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Biopesticides saving Kenyan farmers costs
as consumers go for home grown organic

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- In his farm store in Athi River, south of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, where he farms vegetables, John Gatitu keeps plenty of hot chili, onions and garlic.

One may think that he is storing the produce so that he can get seeds from them, but they are not.

These are his biopesticides.

As the cost of inorganic pesticides rise in the east African nation following the government’s imposition of a 16 percent value-added tax (VAT) on the products, an increasing number of farmers like Gatitu are turning to farm-made concoctions to save costs.

Besides onions, garlic and chili, farmers are also using aloe vera, tithonia and rabbit urine, the latter two also working as biofertilizers.

"I had attended lessons on how to use the biofertilizers some years back, but I had never put them into use because I found the inorganic pesticides convenient since you buy, mix and spray," Gatitu said.

"But with the cost of pesticides rising, I have been forced to turn to the organic pesticides, which I am now making at home."

To make the biopesticides, Gatitu starts by assembling the ingredients from fellow farmers growing the crops in the region.

Then, he slices eight pieces of onions and mixes with about a kilogram of chili and vinegar.

"This mixture is then diluted with a liter of water and boiled for about 20 minutes, and it is ready for use.

"But it is not used as it is, it is diluted with 20 liters of water before spraying," he explained.

Gatitu uses the biopesticide to keep at bay pests that include thrips, caterpillars and aphids, which attack tomatoes, collard greens and cabbages.

"This is what I have been using since September," said Gatitu.

"It has worked so fine that I have now ditched most of the pesticides I have been using all those years."

Following the imposition of the 16 percent VAT on pesticides in August, prices of chemicals have risen by a similar margin or more.

A 150-ml pack of a pesticide that was going for an average of 150 shillings (1.47 U.S. dollars) now retails at an equivalent of 1.76 dollars.

"I farm on an acre and I have divided the farm into three portions, one hosts onions, the other cabbages and the other collard greens.

"I would spend up to 49 dollars a month on pesticides but with the concoction I make, I am not even using a quarter of the amount," Gatitu said.

Simon Mwaki, a vegetable farmer who is also using farm-made biopesticides on his farm in Juja, noted that by avoiding chemicals, he is killing two birds with one stone.

"First is that I am able to save costs, therefore, reduce my production expenses, but most importantly, I am responding to needs of consumers who are increasingly becoming health-conscious and want to consume pesticide-free foods," he said, noting organic foods are fetching higher prices in the market.

According to him, chili has a chemical called capsaicin which repels some pests and kills others by causing metabolic disruption.

The same applies to rabbit urine, which is mixed with water and sprayed on crops like tomatoes, killing many pests.

Fertilizer prices were also pushed up by shortage in the market, which also affected flower growers.

To cut cost and fill the gap, many farmers in Kenya have embraced rabbit urine, animal manure and plant compost as biofertilizers, and grow the crops organically.

Vincent Munywoki, an agronomist in Kiambu on the outskirts of Nairobi, noted that the concoctions farmers are using are effective but just like inorganic pesticides, one needs to keep on changing them to curb resistance.

"Another danger of the farm-made pesticides is that one farmer may mix it correctly and the other not in right quantities, therefore, failing to contain pests," he said.



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