A polyculture farmer from Loitoktok, Kajiado County who has mastered the art of growing crops organically is harvesting up to 5,000 kilos of pumpkin fruits per season from his one acre mixed farm.
Lemaiyan Kithokilo says he has selects a set of crops that can be grown together and help each other in controlling weeds, improving soil fertility and preventing pests and diseases without the use synthetic fertilizer and chemicals.
“A part from pumpkins, I grow other crops such as okra, sunflower, pawpaw and moringa. These crops complements each other in a way a farmer who grows them well cannot incur other costs in fertiliser and drugs to boost growth and prevent diseases and pests’ attack respectively,” said Kithokilo.
According to him pumpkins acts as a cover crop for the other plants hence controlling farm weeds, sunflower helps in attracting pollinators while pawpaw, moringa and okra leaves and roots are used to make organic extract to control pests and diseases.
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Kithokilo learnt this style of farming sometimes back in Taita Taveta County while working with an international organisation that champions the planting of trees.
“I have since childhood loved farming practices that improve the condition of the environment but not otherwise. This is why my farming method is inclined towards preserving my surrounding and helping me earn incomes,” he said.
His pumpkins are intercropped with pawpaw and okra while sunflowers are grown from the farm’s periphery.
From this he harvests between four and five tonnes of desirable pumpkin fruits per season which he sells at Sh20,000 per tonne making up to Sh100,000 per season. This being farm-gate sales or selling at Parakea open-air market 3km away at Tanzania-Kenya border.
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If he transport the fruits to Nairobi’s Farmers’ Market he sells a kilo at Sh35 raking a gross income of Sh175,000. The rest of the fruits which are smaller in size he breaks and remove the seeds which he dries and sell or fries then and use them as food.
On the other hand okra earns him up to Sh1,500 a week given he harvests 2-3 buckets per week.
For sunflower, he crushers the seeds and extract sunflower oil which his family uses for cooking while the resulting cake which is a by-product is used as poultry feed.
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