Indigenous vegetables Greening Kabete Organics Farm to greater height

Indigenous vegetables Greening Kabete Organics Farm to greater height

African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) are nutritious andsuperior as compared to exotic ones, because they contain far more carotene, vitamin C, protein, iron, calcium and magnesium which are crucial in counteracting deficiency related diseases.

However, these vegetables have been neglected by modern dayscience which has led to development of hybrid vegetables, hence the drop in awareness of their importance. Most of these vegetables are treated as weeds and therefore face the danger of extinction. In an attempt to enhance awareness, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology (JKUAT) has come out handy promoting these vegetables and providing seeds for farmers to plant. Some farmers on the other hand have begun promoting AIVs cultivation and selling them to people especially in urban set ups.

One of AIVs cultivator is Kabete Organic Farm that is being chaperoned by Onzere Nzioka. The interest of featuring this farm was roused from discovering that, many Nairobians placing overwhelming orders for the indigenous vegetables from the farm.

Kabete Organics farm is on a one-acre piece of lush land located within the Nairobi Children’s Recreation Center in Lower Kabete. They have also expanded their operations roping in another 5 acres of land in Tala. The farm predominantly organically grows vegetables, with indigenous vegetables being their area of specialization. They grow Amaranthus (Terere), African Nightshade (managu) Cowpeas leaves (Kunde), stinging nettles Cauliflower, Amaranthus (Mchicha), Collard Greens (Kanzera), Jute mallow (Mrenda) and Vine spinach (Nderma) among others.

To confine to the organic operations of the farm, they incorporate compost manure as their fertilizer. The pesticides used are also organic; they crush turmeric dissolving it in water then spraying it onto the leaf surfaces. Other ingredients of pesticides include garlic, ginger and neem oil. “This piece of land has never applied synthetic fertilizer thus it is sterile. We scout for pests and apply the organic pesticides after every two weeks. These pesticides are more of preventive in nature,” says Nzioka.

Their journey to indigenous vegetable farming is a story of a young man travelling upcountry and discovering that the vegetables he consumes at his rural home had a different taste from the ones he consumes while in the city. While carrying out a research on the internet, he discovered that urban dwellers had no access to clean food and many had resorted to eating junk foods from eateries posing a great risk on their health. To discourage this junk life eating habits, he introduced indigenous vegetables.

According to Nzioka, Kabete Organics farm was an idea that took one full year from conception to actualization. The reason behind the delay, Nzioka stresses is the importance of undertaking a good market research of the produce. Market research was and still is the most important business model of the farm. This is what has enabled them to survive for 8 years having begun in 2013; knowing what market needs.

“We already had a ready market even before our first harvest given the healthy lifestyle Nairobians are adopting nowadays of going organic. One year went down with us scouting the area and combing out potential customer and their tastes and preferences. That one year was the foundation of our business model that runs by itself due to a ready and reliable market,” said Nzioka.

The Farm has a mode of operation that entails customers making orders a day before delivery. This also entails the farm guiding the customers on whether the vegetable is ready for harvest or if it will take a few more days to be harvested. “As a Kabete Organics consumer myself, I guarantee clients that they eat fresh vegetables, right after harvest and delivered right at their doorstep. We charge a fee estimated to the distance covered in delivery. Most of our clients are the ones we have been able to grow with since we began cultivation. Meeting the needs of our clients and solving their vegetable crisis is one of the biggest achievements that we pride our self in. When our clientis happy, we are excited on our part,” he ably informs.

Nzioka avers that the Kenyan youth that is faced with bleak opportunities for employment should embrace farming to earn a living. For instance, he states that the agricultural value chain is big and those who may not feel fit in cultivating can be innovative by invent mobile applications that can link farmers and buyers thus making them fit in the value chain.

AIVs for a long time have been christened as weeds and poor man’s food. With 60% of the Kenyan population living below the poverty line, resulting in malnutrition and poor health, there is need for a paradigm shift in the production patterns of AIVs to harness the nutrition and economic potential of this crop. In recent years, Kenyans have witnessed an increase in diet related ailments such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Indigenous vegetables are micro nutrient dense and could prove a powerful weapon in the fight against poverty and malnutrition since they are suited to local conditions.

Professor Mary Prof Abukutsa of JKUAT has taken the initiative in raising the status of indigenous vegetables consumption in the country. According to the Professor, African Indigenous Vegetables have a crucial part to play in revolutionizing the horticultural sector for food security, nutrition, income and sustainable development in Kenya. It is therefore, time to strategically reposition AIVs in the horticultural sector and restore their lost glory.

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