Organic farming training at Baraka College
Field Report by Community, Livelihoods and Education Officer, Victor Ndombi who has just returned from an intensive organic farming training course at Baraka College
Organic farming and Conventional farming are not comparable. Organic farming not only generates comparable yields, but also produces more income and health benefits for farmers than conventional methods. Conventional farming solely relies on synthetic fertilizers to boost the fertility of the soil and use of pesticides to get rid off pests and diseases, after sometime the soil is longer able to support the current crops because of accumulation of salts and depletion of nutrients, the soil becomes toxic to the plants. There is prevalence of pests and diseases, plants immunity is weakened due to lack of trace elements in the soil such as magnesium, zinc etc. ‘Toxic farming produces toxic food’
Crops grown under Organic farming within the college. No pesticide applied
In organic farming nothing is wasted, though labour intensive the nutrients are recycled, soil biodiversity improved and yields maximized. Plants need 92 nutrients both macro and micro, synthetic fertilizers provide only 3 major macro nutrients for the plants, conventional farmers have a deficiency of 89 nutrient elements needed by plants. In organic farming all the nutrients can be provided organically through ash and rock dust, main source silica and other trace elements. Composting – using locally available plant and animal remains such as manure, maize stalks, green leaves of leguminous plants and soil. The main goal of composting is to maximize the quality and quantity of cure compost and building up the biodiversity. The compost provides nutrients to the plants, improves the structure of the soil which aids in water retention and air circulation, neutralizes the soil among others.
Compost made from animal and plant remains
Plant and animal tea provides both macro and macro nutrients to the crops, it is made from fresh dung or Tithonia, Russian comfrey leaves immersed in water for a couple of days and strained. The liquid is diluted and applied to the crops as foliar. Vermiculture is another source of nutrients for the crops, which involves raising of red worms to aid in decomposition of kitchen wastes. After decomposition it can be used as Vermi-compost during planting or Vermi-liquid as a top dress.
Vermi-compost ready for use
Farming in dry areas is not sustainable activity, farmers depend on rainfall as only source of water for their crops. This occurs twice a year, the rest of the months they are left with no single crop due to lack of water for irrigation. There are organic farming technologies developed by Baraka Agricultural College, that can be adopted to maximize the yields at any time of the year. They are made from locally available materials, conserves water and no qualified skill is required. They include but not limited to Mandara garden, Portable garden, Corn garden, Pyramid garden, Moist sunken beds and 9 seed garden.
Potable garden 9 Pit hole
In organic farming, we don’t kill the pests, we repel by irritating their skins. Just like human beings, plants need to boost their immunity against pests and diseases, this depends on what is provided in the soil. If the soil has all the required nutrients and beneficial micro-organisms, the plant will be resilient to both pests and diseases, ‘Zero pest and disease’. Push and Pull technology widely used by many farmers in Western and other parts of Kenya, Napier grass is planted around the border of the intercropped cereal plants, to attract and trap the pests, thereby keeping them away from the food crop. The technology has proved successful in managing the pest that has ravaged staple crops like maize, worsening food insecurity in Kenya. Farmers are always optimistic of having bumper harvests from their farms every season. Other repellent crops used include Chinese chives, Mexican marigold, onions, Rosemary among others.
Bokashi a Japanese word meaning ‘fermented organic matter’ is a soil inoculant. It is made basically from soil, manure, charcoal dust and rice husks or dry leaves under controlled temperatures. It introduces beneficial micro organisms into the soil to feed on harmful disease-causing micro organisms.
Bio-pesticides and Bio-fungicides are used as last resort in Organic Farming. Soft bodied insects such as aphids, mealy bugs can be controlled by a mixture of Ash, bar soap and water. Alternatively, a mixture of ground ginger, garlic, chilli, molasses and Vinegar can keep them off.
Organic farming and Agroforestry are interrelated practises. Specific trees are intercropped with crops to improve the fertility of the soil through nutrient cycling, provide shade for the crops and provide forage for the bees that aid in pollination. Such trees include Sesbania and Leucaena.
Trees intercropped with crops
Thank you to Baraka College for this training!
Photo credits: Victor Ndombi
The views, opinions and position expressed in this article belong solely to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Save the Elephants