Saturday, 30 June 2012

Organic farming system in Kenya

This is an agriculture system which excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics and food additives. Genetically modified organisms or GMOs and their products are prohibited in organic farming.
The seed therefore must  not be GMOs or chemically treated.Organic agriculture therefore is a farming system which involves using a variety of techniques to achieve good plant and animal yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. The natural farming system does not mean going back to traditional methods .Organic agriculture takes the best traditional methods and combines with modern scientific knowledge. The farmers’ use all the available knowledge, techniques and materials to work with nature. Therefore the farmer creates a healthy balance between nature and farming, where crops and animals can grow and thrive.  Kenya exports most of its crop to Europe and therefore the EUREGAP or good agricultural practices are supposed to be adhered to. The following are some of the regulations that should be observed in organic agriculture, in order to acquire European Union certification.

The following rules and regulations shall apply to organic plant farming in accordance with law EC 834/2007 of the European Commission.
a)      Organic plant farming shall use tillage and cultivation practices that maintain or increase soil natural matter, enhance soil stability and biodiversity, prevents soil compaction and soil erosion.
b)     The fertility and biological activity of the soil shall be maintained and increased by multi-annual crop rotation which includes legumes and other green manure crops and by application of livestock manures or organic material both preferably composted from natural materials.
c)     The use of biodynamic preparations is allowed.
d)     Fertilizers and soil conditioners may only be used if they have been authorized for use in this system of farming
e)     Mineral nitrogen fertilizers shall not be used.
f)      All plant growing techniques used shall prevent or minimize any contribution to the contamination of the environment.
g)     The prevention of damage caused by pests, diseases and weeds shall rely primarily on protection by natural enemies, choice of species and varieties, crop rotation, cultivation techniques and thermal processes.
h)     In case of an established threat to a crop, plant protection products may only be used if they have been authorized for use this system of farming under article 16
i)     For the production of products other than seed and vegetative propagation material, only organically produced seed and propagating material shall be used. to this end the mother plant in case of seed and the parent plant in case of vegetative propagation material shall have been produced in accordance with The rules laid down in this regulation for at least one plant generation, or two growing seasons in case of  perennial crops.
j)   Products for cleaning and disinfection in plant production shall only be used if they have been authorized for use in organic farming.
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Monday, 25 June 2012

Dehydrated Mango Fruits in Kenya

Dehydrated mango fruits in Kenya can be processed by using the principle of osmosis. Firm ripe produce is dried in a cabinet solar dryer. The finished product is golden yellow with a semi-translucent, plump appearance, chewable texture, which is neither crisp nor leathery, with a characteristic sweetened flavour. The products are eaten as snacks and desserts. They can also be used for ice cream making. In the process of making these products, choice of equipments to be used and operating conditions must be considered in the drying process because these can have strong impact on the physical properties of the final product. Green produce can also be dehydrated. 

10 kg fresh firm ripe mangoes
1 ½ kg Sugar
5 grams sodium metabisulfite

The procedure of drying the fruits Starts by weighing the required produce then washing until clean. Peel and make slices lengthwise. Separate choice cuts from chips.
Weigh the slices, then Add 30% sugar.
Allow to stand for 4-6 hours. Drain. Add 1% sodium metabisulfite to syrup. Boil Syrup. Add the slices and boil for 3 minutes. Leave to stand overnight. Drain and Collect syrup, then wash mango slices with warm water.

Drain slices, and spread on trays, process in a solar dryer for 16 hours. Sweat for 12 hours and then Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar. Pack the dehydrated fruits product in polyethylene bags ready for marketing. You may target to sell the dehydrated mango fruits to supermarkets, confectioners and groceries stores.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Growing Tree Tomato plants (tamarillo) in Kenya

A single tree tomato grown in good fertile soil can bear more fruits than an average family can eat in 3 months. The fruits can be eaten fresh by scooping the flesh from halved pieces. For other uses the skin must be removed which is easily done by pouring boiling water over the fruits and letting it stand for 4 minutes before peeling. The tree tomato flesh can be added to stews to make unique flavour. The tree tomato fruits are tasty and decorative in salads making appetizing
desserts. Fresh tree tomato is frequently blended with sugar and water to make refreshing juice. The fruits should not be cut on wooden or other permeable surface as the juice will make an indelible mark. The tree tomato plants are small attractive, half woody and evergreen. The leaves are alternate and evergreen with a heart shaped base and a pointed apex. The tree tomato plants are brittle and shallow rooted growing to a height of 3M to 5.5M. The fruits are long stalked and dangling, in clusters of 3 to 12 smooth, egg shaped and pointed at both ends. The skin colour may be deep purple, blood red, orange or yellow.

The shrubs are subtropical rather than tropical and grow well in altitudes of between 1,500M to 3,000M, and grow best where the temperature remains above 50ºF with  well drained soils. The shrub requires fertile light soils rich in organic matter for vigorous growth. It cannot tolerate prolonged drought and therefore mulching and supplementary irrigation are beneficial. A compound fertilizer may be applied at sowing time if necessary. Seeds and cuttings may be used for growing tree tomato. Seeds develop into high-branched erect shrub while cuttings develop into shorter bushy plants with low lying branches. The plants from seed are not always true to type but are most likely if care is taken to extract seed from red fruits with black seed pulp or yellow fruits with yellow seed pulp. Germination is accelerated by placing washed and dried seeds in a freezer for 24 hours before sowing. Cuttings should only be from plants which are 1 - 2 years old with a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 cm (3/8 to 1 inch) and a length of 45 to75 cm (18 to 30 inches)The leaves are removed and the base cut square below a node. When the plants are about 1-1.5 metres, cut the roots on one side and lean the plants to the other, in the direction of the midday sun at about 30 to 45 degrees. This allows bearing braches to grow along the trunk rather than just at the top.

The plants can grow up to 6M high but are easily damaged by wind and needs shelter.  Plants cuttings can be sown directly at a spacing of 3×3M in the ground, but should not be permitted to bear the first year. Newly grown tree tomatoes should be pruned to a height of 90-120cm (3-4ft) .Yearly pruning thereafter is recommended to eliminate branches that have already born because fruits are produced on new growth. Pruning also aids in harvesting and if timed properly can extend the total bearing period. The tomato tree plants will bear fruits after 2years. Tree tomatoes are ready to harvest when they develop the red or yellow colour. To harvest simply pull the fruits from the shrubs with a snapping motion leaving the stalk attached.  Well nourished plants can produce up to 66 kg per year. The fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, but temperatures below 38ºF can cause the skin to discolour .Tree tomatoes are generally pest resistant other than occasional attacks of green  aphids and fruits flies. The principal disease affecting growing tree tomatoes is powdery mildew which may cause serious defoliation if not controlled. Other diseases during growth include potato virus, cucumber mosaic virus. Control the plants’ diseases using suitable pesticides.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Straw mushrooms cultivation Technology

Straw mushrooms cultivation technology is very popular in South East Asia and can be cultivated outdoors or indoors. This cultivation technology uses rice straw substrate which is abundant, although other agricultural wastes can also be used. Outdoor straw mushrooms cultivation technology is simple and very adaptable to rural areas. The disadvantage of this technology includes large quantities of bedding required, pests, weeds, damage of beds by heavy rains and low yields resulting from poor management. The beds should be raised to facilitate drainage and shaded.

The straw should be arranged in beds while tied in bundles and trimmed on both ends for uniform length. The bundles should be soaked in clean water for 2-3 hours up to 24 hours. Draining before piling bundles on the soil or cemented floor is essential. The substrate is subjected to the squeeze test to ascertain the quantity of water before spawning. After the layer is complete, place spawns about 5-8 cm from the edge. The next layer of straw is made and spawning continues for 3-4 layers, or bed height of 60cm, then covered with plastic. This raises the temperature to about 35-38ºC which is optimal the growth of straw mushrooms mycelia. This also conserves moisture eliminating the need for watering straw mushrooms cultivation beds until fruiting.

During hot weather the beds should be loosely covered so that the temperature inside does not rise too high to kill the mycelia. Optimal temperature required during spawn run is 24-38ºC, 80-90% relative humidity, CO2 concentration above 5000ppm and no light, which takes 5-10 days. After 8-10days of incubation small white pinheads appear on the sides of the bed. The plastic cover in the technology should be lifted to provide good ventilation for cultivation of healthy fruit bodies. The straw mushrooms are ready for harvesting 2-3 days after appearance of pinheads.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Organically grown African spinach & black night shade indigenous vegetables in Kenya

African spinach also called amaranthus species are organically grown indigenous vegetables in Kenya. They are broadly categorized into grain, vegetables, and ornamental and weed types. The grain and vegetables types are utilized as flour and leaves respectively. Nutritionally they provide calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and protein.Amaranthus indigenous vegetables are adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions. This crop is easy to grow organically in fertile soils with enough moisture and the crop has high yields. These indigenous crops are nutritionally superior to exotic ones such as tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage. Farmers normally harvest and use their own seed but there is a problem of mix up of different types of amaranthus.
Amaranthus indigenous vegetables are organically  grown by direct planting in furrows 30cm apart and later thinned to 15cm within the row. The thinning should be utilized. This close spacing is possible because the amaranthus root system does not spread. The seed rate is 5kg per hectare and application of 30-40 tons of manure is recommended. The manure should be mixed well into the soil before sowing. The organically produced crop is harvested by selective picking of leaves which may be blended with other indigenous vegetables or utilized alone. For amaranths seed production mature  seeds should be harvested, dried in the shade for five days and in the sun for one day. Clean seeds are preserved by mixing with 5 handfuls of wood ash for every 20kg of seed.organically produced amaranthus yields 1 bag of seed and 120 bags of leaves per acre of growing land.

Black night shade indigenous vegetables are erect herbaceous plants that grows up to one metre, characterized by green ridged stems, smooth edged leaves and with long stalks. These indigenous crops grow organically and widely in east Africa. They are rich in protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium. The seed rate is 500 grams per acre. Planting spacing is 30cm×drill and thinning is carried out after 4 weeks. The organically produced crop requires fertile soil with enough moisture for good growth. Manure should be applied as for amaranthus above. For seed production mature fruits yellow in colour are harvested, soaked in water for a day and seeds are extracted by squeezing the fruits in water. Good seeds will sink while poor quality seed will float. Floating seed should be removed, and then the good seed which can organically grow vigorously should be dried for 3 days in the shade and one day in the sun. Clean seeds are preserved by mixing with 5 handfuls of wood ash for every 20kg of seed. These indigenous vegetables produce one bag of seed per acre in addition to160 bags of leaves per acre.Market at

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Organically grown spider plants vegetables in Kenya

Kenyan farmer
Spider plants are indigenous vegetables which are propagated directly by seed in Kenya. They are known to be nutritious, medicinal and therefore very rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, proteins and fibre. The spider plants are erect herbs growing to a height of ½ -1metre depending on management. They are common in western Kenya, Nyanza and major urban markets in the country. The local names for these vegetables are chisaka, saka, thageti, esaka, chisaga and isakiat. The popularity of spider plants vegetables is growing due to increasing knowledge of benefits of healthy eating. The main feature of spider plants vegetables is the ability to grow widely with very little management, and it can grow anywhere in East Africa. According to research at regional research centre kakamega Kenya, spider plants yields better with organic manure than when inorganic fertilizers are applied. No chemical sprays are required for pest and disease control

The stems are hairy and often deep pink in colour. The leaves grow on long stalks and are divided into 5 leaflets. These vegetables require soils that are rich in organic matter. Manure application is recommended at a rate of 30 tons per hectare. The seeds are directly drilled at a rate of 500g per acre, in furrows30- 45 cm apart. Thinning to 15cm follows after 4 weeks at about 6cm height and thinning are utilized as vegetables. After flowering, the growing tip should be pinched off to encourage branching and high leaf yields. However if the crop is intended for seed production, the tipped off spider plants should be allowed to flower and harvesting of leaves minimized.

The crop is ready for harvesting 45 days after sowing. Harvesting is done before pods formation by selective picking of leaves with the leaf stalk attached. Mature pods yellow in colour, should be harvested for a crop intended for seed production. They should be dried for five days in the shade and one day in the sun. The pods should then be shelled and the seeds winnowed. Clean seeds are mixed with one handful of wood ash per 5kg of seed for preservation and storage. The vegetables can yield 1bag of seeds and 100 bags of leaves per acre of land. These crops have minimal pests and disease problems other than a small beetle causing holes on the leaves and bacterial blight. Crop rotation is therefore very important for spider plants growing.Market connection .Read absolutelyorganic

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Youth in Agriculture Motivation and Government Policy

Involvement of youth in agriculture is not only a good idea but crucial for agricultural economies sustainability. Most African economies heavily depend on farming to earn foreign exchange, for employment of 70% of the population, to provide raw materials for agro-industries and for food security among the citizens. Therefore youth in agriculture campaign is necessary for succession and sustainability of the industry. It goes without saying that absence of young people in agricultural activities points to a future economic disaster for Africa and most developing countries ,confirming an African proverb which says that, ‘‘a herd without calves is headed for extinction’’. The future of the farming industry is in the hands of the young people. It is vital that young people are involved in the industry early in life.

But in reality, traditionally and economically little is done to seriously involve youth in agriculture, until later in life when most likely they have developed other priorities. In this case farming becomes a supplementary activity without its due importance. According to the African tradition inherited land is not released to the young people for farming until later in life when they get married, yet land is a principal factor of production in farming. This practice is mainly responsible for propagation of traditional subsistence farming which lacks  vision and innovation leading to low returns. Governments’ policies to encourage ownership of land by the young people should be  formulated urgently. This will enable the industry to absorb young people at the height of their talent, energy, optimism and innovativeness. Involvement of young people in farming should employ a multi-sector approach for success.
This can be achieved through integration of youth in agriculture policy with education policy, young people employment policy and the policies of all relevant government sectors. Agricultural extension services should also be modernized to embrace information and communication technologies. The traditional extension methodologies like field days are no longer effective for reaching the youth in agriculture. Use of information and communication technology will modernize and change the face of farming, improve farm income and improve food security to the communities. The information and communication technology should be used to deliver extension services, provide accurate market information and to link the youth in agriculture with consumers of their farm produce. This will give youth in agriculture comparative advantage and a superior position in the market place.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Grow sweet potato tops for vegetables and improve your food security

Diversification of sweet potatoes consumption is essential for global food and nutrition security. Eating the tops is popular in the Pacific islands, Asia and Africa, but consumption is limited in the United States. The leaves contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids, according to dietitian Pace M. Johnson of the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The bioactive compounds in the vegetables improve immune function by combating free radicals that damage cells. This action helps fight against cancer cell growth and heart disease. Increased consumption of sweet potato tops should be promoted According to Johnson in the October 2010 issue of "Nutrition Reviews. Known scientifically as Ipomoea Batatas, the crop grows in almost every family’s backyards particularly in Africa, Asia and pacific making the vegetables readily available.

In Philippines, sweet potato tops or leaves are common in many native dishes. Filipinos have learned to cook the vegetables in various ways, too numerous to state, the usual method being simply steaming by placing on cooking rice and salting. These crops are easy to grow and cultivate, and grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions. All one needs to do is to plant a vine into the ground, and it establishes. It is a vine, which most people just allow to crawl on the ground and it can also grow on trellis too.  A few weeks later the tops are available for picking as vegetables.  If you choose to leave the tops, the roots will start growing forming tubers which can be pulled from the ground later for food. The crop grows continuously all the year round. It is drought tolerant and can ensure throughout the year availability of greens and subsequent good nutrition. Apart from being tasty, these simple vegetables are packed with nutrition, being the only vegetables with Iodine, a common substance found in seafood. It also contains vitamin A, C and Calcium; In the Philippines, it is widely believed that lactating mothers fed sweet potato tops improve their breast milk production. In fact, it is now a major ingredient of a commercially available food supplement drink in the Philippines. It is also a folk remedy which is used to treat diarrhea and dizziness;

Sweet potato vegetables are good sources of vitamins A, vitamin K and folate, or folic acid. You can eat the leaves of the sweet potato as they are nutritious, delicious and medicinal. The vegetables are known to contain minerals, antioxidants, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids, according to dietitian Pace M. Johnson of the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The bioactive compounds in the leaves improve immune function by combating free radicals that damage cells. This action helps fight against cancer cell growth and heart disease. Combining sweet potato leaves with mushrooms works well in a heart healthy diet plan to protect you from disease. The tops contain phenolic compounds which are known to fight cancer and heart disease. Here is a simple recipe for these nutritious vegetables which are easy to prepare, and can be eaten with starchy foods
1 large bunch of tender sweet potato tops
4 pcs Irish potatoes, peeled and diced into about 1.5 cm squares
4 medium tomatoes
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 bulb onion
3 cups water
Salt to taste
Heat the oil, add the Irish potatoes and stir fry them until the outer parts start to change color. Add and stir fry the onions and tomatoes until they become tender. Add the water and allow it to boil. Add salt and the Sweet potato tops. Continue to cook, around 5 minutes, until cooked and tender enough, stirring once or twice to ensure the ingredients are cooked evenly. Serve warm. Grow sweet potato tops in your backyard garden and stay healthy. There are numerous healthy green vegetables for our consumption growing out there! 
Club Mami ''The greatest Wealth is Health'' 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Plant ' Moringa oleifera' the amazing agroforestry vegetable tree in kenya

Moringa oleifera also known as drumstick is grown in Kenya mainly for the local and export market. The trees are propagated by seeds as well as vegetatively through cuttings. The demand for these trees is increasing due to superior nutritional/ medicinal value and adaptability to harsh climates. The young pods contain protein, calcium, iron and vitamin C. Moringa oleifera leaves contain high amounts of Calcium, iron, vitamin A and C. Young leaves and the tender pods are prepared by cooking or pickling and eaten as vegetables. Young seeds are used as peas while mature seeds are eaten roasted like nuts. The pod is ground into powder natural water purifier.

These trees require warm to hot climates with temperature of 25-35ºC and well drained soils. Moringa oleifera resists drought for several months after establishment and is well adapted to low altitudes up to 100M. The root sprouts from the trees stumps are also used as propagation materials. Cuttings of about 1 metre are sown in previously prepared holes measuring 1× 1×1M at the onset of the rains. Cow dung paste is applied on top of the cuttings to prevent drying. Seeds for planting can be collected from well developed pods. The seeds are soaked in cow dung water mixture for one day to stimulate germination process and sown in a nursery bed 10cm apart.

Regular watering is vital for growth. At 4-6 months when seedlings are 30cm high they are transplanted in previously prepared holes as above. Manures and fertilizers are applied and mixed with the soil at sowing time.15-20kg farm yard manure, 4kg ash, 1kg bone meal or tsp per hole is mixed with the top soil before planting.3 months after transplanting moringa oleifera is cut back to 15cm to induce lateral branching. In the first year the flowers are removed from the trees to enhance production of more flowers. Produce harvesting starts about 8 months after transplanting seedlings. Moringa oleifera should be harvested into clean well aerated containers such as plastic crates. Moringa oleifera trees products are then sorted graded and packed for the market.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Earn a million in 6 months by growing an acre of garlic herb in Kenya

Garlic herb is a relative of bulb onions .One acre with a plant population of 74995 at the price of Ksh 15 per piece will earn a gross revenue of ksh 1,124,925.Alternatively one acre  yield 4800-6000kgs garlic bulbs. Sold at a price of 250/= per kg, the gross income will be at least 1,200,000/=.The crop has a good and growing market in Kenya, due to it's culinary and medicinal value. This crop has pungent taste and smell and it’s used for flavouring food particularly soups, meat and fish. This medicinal plant has been used successfully for pimple and boils removal from the skin, relief of rheumatism, colds, coughs and sore throats, management of diabetes and HIV and AIDS complications.

Garlic herb growing is suited for medium to high altitudes of 500-2000M. High temperatures of 30ºC are necessary for optimum bulb development. Cooler temperatures in the early stages are required as they favour vegetative growth required for plant establishment. Optimum temperatures for growing the crop are 12-24ºC. Excess rainfall and humidity are detrimental to the plant’s vegetative growth and bulb formation. Growing of garlic herb is carried out in low rainfall areas where irrigation can be used in the early stages when water requirement is highest.

The plant requires well drained fertile soils. Avoid clay soils as they may result in malformed bulbs. Soil Ph should be 5.5-6.8.flavour development of garlic herb is best in sunny weather. Deep land preparation is required to ensure adequate rooting depth. Individual cloves are used for growing of garlic herb which is carried out vegetatively. Bulbs for sowing from the previous crop should be stored at 10ºC and a relative humidity of 50-65%. Stored bulbs should be fumigated if mites are present and inspected periodically for storage rots. Garlic herb growing is carried out on raised seed beds, on ridges at a spacing of 30cm between rows and 15-20cm between plants, giving a plant population of 150,000-200,000 per hectare. The cloves should be sown 2.5cm deep in well firmed soil. The seed clove requirement is 500-700kg/ha.The crop responds well to organic manure and 20tons/ha can be ploughed into the soil before planting.

Fertilizer requirements for growing the crop vary with soil fertility .The standard fertilizer rate of application is NPK is 150:55:40kg/ha applied as 1/3N:1P:1/5K. N and K topdressing should be applied 6-8 weeks after sowing and final N application at the beginning of bulb formation. The most common pests and diseases in growing garlic herb include purple blotch, downy mildew, rust, bulb rot, nematodes and onion thrips. Control measures include long crop rotations (4 years), Field hygiene, good drainage, removal and destruction of infected and crop debris, spraying suitable insecticides and fungicides. The crop matures 6-8 months after sowing, when leaf tops turn yellow or brown, then the leaves bend over and dries out. Dig the bulbs carefully to avoid damage. Light and sprouting bulbs should be discarded. Cure the bulbs in open air under shade for 8-10 days until the plants are thoroughly dry. Market or store the garlic herb bulbs. Dry storage of the bulbs for two months is sufficient to break dormancy. The length of crop growing period before garlic herb plants starts bulb formation determines yields which ranges between 12-15 tons/ha-more.Read also