Organic farming in Kenya full guide

This is the full guide on organic farming in Kenya with all the details you need to know about organic farming in Kenya. Organic farming; is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. It originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic farming aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems Wikipedia

Organic farming farm practices

Mulching – Covering the soil with dead plant material is an easy way to control weeds and protect the soil in annual crops. This practice can be implemented into most existing cropping systems. The main question may be, however, where to get appropriate plant material from.

Intercropping – Growing two annual crops together, commonly a leguminous crop like beans or a green manure crop in alternating rows with maize or another cereal crop or vegetable is a common practice in organic farming to diversify production and maximize benefits from the land. In intercropping, special attention must be paid to avoid competition between the crops for light, nutrients and water. This requires knowledge on arrangements, which promote growth of at least one of the crops.

 Composting – Application of compost to the fields can have a major impact on crop growth and yields. To start compost production, farmers will need enough plant materials and animal manures, if such are available.

Green manuring – The practice of growing a leguminous plant species for biomass production and incorporation into the soil may be new to most farmers. Nevertheless, this practice can greatly contribute to improvement of soil fertility. Green manures can be grown as improved fallows, as seasonal green manures in rotation with other crops, or in strips between crops. Proper green manuring first requires information on appropriate species.

 Organic pest management -Careful associations and management of plants and animals in order to prevent pest and disease outbreaks. Initially, bio-control agents may be applied but organic pest management is best achieved through ecological approaches that establish a pest/predator balance. While the choice of resistant varieties of crops is paramount, other prevention methods include: choosing sowing times that prevent pest outbreaks; improving soil health to resist soil pathogens; rotating crops; encouraging natural biological agents for control of disease, insects and weeds; using physical barriers for protection from insects, birds and animals; modifying habitat to encourage pollinators and natural enemies; and trapping pests in pheromone attractants.

 Appropriate seeds and planting material – Use of healthy seeds and planting materials, and robust and/or improved cultivars can make a big change in crop production. This practice may require some information on selection of seeds and planting materials including availability of improved varieties and seed treatments. Generally, locally-adapted seeds are preferred because of their resilience to local conditions.

How to start organic farming

Looking at the organic farm as being ‘one organism’, the focus does not lie on cultivating specific crops only. Rather, the focus is on choosing crops that can easily be integrated into the existing farming system and will contribute to its improvement. But the choice also depends on the farmer’s knowledge on the right management of the crops, their contribution to a diverse family diet or their demand in the market. Besides growing crops for food, farmers may need to grow leguminous cover crops to provide high-protein feed for livestock and to be used as green manures to feed the soil. Planting trees for shade, as windbreak, for firewood, feed, mulching material or for other uses, can be recommended in most situations.

Genetically modified organisms GMO

Genetically modified seeds and planting materials are produced by transferring isolated genes from plants, animals or microorganisms into the crop genome, by using methods different from pollination and crossing natural barriers. Genetically modified products should, therefore, not be used in organic farming, and organic farmers should protect their production against any GMO contamination

Important farm practice tips for organic farmers

  • Loosen the soil to facilitate the penetration of plant roots
  • Improve the aeration (nitrogen and oxygen from the air)
  • Encourage the activity of the soil organisms
  • Increase infiltration of water
  • Reduce evaporation
  • Destroy or control weeds and soil pests
  • Incorporate crop residues and manures into the soil
  • Prepare the site for seeds and seedlings
  • Repair soil compaction caused by previous activities

Animal husbandry in organic agriculture

Integrating animal husbandry into crop producing farms is one of the principles of organic farming. In temperate and arid zones, animal husbandry plays an important role in the recycling of nutrients, while it is less emphasized in the humid tropics. The caring, training, and nurturing of animals is considered an art in many farming communities

Role of animals in organic agriculture

  1. Produce dung which is of great importance for soil fertility.
  2. Yield products such as milk or eggs for sale or own consumption continuously.
  3. Recycle by-products such as straw or kitchen waste.
  4. Serve as draught animals for tillage or transport.
  5. Produce meat, hides, feathers, horns etc.
  6. Serve as an investment or a bank.
  7. Help in pest control (e.g. dugs) and weed management (e.g. grazing on barren fields).
  8. Have cultural or religious significance (prestige, ceremonies etc.).
  9. Produce young stock for breeding or sale.

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