Marshal Kithokilo, Loitoktok farmer is growing multiple crops such as sunflower, pumpkin, okra, and pawpaw, a practice which has enabled him to control pests, diseases, and weeds organically as opposed to conventional farming which relies on the use of chemicals and fertiliser.
The practice, also known as polyculture where crops are grown in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, has seen the farmer earn from the different crops in addition to improving his family diet.
“I started this type of farming years ago to avoid the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides which gradually affect the soil and entire ecosystem. In addition, I have been able to earn from the crops’ sales and feed my family with quality and nutritious food,” said Kithokilo.
With sunflowers, the farmer is able to break wind, diseases, and pests that feed on other crops. The crop when planted in a rotation effect with other crops increases yields by about 10 per cent or more with the higher yields being attributed to a number of factors working together to reduce disease transmission and pest resistance.
In addition, he draws oil from the crop and uses its cake, which is a by-product as feed for his poultry. 90 kilos of sunflower yields 40 liters of oil which is very nutritious when used to cook other foods.
“I no longer buy cooking oil from shops as I have a deal with an oil expeller workshop at Parakea, Kenya-Tanzania border where oil is extracted from sunflower seeds so that I carry the oil as they remain with the cake hence I do not incur a service fee,” said Kithokilo.
Okra is another medicinal crop grown by the Kajiado County farmer. He harvests 2-3 buckets a week and sells a bucket ta Sh500. The leaves he dries and grinds to be used in tea and as poultry medicine. In humans, the farmer says it is good for arthritis and ulcer patients.
He harvests 4-5 tonnes of quality pumpkin a season which he sells at Sh20,000-30,000 per tonne or Sh35 per kilo at Parakea Market. the undesirable fruits he uses to make pumpkin soup for the family and also give to the livestock to feed on.
Pawpaws are also harvested per week to a tune of 100 fruits which he sells at Sh30-35 each. The roots, seeds, and leaves he dries crush and make organic pesticides for his okra and sunflower crops.
“Pawpaw seeds have a number of medicinal benefits for other crops, birds, and human beings especially the male pawpaw seeds that help in killing bacteria and heal viral infections, heal liver disease, prevent kidney disease and minimize the risk of cancer among others,” said Kithokilo.
His aim now is to increase the acreage under production from two acres to more than four acres so that he can create a model farm for organic farming to enable him to train other farmers in the area.