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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

G-BIACK scaling up best Grow Biointensive agriculture practices in Thika

By Bob Aston
The last day of the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Programme (SACDEP-Kenya) Training and Conference Facility in Thika on May 28-29, 2015 saw the 70 participants from more than 40 member organizations visit four different sites for a learning, exposure and exchange visit.
Participants were able to visit sites by Resources Oriented Development Initiatives (RODI), Sustainable Agriculture Community Development Programme (SACDEP-Kenya), Grow Biointensive Agriculture Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK) and Organic Agriculture Centre of Kenya (OACK).The exposure visits provided the participants with an opportunity to learn best practices as well as areas that need improvement.
Participants at the Maria Magdalena Special School kitchen garden

The G-BIACK visit saw a team of 14 participants travelling to the outskirts of Thika to visit Maria Magdalena Special School in Munyu area of Gatuanyaja Ward. G-BIACK has been supporting the special school which has 100 students for more than seven years.
The school has been supported to establish a kitchen garden and also use of drip irrigation. The half-acre kitchen garden has crops that include; Tomatoes, beans, kales, spinach, bananas, cassava, amaranth, pawpaw and sweet potatoes.
The students and school administration have been taught on production of nutritious food using Grow Biointensive Agriculture. The school has now been able to save more than 70 percent of the total cost used to purchase food as they are now able to feed all the students and even sell the surplus to the surrounding community members.
G-BIACK has also erected a water tank stand with an elevation of two metres above the ground which supports a water tank with a capacity of 1000 litres. The students are able to spend less time irrigating the kitchen garden as they only have to fill the water tank then water will flow through gravity to the different areas of the kitchen garden.
“We decided to help the school to establish the nutritious kitchen garden and also to enable them sell the surplus to community members so that the school can have a source of income,” said Mr. Samuel Nderitu from G-BIACK.
The students are also able to produce their own organic manure through vermiculture. A vermi composting section has also been set up where the students deposit farm and poultry waste. This later decomposes to form organic manure.
Participants seeing a demonstration of the pest control measures
The special school field visit culminated in a tree planting session before the participants travelled to Gladys Wandia’s farm, Chairperson Tumaini Women Self-help group. G-BIACK started supporting the group 6 years ago. The 23 member group consisting of women between 70-100 years has been raising orphan children.
Initially the members predominantly grew maize and were using DAP fertilizer but over the years the farm yields started reducing. Most of the members were unable to sustain their families as well as the orphan children.
“G-BIACK has been a blessing to us. They not only taught us about Grow Biointensive Agriculture but we also learned about the importance of diversification. This has enabled us to support our families and the orphans as well as sell surplus produce to other community members,” said Mrs. Gladys Wandia.
Mrs. Wandia has planted crops in a five acre piece of land that include; pumpkin, beans, maize, thorny melon, sorghum, cassava, spider plant, bananas, black night shade, sweet potatoes, hibiscus.
G-BIACK has been giving the group members special seeds for different crops. They have also been trained on how to make organic fertilizer and how to control pests using farm products.
Some of the participants arriving at the G-BIACK head office
Later on in the day the participants visited G-BIACK head office. The head office consists of various sections namely: library; seed bank; women program exhibition; women centre; vermi composition section, a apiary; fish pond; nursery; Livestock research centre; research area; and propagation house. The organization has more than 48 varieties of seeds and they have planted more than 30 different varieties of plants.
G-BIACK is a community organization that trains and promotes Grow Biointensive Agriculture and community development technological options and initiatives among the small scale farm holders in Kenya. It was initiated in September 2009 to respond to the problems associated with increasing levels of poverty that is associated with food insecurity in the Country.
“Our mission is to seed a sense of empowerment and self-reliance in communities that lead to improved food sovereignty and livelihood and a healthier environment. We also promote and develop ecologically viable development strategies for sustainable and quality livelihoods,” said Mr. Nderitu.
Other services provided by G-BIACK include: ICT training; library services; food and nutrition, appropriate technology; health and sanitation; and one goat per family project.
The exposure visit enabled the participants to share knowledge on Grow Biointensive Agriculture. The practical demonstrations proved useful as some of the participants carried some of the crops to try and see if they can replicate the same in their own organizations.
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