City farmer who doesn’t need acres
Urban farming in greenhouses is fast gaining popularity among Nairobians as a viable business.
Farmers are exporting fruits and vegetables to the European Union and keeping supermarkets well-stocked.
Wanjiru Kamau, is one such farmer. Her two greenhouses in Loresho are lush with strawberries, basal herbs and mustard greens, tomatoes and beans.
“You can grow anything in a greenhouse,” says Dr Wanjiru whose house sits on a half an acre land.
She is also the executive director of Mavuuno Greenhouses Inc. which teaches farmers how to use affordable materials.
For instance, instead of using the conventional metal pipes for support, she uses plastic pipes which are rust-proof.
“We also use wood instead of metal because it is affordable for poor farmers and starters,” she says.
Greenhouse technology, Dr Wanjiru says, is weather specific and every case is unique.
However, there are ‘musts’ that every farmer follows in order to reap a bumper harvest.
“The nylon paper that covers the plants stops ultra-violet rays. The only thing that is allowed inside is the warmth. The net, which is a few inches above the ground, keeps off insects. In hotter areas, the net is longer,” she explains.
She uses drip irrigation to control the water intake. To avoid flooding during the rainy season, Wanjiru has dug trenches around the greenhouse.
“Water economy is important for your greenhouse because it reduces labour in that there will be no weeds,” says the trained psychologist who prefers natural manure to fertiliser.
“We always take soil samples to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute for testing. This is important because different soils need different nutrients,” she adds.
“The structure has little to do with your success as a greenhouse farmer. What you do inside is the most important thing.”