Combining organic farming and forest conservation for economic sustainability
“Encroachment and illegal logging are things of the past. We now take the lead in ensuring the forest is protected and restored because it provides us with fertilizer for our crops,” says, Hillary Rono, a passion fruit, potato and dairy farmer from Nyangores in Bomet County.
Farmers in this area are utilizing Terra Pretty, a form of organic fertilizer made from forest waste because of its potential for increased yields, its affordability and its ability to improve the soil structure.
Where the forest used to be the source of food, fuel, and timber products, it is now a source of organic fertilizer. Its natural waste- dried and decaying organic matter from natural processes – are used as major components of Terra Pretty.
This effort is being spearheaded by Pinemark Africa Limited, a company that works with grassroots organisations towards actualizing environmental sustainability and economic empowerment of farmers using simple homegrown solutions. The organization is one of Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC)’s agribusiness clients in the incubator programme.
The social enterprise recognizes that the Kenyan farmer is still bogged down by a number of challenges key among them decreased crop production occasioned by loss of soil fertility resulting from overuse of synthetic fertilizers. Even when the harvest is good, smallholder farmers may not be able to access markets especially international ones.
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In Bomet County, Pinemark works with 470 farmers through Nyangores Community Forest Association by offering them knowledge on sustainable farming practices and linkages to markets. The group operates in Nyangores Ward, from which it derives its name. This is an area that covers part of the Mau, a forest complex which is the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem in Kenya as well as the largest indigenous mountain forest in East Africa.
It is a water catchment area for many rivers and lakes, some of which support the most important national wildlife reserves including Maasai Mara National Reserve and Serengeti National Park. “We link forest resources to community livelihoods by creating the need and sense of urgency to protect it,” says Petronilla Gathu, the team leader at Pinemark.
Terra Pretty is affordable to most of the farmers- a kilo goes for KES 30 (about USD 0.3). In order to for the smallholder farmers to easily access international markets, Pinemark encourages them to practice pure organic farming guided by international standards such as the European Union regulations on organic farming.
Among the services Pinemark has received from KCIC is mentorship and business advisory. Of these, Petronilla says: “The kind of support we receive from KCIC has trickled down to benefit the farmers. We have been able to reach out to them with the knowledge and resources they needed.”
This has enabled them to increase yields and diversify their sources of livelihoods, all the while complementing Kenya Forest Service’s efforts in forest conservation. With the use of Terra Pretty, they are optimistic their food security is assured and they are also able to meet other needs such as school fees.
By Vincent Ogaya