Many farmers in Kirinyaga County are embracing organic farming to stay healthy and keep lifestyle diseases at bay.
They are also hopeful that growing crops without chemicals like pesticides will secure a market for their green produce in the European market following a ban on Kenyan exports due to wide use of harmful chemicals.
Kirinyaga county is a lead producer of tomatoes and French beans.
However, to boost yields, it is a common practice for many farmers to use pesticides which in turn increase chemical residue in the produce.
But now, the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN), an umbrella body that deals with lobby organisations that advocate for natural ways of growing food, has encouraged more farmers to take up organic farming to secure international markets.
According to Okisegere Ojepat, Chief Executive Officer at Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya, European Union’s stringent rules outlaw the presence of about 262 pesticide molecules in agricultural produce.
Pesticides are mainly used to kill targeted pests, which are prevalent in the warm tropics.
State Department of Trade Director John Kabiru said organic farming is gaining ground in the county.
Kabiru said organic produce markets have been established at Kutus and Kagio and the ministry is planning to open others in the county.
“Customers can walk into those markets and pick produce which is safe for consumption,” he said.
Joyce Wanjiku, an organic farmer, said those targeting the export market have taken the new farming practice seriously.
She said the ban of exports to EU hit Kirinyaga farmers hard and many of them are ready to drop the use of chemicals to control pests and weeds.
A director in the ministry of Agriculture Muriithi Mukungo said efforts to reduce use of harmful chemicals would also help reduce the cost of production to farmers and increase their incomes.
Edward Nyaga, the County Director of Cooperatives, urged those practising organic farming to register a cooperative society to help them mobilise resources.
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