Tree planting in Kenya has been boosted by the efforts of the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry liaising with other non-governmental and private actors. What is clear, is that there is more value out there than just adding to the forest cover especially when organic farming practices are adopted. Firstly, going organic enhances food production and increases the number of beneficiaries, particularly in less developed parts of the world. This is shown by the increase in market value of organic farming products over the years and the fact that countries in Africa, Asia and South America lead in the number of organic producers.
When conventional agriculture focuses on maximising large scale mono cropping of mainly hybrid commodities, we see an over-reliance on the use of fertilizers and chemicals to control pests, both of which lead to more acidity in the soil and massive death of microbes. By contrast, organic farming takes a holistic approach to crop production giving attention to environmental conservation, soil fertility and water systems. These organic inputs not only rival their chemical counterparts but leave the soils richer and plants robust enough to withstand the shocks of climatic changes or pest infestation.
For example, the root structures of our organic maize variety are hardy and hold the soils better. You will note the shine on the organic variety and the frail look of the hybrid stalk. So, alongside the overwhelming environmental benefits, we see organic farming actually producing higher yielding, more valuable crops.
The one other major advantage of organic practices, use of local or indigenous seeds and saplings is that the farmer is empowered by having the choice and source of inputs as opposed to the system which dis-empowers and leaves them at the mercy of the merchants of hybrid & exotic seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
In Kenya, many organizations are already practicing organic farming. Leaders in the pack are the 50 plus members of Schools and Colleges Permaculture programme (SCOPE) and Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association. The Resources Oriented Development Initiatives (RODI), a founder member of both associations has gone further to host two international workshops on biofertilizers and other organic farming inputs.
As the partners of TreeKenya embark on tree planting in the country, there is every reason to go organic for the environment and future of our planet.
Gachora N Waweru, RODI Kenya (TreeKenya Partners)