Tithonia flowers used to make home-made pesticides in Kitale

In December 2015 as I visited my rural home, which is a few kilometers from Kitale town, one thing caught my attention: a well trimmed hedge made of tithonia flowers surrounding my mother's farm. Strolling in the village later that day, I noticed that almost every homestead had the same fence and as I later discovered, enterprising farmers have found a way of using extracts from the flower variously as a fodder crop, nitrogen fixer, biological pesticide and as folia manure.
In most Kenyan dialects, the name of the tithonia flower revolves around its bitter test- ‘maruru’ in Kikuyu, ‘mauamakech’ in Luo, and ‘amaua amalulu’ in Luhya. 
According to the World Agroforestry Centre (known as the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, ICRAF before 2002), tithonia contains more nutrients than synthetic fertilizers.
The centre says the flower's dry matter has an average of 3.17 per cent nitrogen and 3.20 per cent potassium.
It also contains 0.3 per cent phosphorus and 2 per cent calcium- all of these are key nutrients lacking in most of the arable land in Kenya.
To use tithonia as manure, a farmer just needs to cut the leaves and soft branches and let them decompose for a few weeks before using the collected fertiliser during planting.
Farmers can also squeeze tithonia leaves to obtain its bitter liquid, which can be applied on vegetables as pesticides and insecticides. Jane Minage, a kale farmer in Moi Farm Village, says she has reliably dealt with aphids using pesticide collected from tithonia leaves.
To make the biological pesticide, Minage harvests Tithonia leaves and branches and grinds them using a huge mortar and pestle.
She then adds water to the paste before sieving to obtain a clear liquid. For every 17kg bucket of tithonia paste, she adds five liters of water.
"Although it is a tedious exercise, the end results are worth it," said the farmer, who supplies kale to residents of both Amagoro and Moi Farm villages in Moi’s Bridge.
Besides cutting production costs in using the extracts, Minage says the vegetables are free of chemicals.
Tithonia is grown from cuttings, which are placed in soil at a 45-degree angle. It is a hardy plant and can grow well even during dry seasons. The crop can also be fed to goats in addition to its use as a fertiliser and pesticide.