When I decided to get serious about farming, I wanted to do it organically and sustainably. I must have forgotten I live in tropical Africa. The bugs were relentless, the diseases were in plenty and I was fighting a losing battle.
If you were raised in Nairobi in the 1980’s and 1990’s, you will remember the annual Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) trade fair. We called it “The Show”. Farmers got to showcase their produce. Any farming related company was found here exhibiting their wares. The armed forces had marching bands every evening at 9.30 p.m. They were so smart and crisp marching to the tune of the most popular songs of the time. The Navy in their whites, the Army in their red uniform, the Air Force in their dazzling blues! It was beautiful. The tattoo was the last event of the day before they closed in readiness for the next day. At a time when we did not go out much at night, the Show presented an opportunity for pomp and color, all permitted by our parents.
This show, The Agricultural Society of Kenya “Show” was where I decided to go when I realized I needed concrete answers to my bug and disease problems. My daughter had never attended this prestigious event. She is a millennial. Marching Bands and cows are not exactly her description of fun. I convinced her this was a brilliant experience and a right of passage. Every self-respecting Nairobian must go to The Show at least once in their lifetime.
Sneakers, jeans, backpack, water, money! We were off! What a sham the show had become. Over time, due to neglect and poor funding, it was nothing like I remembered. I was utterly disappointed. However, this time I had come here on a mission. I took a left turn and we headed off to the agriculture side of the show. We checked out the cows and goats, had a quick check in on the sheep, then went off to see the crops.
And that was how I met Greenlife Crop Protection Africa, and got introduced to their products. These guys don’t know me from Adam, so this is not a paid advert. I use their products. Their fertilizers and pesticides because they are polite to my soil and they work!
Prior to Greenlife, we used to make our own pesticides. If you boil neem, onion leaves, Mexican marigold and a little chili, you get a great pesticide. Add some dishwashing soap, and you have a pesticide with a sticker. A sticker basically allows the pesticide to stay longer on the leaf of your crops and therefore increase its efficacy. As we boiled this pot, it bubbled and hissed like a witch’s cauldron. I’ve always wondered what the neighbors thought we were cooking. You could smell that bubbling mix from quite a way off.
Basic farm hygiene will take care of a lot of your problems. Much like covid I guess? Wash your hands, sanitize your boots, keep your farm free of weeds, scout for pests and disease relentlessly and deal with them immediately. If you have farm hands who smoke, keep them away from your tomatoes and capsicum plants to avoid spread of disease. Goat, cow and chicken manure are your friends.
Healthy crops are less likely to get diseases. Keep the bees close. Not too close though. In my neck of the woods, they are called African Killer bees for a reason.
Chili mixed with ash makes a great deterrent for the cutter worm. This is one silly worm. He/she cuts the tap root of your plants and that’s the end of the plant. So, when transplanting from the nursery, we used the ash chili mix in the transplant hole, to give the cutter worm a mighty sneeze that kept him away from my vegetables. Fermented milk and water, of course with dishwashing soap as a sticker, sprayed on your vegetables will keep white flies at bay. For a while.
These were organic solutions to my pest and disease problem, but they were not robust enough to keep the bugs at bay, and they were not going to work for the scale of farming I wanted to get into. They were great for a kitchen garden but not a commercial sized farm.
Greenlife offered the sustainable solution I had been looking for. Most important of all, Greenlife believes in educating the Farmer, so it’s not always about chemicals in the soil. And they do the educating through the ubiquitous whatsapp group. Kenya truly runs on whatsapp. If you are a farmer, check out their products.
What have I learnt? Pests and diseases can be controlled without industrial chemicals. You need a very high level of vigilance though. Healthy crops are less likely to get disease infestation. Let that bottle of pesticide be your last resort. If you are running a kitchen garden, you really don’t need to reach for an industrial solution. You do have other options.