- Gitau, who is the director and co-founder of Healthy Living Tech-Agri-Campaign (Helitech), a community youth group started last year, says their agribusiness is a response to rising demand for healthy foods.
- The group makes its own organic pesticides and manure using rabbit droppings and urine, wild sunflower (tithonia diversifolia) and vermi-compost (from worms), which they use on their farms and also sell.
- Besides making liquid fertiliser, which they pack and sell in one litre containers, the group also make pepino melon juice.
- According to Professor Mathew Dida, organic farming is more applicable and normally successful on small parcels like with kitchen gardening.
Nestled behind the lush Limuru tea estates, deep in Kiambu County lies Lari. The cool breeze from the giant Aberdare slaps our faces as we enter the serene ambience of Kagaa, a little known village in Lari teeming with lush farms.
William Gitau, 33, is tending to beautiful rosemary plant when we arrive. On his farm in small portions are also oregano, chia, thyme, fennel, tree tomatoes, radish, marjoram, stevia, carrots, broccoli, pepino melons and parsley.
The crops, which Gitau grows with 36 other members of his group on small farms spread across the village, are farmed organically. They later find their way to the organic market in Nairobi while others are bought by locals.
Gitau, who is the director and co-founder of Healthy Living Tech-Agri-Campaign (Helitech), a community youth group started last year, says their agribusiness is a response to rising demand for healthy foods.
The farms belong to their parents. In total, Helitech members grow the crops on 27 gardens (some 30 by 10m), each picking what they can farm best.
So how did they start, and how did they decide organic model was the way to go?
“We were originally two. James Ng’ang’a and I started Helitech in March 2015 with only two rabbits. Then there was this craze on healthy living and we said: here is a niche,” says Gitau, a 2011 University of Urbaniana, Rome, Bachelor of Philosophy graduate.
Slowly, the two sold the idea to other like-minded youths, leading to the formation of the group. New members pay Sh5,000 registration fees.
“We agreed to grow the herbs and vegetables individually because we had a market in Nairobi.”
To grow the business, the youths approached Martin Kuria, the Lari sub-county Youth Fund co-ordinator.
“Through him, we learned a lot on financial literacy, managing our agribusiness and farming organically. Courtesy of the Fund, we exhibited our products at several agricultural forums, including the shows,” says Gitau, adding that last January they borrowed Sh50,000 from the Fund to conduct soil tests on their farms.
The group makes its own organic pesticides and manure using rabbit droppings and urine, wild sunflower (tithonia diversifolia) and vermi-compost (from worms), which they use on their farms and also sell.
“To make liquid organic manure, we harvest rabbit urine, crash tithonia plant and Mexican marigold stems and leaves and add to the mixture.
It is then fermented for seven days but the longer it stays, the better. The solution is then sieved and packed in one litre bottles.
To use, we mix with the water in a ratio of 1:5,” explains Gitau, adding the solution is used both as liquid manure and pesticide and is sold at Sh200 for a litre.
He has more than 50 rabbits, which he sells at Sh600 each.
The group has a demonstration farm where members are trained on how to grow vegetables, enabling them to establish and take care of their gardens.
Besides making liquid fertiliser, which they pack and sell in one litre containers, the group also make pepino melon juice.
Juice from the fruit is extracted into a container after which it is blended with bananas and herbs such as mint and stevia to add flavour. It is then packed in 250ml tumblers and sold locally at Sh50. However a litre of the same goes for Sh 250.