Modern farming forms seek to increase crop yield by implementing farm practices that can decimate the environment. Additionally, these methods require maximum input to deliver maximum output. The use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides further creates harmful effects on the farm, destroying the soil microorganisms and pollinators, causing soil acidity, and depleting soil nutrients.
Organic farming ensures that all farm variables coexist and benefit mutually. It allows a farmer to use minimum farm input and deliver high output. Manure is a critical component in organic farming that substitutes synthetic fertilizers and is friendly to the soil ecosystem.
Traditional vegetables, commonly referred to as kienyeji, are edible crops from the brassica vegetable family that grow naturally; they are not hybrid but rather occur naturally in farm fields or seeds propagated from existing plants. They include Africa Nightshade (managu),Sargeti, Amaranth (Terere) e.t.c. The high nutritional content in Kienyeji food crops has made them a highly viable food source. Focusing on these plants can enhance income for producers and health benefits for consumers.
Kienyeji plays a significant role as food for people, livestock food, pests repellent crops for other crops, soil conservation, and drought-resistant crops with essential health benefits. However, its cultivation requires continuous weeding to avoid nutrient deficiency from weeds.
The high demand for fresh kienyeji food sources has made it a viable agribusiness practice with great income returns for smallholder farmers. Growing these crops requires minimum input. Using organic manure instead of fertilizers and seeds can be propagated from existing plants. The crops are tolerant of pests and diseases. These factors make it a sustainable farming model beneficial for the soil ecosystem and the farmers.
They are highly nutritious. Rich in essential proteins, zinc, calcium, Vitamins B, C, and E and have rich dietary fiber. Besides its high nutritional value, kienyeji crops also promote good health; Managu, for instance, is useful for managing hypertension and diabetes. All kienyeji foods play an essential role in weight loss management.
Traditional vegetables are adaptive and resilient to unpredictable weather patterns. They are drought-resistant and can withstand dry seasons with low water during dry seasons. Moreover, they grow faster during the rainy seasons.
Kienyeji crops require minimum space to grow. Kitchen gardens and storey gardens are ideal for growing these crops. Besides that, the crops mature over 2-3 months, thus increasing food production.
Dorcas Rutto, a crop expert, explains that traditional crops are resistant to pests and diseases depending on the environment. “During dry spells, these crops repel pests by producing an irritating scent and bitter sap that keep leaf miners at bay during rainy periods.”
Traditional vegetables are ideal for boosting income for the smallholder farmers with minimum cost input, labor, and space while providing essential health benefits to the consumers.
Vincent Kipyegon is an Agri-technology journalist