For better yields, city farmer goes organic

Emmanuel Juma

Emmanuel Juma displays a ripe and unripe eggplant.

Photo credit: Patrick Kilavuka | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Juma says his main challenge is finding a market network. 
  • Juma now has 10 beds of bulb onion, each with 310 plants.

Emmanuel Juma has always had interest in organic farming. He is on a mission of changing the narrative of depending on artificial fertiliser for great yields. He has also dodged the fake fertiliser net.

Juma formulates his fertiliser that he has dubbed Varmpy or foliar. It is made from vegetable waste. 

Juma collects sukuma wiki, cabbage and spinach waste and places it in a sink bowl at the farm in Kabagare, Nairobi County. 

The waste is not limited to the three vegetables. 

He then introduces redworms or earthworms into the mixture to aid in decomposition, resulting in liquid fertiliser. 

“This fertiliser is rich in potassium, nitrogen, calcium, zinc, phosphorus and other nutrients that improve the soil and promote plant health,” he tells Seeds of Gold. 

It takes 65-100 days for the mixture to decompose to the required standard. The rate of decomposition is determined by heat from the sun. 

The strong fertiliser is diluted with at least 10 litres of water to make 20 litres. Varmpy fertiliser is then applied to the soil before planting and as a topdresser. Juma grows a variety of crops.

The high demand for vegetables, bulb onions and eggplant during the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged Juma to intensify farming.

He wanted to meet the market demand and feed children at Tumshangilieni Mtoto School that is headed by Japheth Njenga.

After some research, he bought more eggplant and bulb onion certified seeds. The eggplant and bulb onions are rich in fibre, potassium, vitamin C and Vitamin B-6. 

They are also antioxidants, keep the heart healthy and prevent many other diseases. 

After preparing the nursery, Juma plants the certified seeds. These take 45 days to two months before being transferred to the seedbed. But this depends on the weather. 

They require lots of water in their initial stages of growth. You can do irrigation to foster growth.

Emmanuel Juma

Emmanuel Juma weeds bulb onions.

Photo credit: Patrick Kilavuka | Nation Media Group

After transplanting, Juma uses the varmpy fertiliser. 

Spacing depends on the size of the farm. When applying drip irrigation, spacing for onions is 15x25cm or 20x30cm from seed to seed and one and a half feet between lines. 

For the eggplant, he gives a spacing of 30x45, 30x60 or 25x75 depending on the soil fertility.

Juma is also the farm manager of Tumshangilieni Mtoto School.

Njenga encourages the use of organic fertiliser at the school farm. Crop management is important for improved and high yields. 

To increase harvests, Juma weeds, prunes, thins, applies the liquid fertiliser and irrigates the farm. 

Proper farm hygiene ensures mildew and other diseases that affect bulb onions, the eggplant and vegetables are controlled. 

The pests that Juma looks out for include aphids and black maggots. 

“Pests and diseases can wreak havoc on one’s farm,” he says. 

Juma says his main challenge is finding a market network. 

“A farmer can make huge losses if the market is not reliable. Being perishable, vegetables and fruits need to be sold fast,” he says. 

The changing weather patterns have had adverse effects on farmers like Juma. It is not easy to tell when to grow a particular plant.

Juma now has 10 beds of bulb onion, each with 310 plants. He sells a bulb onion at Sh15 to 20 or Sh280 per kilo. His customers are greengrocers in Kangemi and Westlands.