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By BRIAN OKINDA
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Last week, lovers of organic food converged at the University of Nairobi’s Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies in Upper Kabete for the Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition.

Apart from organic farm produce, participants showcased several innovations in the sector to help farmers boost productivity. Seeds of Gold team was there to capture the innovations, which we unveil.

Most varieties of arrowroots yield at most 25cm long tuber, according to Mark Korir, a researcher at Egerton University’s Department of Agronomy.

However, using a technology they have come up with, the size of the yams can be increased threefold.

It involves digging desired size of hole equivalent to the produce one wants, but preferably 45-50cm deep.

Crushed maize stalks are then put into the hole and the seedling planted, and covered with a small layer of compost and soil.

“As the plant continues to grow, a little layer of soil and manure is added until the plant has fully grown outside the hole, upon which the hole is also fully covered and the arrowroot allowed to mature normally.”

When harvested, according to him, the resultant tuber corresponds with the size of the hole.

Real IPM has developed simple worm bins in which one can rear red worms for vermiculture, as opposed to the conventional pits used by many.

While using the bin, one can easily harvest the compost, foliar fertiliser, and also the worms, anytime they wish to sell or use it.

Real IPM's Juliah Naitore demonstrates how the simple worm bin works during the Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition.

Thika-based Real IPM’s Juliah Naitore demonstrates how the simple worm bin works during the Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition. With the bin, one easily collects both compost and foliar whenever needed. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG

The worm bin is essentially a modified bucket with a fitting lid, and an additional compartment inside. A tap is installed at the bottom for collecting the foliar fertiliser.

“The upper compartment is partly filled with paper cuttings, then the worms put in and the waste produce is added.

The worms feed on the waste and secrete the compost. The pieces of paper are essential as they act as habitat for the worms, but also when digested and secreted, are a good source of potassium,” says Juliah Naitore, a farm manager at Real IPM, adding that the standard bin is 60 litres and is ideal for small farmers.

The bin holds up to 10kg of compost that can even be made from kitchen waste. The foliar can be collected weekly by draining water through the compost in the bin and collecting it using the tap at the bottom.

Organic Africa, an organisation from Embu County, has come up with a solution that accelerates the process of compost formulation. It also acts as a bio-fertiliser (foliar) as well as an organic health supplement for crops.

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Peter Chandi, the director of the enterprise, said the product dubbed Bioactive Microbes (BM) Organic Booster, accelerates the process of composting waste like kitchen refuse, livestock droppings, leaves, maize stovers and rice straws.

“In normal circumstances, the process takes up to seven months, but with the booster, one month is enough.”
The main ingredient in the booster, according to him, are naturally-occurring beneficial micro-organisms, which they collect from virgin soils, deep in jungles. “We then multiply the microorganisms and use them to produce the booster,” he said.

Organic Africa director Peter Chandi explains how the BM organic booster works.

Organic Africa director Peter Chandi explains how the BM organic booster works. The solution that they produce from beneficial microorganisms, has multiple beneficial functionalities in plants. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG

The product can also be used as a bio-fertiliser, offering the crops nutrients such as nitrates, amino acids, and nitrogen and also as a pest-repellent when mixed with other components.

The booster can be applied to plants using knapsack sprayers, water cans, and sprinklers or drenched through drip irrigation pipes, where five litres of the commodity is ideal for an acre.

This is the other technology Real IPM showcased, which is ideal for the urban farmer.

The bags, according to Naitore, come in different sizes and are capable of holding several plants, ranging from 40 for the smallest, to more than 100 for the largest bag.

The bags are open on both ends and should be placed on a firm surface, such as a wooden wedge or a hard plastic slab, then filled with soil mixed with manure or compost.

Juliah, from Real IPM displays vertical bags that are used in vegetable cultivation.

Juliah, from Real IPM displays vertical bags that are used in vegetable cultivation. The bags, according to her, can last for up to seven years, with good care and maintenance. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG

The seedlings of any crop are planted in holes made on the sides of the bags.

“These bags enable anyone in need of fresh vegetables whose source they are sure of to grow them for their own consumption,” she says.

The theme of the fair, which was sponsored by the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), UoN, Egerton University, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, and the Ministry of Agriculture was “Your health, your wealth”.

Participants included Biovision Africa Trust, Daffodil, Organic Consumers Alliance, Ecological Organic Agriculture, Organic Agriculture Centre of Kenya (OACK), Community Sustainable Development Empowerment Programme (COSDEP), Kilimo Hai Organic, Limbua macadamia seedlings nurseries, Green Rhino and Healthy Green Choice.



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