Conserving Biodiversity Organically
Agriculture has been considered to be the backbone of Kenya’s economy. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the agricultural sector boasts of contributing 26% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 % of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors. Further, it employs more than 40% of the total population and more than 70% of Kenya’s rural people.
Also, 65% of the export earnings are attributed to agriculture. The agricultural sector provides a livelihood for more than 80% of the Kenyan population and contributes to improving nutrition through the production of safe, diverse and nutrient-dense foods. According to the FAO ESA Working paper No. 11-02 March 2011 on the Role of Women in Agriculture, it is estimated that 50% of the workforce in the agricultural sector more so in developing countries are women.
This shows that agriculture is an integral part of our society and must be well sustained. Not only because of the income generated but also food and nutrition security. The mode of farming we are familiar with is the use of synthetic agrichemicals. The pros of this form of farming are higher crop yields and higher crop quality. The downside, however, is that the system threatens biodiversity and there is a higher risk of contamination of food products with harmful chemical residues which in turn affects our health.
Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are part. Biodiversity plays a role in providing humans with raw materials for consumption and production, creating a functioning ecosystem that supplies oxygen, clean air and water and, pollination of plants. Most importantly, biodiversity plays a key role in human nutrition through its influence on food production.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), we are currently using 25% more natural resources than the planet can sustain. As a result, species, habitats, and local communities are under pressure or direct threat. The loss in biodiversity is greatly attributed to human activities. This loss contributes to reduced food production, a rise in infectious diseases and decreased plant life which can be used for medicinal and other health uses.
Taking care of mother nature should be our priority because if we fail to do so, nature will retaliate. This is not only a mandate given to us by God in the Garden of Eden but also forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we mark World Environment Day whose theme is biodiversity, we have our role to play. One way of managing and conserving biodiversity is by reducing the number of synthetic farm chemicals used. This can be done through organic farming.
Organic farming is an agricultural system that uses biological materials, avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage. This system encourages the use of ecologically based pest controls and biological fertilizers derived from animal and plant wastes.
In Kenya, organic farming is picking up and the weekly organic markets are proof of this. Increased awareness of the benefits of organic foods has led to an increased demand for the products. A report from the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) states that from the 200,00 farmers who have been trained on all aspects of organic production, only 13,000 farmers have undergone certification. There is a gap that needs to be addressed if the country is to meet the demand for organic products.
Despite the high demand and low supply of organically grown products, as Winnie’s Pure Health, we have taken up the mantle of biodiversity conservation and management through training farmers on organic farming and manufacturing organically grown products.
Like the hummingbird story narrated by the late Prof. Wangari Maathai, “Do not disregard your efforts no matter how small they may be. Just do it!”