February 25th 2018

Society / Environment

Kenya should nurture the nascent alternative farming sector

Kenya is home to experienced farmers, producers and exporters of fresh Kenyan herbs. Herbs are very popular nowadays with hawkers peddling herbal medicine everywhere

By Cynthia Iranducirandu@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 16 Jun 2016 08:10 EAT


Kenya is home to experienced farmers, producers and exporters of fresh Kenyan herbs. Herbs are very popular nowadays with hawkers peddling herbal medicine everywhere. Look around you, in the CBD, downtown, uptown, in buses and even near residential areas. Herbal products are ubiquitous on supermarket shelves. The diverse climatic conditions and environment facilitates growth of herbs in Kenya.

Tharaka Nithi County for example is semi-arid. Rainfall here is very capricious and unpredictable, and sometimes even inadequate. Innovative technology introduced in the region in the late 80’s gave birth to an irrigation project. Initially, the irrigation project was to boost subsistence farming for locals. In the early 90’s, hibiscus sabdariffa was introduced. The flowers make scarlet red herbal tea. Meru Herbs became a commercial project, with the sole aim of producing and marketing herbal tea. Meru Herbs now buys naturally grown fruits and herbs from farmers within the locality, processes them and distributes them within East Africa,  Italy and even Asia, with the Japanese market growing steadily. Other herbal teas include lemongrass and chamomile. Herbs can be medicinal, herbal toothpaste, culinary, used as tea, scented candles and scented soap.

From Tharaka Nithi County, we  move to Baringo, Kilifi, Laikipia and Mombasa. Moringa farming is popular in these regions. Moringa Oleifera has its roots in Africa, Arabia, Himalayas,   India and Pakistan. It grows quickly and is drought resistant. The deciduous plant grows to a height of slightly over nine metres and is over 40 cm wide. It grows best in tropical areas. If rainfall is minimal, then it is best to irrigate. It can grow on sand, loam or a combination of the two. In a developing country like Kenya, Moringa farming can boost food security and improve nutrition. The bi-products of the magical plant are powder used to make soups, sauces, traditional medicine, and detergents among many others.

Farmers in these regions recommend Moringa for its nutritious value in Vitamin C, which boosts immunity, Vitamin B, among other health nutrients. The parts of the plant, which are edible, are the leaves, used as vegetables; flowers- taste like mushroom, the pods substitute green peas and peanuts. Moringa as seasoning for food is tasty.

When it comes to good food, it all boils down to the aroma, flavor, colour and texture. Any dish can be prepared in ten different ways, but the antiviral elements of Moringa arouse the taste buds whilst boosting immunity, something that other plants cannot do. The tree is easy to grow- as cuttings or seeds. They germinate in roughly 12-14 days with seedlings taking approximately five months in the nursery. Flowering occurs eight months after planting.

Moringa offers culinary benefits to different taste buds. You can eat the leaves raw as in salads; blend them to make juice, as a substitute for SukumaWiki…aside from the vitamins mentioned earlier, it is rich in calcium and potassium. If you do not want to eat your Moringa, you can use it as medicine. It lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, eases inflammation and detoxifies the digestive system.

The benefit of Moringa farming, especially to rural communities led organizations like Green World Campaign and Kenya Red Cross to start projects to educate the locals. The money the locals earn from these initiatives enables them to earn a living and fend for their families. Malnutrition has seen a rapid decrease with Kwashiorkor and Marasmus, widely alleviated.

The writer is a journalism student at the University of Nairobi and intern writer at the Kenya Free Press.

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