Nairobi,September 28,2017.Earlier this year, the Oserian Fairtrade joint body- known as the Fairtrade Premium Committee (FTPC) started a thriving nutrition garden on 2 acres of land allocated to them by Oserian. This project is aimed at improving workers welfare. It serves as both educational learning experience-to educate the staff on how to grow local vegetable, and it improves the health of the workers through proper nutrition with healthy fresh vegetables. Priority is given to HIV/AIDS groups and orphans, and the remainder of the vegetables is given out through the various workers welfare committees. The Nutrition Garden is managed by FTPC, with advice from Oserian’s own in-house agronomist Stephen Musyoka. The nutrition garden is yielding a bumper harvest of nutritionally rich vegetables.
How do they do it?
The FTPC started off by taking soil samples and sending them to CropNuts laboratory to test for diseases, nematodes and the mineral content. This gave them a starting point to work with. Low levels of Pratylenchus nematodes were found in the soil and medium levels of Ralstonia- a bacteria that can be very detrimental for tomatoes and potatoes. The virgin soil had low levels of plant nutrients, which is common for Naivasha and no excess minerals or sodium which would have affected the production. Lots of rich, well-rotten compost was dug into the soil to boost the organic matter content and the nutritional levels. Increasing the organic matter improves the microbial diversity in the soil and is very good at controlling nematodes. Nice high raised beds were prepared to keep the soil aerated and free draining, for healthy active plant roots. They started clean, strong. Pest and disease free seedlings from reputable seedling supplier and chose plants that are not susceptible to Ralstonia- onions, cabbages and managu.
The plants are irrigated via drip irrigation to ensure good water efficiency and fed with soluble fertilizers through a basic fertigation system, with a feeding program designed by Stephen. A very strict crop rotation schedule is followed to make sure that the same type of plant does not go into the same area of soil. This ensures that pests and diseases do not build up and harsh pesticides do not have to be used.
Calientes mustard is planted as a green manure and break crop between the crop cycles and dug into the soil. This builds up the fertility of the soil, suppressing diseases and nematodes and enhancing soil microbial diversity. Weeds are kept to a minimum with regular weeding-weeds can bring in diseases and insects and reduce yields. The weeds are pulled out before they seed and are added to the compost, waste not-want not!
Going forward, to keep the momentum of high yields and nutrient rich vegetables, the FTPC plans to do annual soil health checks with CropNuts. They add gypsum which is good for high potassium soil: improving the soil crump structure and bringing extra calcium into the soil and the vegetables- good for soil and good for health of the workers. They regularly add compost to keep the organic matter level high and will maintain the strict crop rotation, and start slowly adding a wider range of vegetables to the program, to bring in more diversity.
Well done Oserian and the FTPC, for the brilliant initiative and a great educational and nutritional program!