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Bringing Biodynamic Agriculture to Kenya, East Africa

May 25, 2017

By Vincent Okoth Musiko


Introduction

I was brought up by my single mama after my father’s death 1964 when I was only two years old, the fifth and last born child of my dear parents Andrew Musiko and Clementina Namukuru Musiko, at Khushinoko Namulungu-Mumias, the present Kakamega County, in Kenya, East Africa.

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I got interested in farming as my mother farmed organically three acres of land. We never lacked food not just food, but nutritious, higher quality, and farmed organically. She was a scientist who never went to anybody’s school; if she did, she never went beyond the Kenyan class two. She had assorted crops and vegetables, cows, and poultry. It was a mixed garden, and we got all our manures and fertilizers from within the three acres of land; we never bought chemicals. We got all we needed as a family from this land. We rarely went to the hospital because we ate well.

When I went to high school, I continued studying. Agriculture and biology were my favorite subjects. After high school, I joined a Sustainable Agricultural College in Molo, Kenya before getting funding to go to the United Kingdom. There I studied biodynamic agriculture before undertaking an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of London at Imperial College.

While at Emerson, I almost gave up to come back to Kenya as the biodynamic agriculture was a bit different from the organic farming I knew. A lady by the name of Elizabeth Edmund at Emerson counseled me and gave me hope for the future of farming before she passed on. I stayed on and have never looked back.

The interest has grown for many years now in training small-scale farmers organic agriculture. We are now slowly introducing biodynamic farming, starting with preparations of horn manure and stinging nettles. We are also training the small-scale farmers on beekeeping, using both modern and traditional ways of beekeeping in rural eastern Kenya.

I am calling upon you who are reading this article to help us support farmers, particularly in training. You are also welcome to pay us a visit in Kenya where we are. A dollar or two contributed towards this course will take us a step ahead.

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The Reality of Food Security, in Kenya in Particular and Africa in General

Africa in general and Kenya in particular not only needs food for her hungry mouths, but food that is healthy, clean, and of high quality and a healthy environment in which we live and work. We need to use our natural resources sustainably without compromising our children’s. Africans must stand up, discover their own problems in food security and environmental conservation, and solve them themselves of course with the help of their sisters and brothers abroad. The answer is found within the Kenyan people in particular, and in the African people in general, particularly in the local communities.

As you may have noticed, the environment is fast getting worse each day. As I write today, people in many parts of Kenya are sleeping on hungry stomachs due to continued drought. People almost everywhere do not have clean drinking water; they have to walk for many kilometers to get water for their families and livestock. The threat of global warming, climate change, and food insecurity is real and threatens the very existence of humanity on this planet.

In very few years to come, areas that produce more food in Kenya will be rendered unproductive due to the change in climate. Change in climate requires a change in our farming systems, technologies, and our own attitudes. It is evident that our environment is being destroyed and that pollution is very high. It is indeed my responsibility, your responsibility, our responsibility, the responsibility of every one of us, to take care of the environment. No matter what your profession is, all of us need food that is of high quality and nutritious in order to perform what we do well. You must be concerned with what you eat, whether you produce it, buy down the street at the food store, or pick from roadsides sellers as you head to your home. You are what you eat, the saying goes.

The biodiversity and ecosystems are disappearing very fast, and this worries me and should worry you too. Fish stocks in waters are now collapsing, and forest cover is thinning out despite the fact that we sing of reforestation daily. Our conventional farming systems are getting out of hand, as most soils in Kenya are now exhausted and very acidic and so cannot adequately support crops, animals, and of course us ourselves and our children. We should not forget that we have borrowed land from the future generations, our children, and we must hand it back to them better than we got it. The land is a loan to us by our children, and we should return it with interest. Biodynamic sustainable farming is the answer today, as it was the answer to the few in 1924 when Dr. Rudolf Steiner gave the eight lectures on agriculture.

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The urban communities are having difficulties accessing food, and many people who cannot afford escalating high prices of vegetables. The solution is to bring food in the urban centers by utilizing available empty places and training rural communities to produce food locally, especially targeting the local food and examining the local climatic conditions. We should detach ourselves from food colonialism so that when you eat amaranthus, butter flower, black nightshades, sweet potatoes, sorghum, millet, cassava, and many more that grow better in our conditions, you should not say, “I did not eat; I only ate sweet potatoes,” just because you did not eat maize meal, which is now a national staple food in Kenya. We need to change our attitude towards food production and its consumption. Plant your own.

Bring Biodynamic Agriculture to Kenya, East Africa

Biodynamic agriculture was the first formal organic agriculture. The first organic agriculture definition was given by Lord Northbourne in 1940. Northbourne was a biodynamic agriculture practitioner and the author of Look to the Land. In common with other forms of organic farming, biodynamic agriculture uses management practices that are intended to store and maintain ecological harmony. Central features include crop diversification, biodynamic preparations, the avoidance of chemical soil treatments and off-farm inputs in general, decentralization of production and distribution, and the consideration of celestial and terrestrial influences on biological organisms.

Demeter International, the body responsible for certification of biodynamic agriculture internationally, recommends that the individual design of the land by a farmer, determined by site conditions, is one of the basic tenets of biodynamic agriculture, and in Kenya we can just do that. This principle emphasizes that humans have a responsibility for the development of their ecological and social environment that goes beyond economic aims and principles of descriptive ecology. Crops, livestock, farmer, and the entire socio-economic environment form a unique interaction, a unique individual. The farmer seeks to enhance and support “forces” of nature that lead to healthy crops and animals and rejects any practice that destroys the environment.

Biodynamic agriculture differs from many forms of organic agriculture in the spiritual, mystical, and astrological orientation. Compared to non-organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture has been found to be more resilient to environmental challenges, fostering a diverse biosphere and more energy efficiency.

Food and water security are increasingly threatened by factors such as climate, environmental change, loss of biodiversity, drying out of sources of water, and fast thinning out of our forests. This is evident to all, both academicians and lay people, without forgetting conflicts and market volatility. New knowledge, policies, and sustainable technologies are needed to develop systems that are more resilient to change and that ensure the health of our food and water supplies. This is biodynamic agriculture. Resilient systems are better able to bounce back from stresses caused by longer-term or short-term changes of events such as flooding, or human impacts such as poor farming systems that separate economy from environment, or war or water pollution.

Focus is on food, water, and people uniting once again to one another and with the land; integrating local people’s knowledge in social, agro-ecological, hydrological, and environmental processes; and the pivotal role that communities play in developing resilience.

Biodynamic agriculture aims to advance resilience science through creative work on a new generation of key issues linked to the governance of food systems, hydrological change, urban food and water, river processes, water quality, and emerging pollutants.

With the team here in Kenya under non-governmental organization, we wish to train 160 small-scale farmers in an introduction to biodynamic agriculture and beekeeping in four different local areas each group training 40 small-scale farmers. Your financial support and advice shall be appreciated.                                                             

Contact information for Vincent Okoth Musiko: vmusiko@yahoo.com or  +254 ( 0)728 146 536.

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