulge in. He has 6 bee hives and he harvests honey twice or thrice a year.

“I sell I kg of honey for Shillings 500 as it is pure honey without preservatives and additives. In a year I could harvest between 8-10 Kilogrammes of honey per bee hive. I have been stung severally and that’s the sweetness of honey,” he says.

Figure this: 1 kilogramme equals Shillings 500. 8 Kilogrammes for every beehive which in this case are 6, means that he gets approximately 48 Kilogrammes of honey times Shillings 500. This equals Shillings 24,000 and it he harvests twice, that is Shillings 48,000 just for bee keeping and the only thing one needs is a beehive, flowers in the compound as they feed on nectar and water.

Mzee John Waweru on the other hand also practices organic farming. He majorly keeps goats and does subsistence farming at 80 years and he says that he has no complaints to make.

“I now have 5 goats. I was given one goat in an initiative started by Kiamumu that sought to have each member own a goat. I was able to buy another one and I now own 5 of them,” he states.

He says that a goat can give birth twice in a year and it can also have up to 2 kids. He however states that pasture can become an issue sometimes. Nevertheless he is glad that he is able to drink goat milk which is favoured by many for its sufficient nutrients.

James Kariuki on the other hand is young farmer who appreciates organic farming as it is cheap and safe. James who is also the Secretary of Kiamumu says that he joined Kiamumu and was lucky to be one of the farmers who was taught the organic technology and since embracing this type of farming, he has saved a lot of money which would previously go to buying fertilizer.

When he joined Kiamumu, he has a small kiosk – shop – and which would cater for only 10% of his livelihood. He decided that it would be wise to take a loan from the group and this enabled him to expand his business and he was able to move to a bigger shop. He also decided to venture into farming after the training.

“After 3 months of using just dead leaves to get manure, my farming improved tremendously yet I had not used money to buy the fertilizer. I simply use the leaves from my coffee farm and I am able to do my subsistence farming easily in a healthy environment. I also realized that the land has more humus and crops are not attacked by pests and diseases as it was the case when I used fertilizer from the shop. Organic farming is the future for farmers,” says James.

 

By: Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications

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