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If you follow the Organic Farmers Market in Nairobi which I have for a couple of years,you may have noticed that there are now more places where they have organized for Kenyans to buy organic food as well as more vendors, which means there has been an increase in the demand for organic food from the Kenyan market.
You must have wondered about what all the noise is about Organic farming and why suddenly there has been a surge in the demand as well as consumption of organic produce. I thought this post would be helpful in helping us appreciate organic farming as well as see why the demand for organic food has grown.
Organic farming is a system of agricultural production that involves the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals using natural ways.
Conserve Energy defines it as a process that involves the use of biological materials,avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage.With a world population that is more than 7 billion and a land size that remains the same yet it is fighting with encroachment from human settlement,the demand for arable land is on the rise and people are looking for all manner of ways to make the most of the available land and animal resources.
One of the ways unscrupulous people have found to get more from their land and animals in order to make a few quick dollars is to pump it with chemicals,pesticides as well as speed up the maturity of farm animals like chicken by injecting them with growth hormones.
The bottom line in all of these endeavors is not a concern for the people who will eventually buy these foods from the supermarkets,it is profit greed that is the only driver for such practices that puts the lives of other human lives at risk.
It is true organic food costs more , because of the work involved as it is a very labor intensive exercise.It is also true that you expose yourself to less risk if you choose to go organic.
About 4 years back,I lived on a farm in Nakuru where we grew vegetables and other crops I also took up some organic farming on the side as an experiment project as well as to keep me busy.
My crops of choice were potatoes,zucchinis,carrots , to prepare I read widely and found that potatoes do very well especially if you mix dried manure into the soil and so I went about asking for dung from the farmers that owned cows around where we lived.I got a lot of it as well as a lot of curious looks as to what I needed cow dung it for.
But the venture came with a lot of challenges as well.The area where we lived was infested with moles ,how to get rid of them without using chemicals?
And we set about looking for a mole catcher,they do not exist anymore by the way and before we found we had a village of molehills on the farm as well as lost a lot of potatoes.
Up until the time we harvested the potatoes and carrots I never used a single drop of pesticide on them and they did fairly well.They potatoes and carrots came in all manner of sizes and we lost some as well to pests,but I had done it ,grown something without use of a single pesticide or chemical.
The need for organic farming is driven by the need for more sustainable methods of farming that ensure we will still be able to produce enough food 50 years from now on when the world population is estimated will be at more than 10 billion.
For those that have tasted organically grown fruits and vegetables you agree with me that they taste better than what you get from the supermarket shelves.Eggs from free range chicken are also more tastier ,have a yolk with the must delicious yellow color and just a bit smaller than the eggs that you get at the supermarket.
We consume a variety of pesticides and chemicals from foods like chicken,beef and other dairy products as well as from fruits and vegetables .The chemicals from pesticides and other drugs like antibiotics used to treat these animals have found their way into our food and we have started seeing resistance to the most widely available antibiotics used to treat very common infections.
Scientists are having to work very hard to keep up with the microbial mutations are now resisting the currently available antibiotics.
These resistance is leaving scientists and researchers worried as it means the increased resistance by disease causing bacteria to these drugs will expose us to infections which currently available antibiotics will not be able to treat.
The discovery of the latest antibiotic was reported this April and it was done by Canadian scientists,it was the first in antibiotic discovery in 3 decades 30 years and the drug is still years away from being available to the public.
The increasing public awareness on what is going on,increasing incidences of disease and the effects of environmentally unsustainable decades of farming methods have pushed organic farming front and centre.
If you are in Nairobi, follow the Organic Farmers Market on Facebook to see where the market will be next and get to interact with the farmers working hard to ensure we produce food in a more sustainable ad environmentally friendly manner than we are d right now.
Why is organic farming important and why should you care,I have a few reasons to think about why organic matters and who knows maybe you may take it up or talk to someone about it then we have a new generation of organic farmers.We may even meet at the Organic market.
1.Buying organic foods creates a demand in the market and will push farmers to be more responsible especially over the use of pesticides and other chemicals as they grow crops or rear their animals.This is already happening in some countries where consumers are demanding more responsibility over the use of drugs and pesticides.
In this way we are promoting a more sustainable model that ensures the earth is able to feed the future generations that come after us.
2.Buying organic foods means that you get the foods fresh,these foods have not been treated with any preservatives or had nay additives added to them to lengthen their shelf life.
The shelf life of organic foods is very short because of their very minimal journey from the farm to your plate which is what has encouraged the farm to fork movement globally and has had people support local farmers by buying local foods.
3.Buying organic has helped promoted the growth of agriculture as a means of livelihood especially among young people. Across the globe young adults are taking up agriculture and providing us with food.It has helped stem the increase in the number of the unemployed,helped increase food production as well as seen technology revolutionize farming.Europe has seen the number of its youthful population taking up farming,you may find this article from The Economist really interesting.
In Kenya as well we have several groups on social media platforms talking nothing but farming.See how dailies are falling over themselves to provide information on farming especially in the Saturday paper .
Young people are going back to the farms to ensure there is food for the more than 7 billion of us.
4.Buying organic and consuming organic ensures you know where your food comes from,how it gets produced and what goes into the production process.You are reducing your exposure to the chemical toxins that could put you at risk of developing certain life threatening conditions through the ingestion of chemicals that may have been used in their production ,processing or packing.
5.By buying organic you get to interact with the farmers that grow your food and there are benefits to that.There is nothing like meeting the person or people that put so much work to ensure you do not go hungry and appreciating the work they do.Human interaction especially in an age where technology is taking over how we socialize with each other,a conversation with another human being is always a great way to spend the weekend.I think one of the reasons people in big cities like Nairobi are always angry and stressed is because we speak so little to each to other,yet we know healthy relationships are part of living a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle.
6.Taking your children with you to the organic market for grocery shopping and let them feel,touch,sell and taste food.As I mentioned in an earlier post taking your children grocery shopping is a way of getting them involved in meal planning and ensuring they adopt healthy eating habits early in life.
They will get to know how to choose fresh ingredients,how fresh food looks like and most important they will learn to value the hard work of the people like farmers who work behind the scenes to make sure we get fed.
And just in case your children hardly ever get to travel upcountry,they will know food does not grow in the supermarket :-).
7.Buying organic is an opportunity to increase the awareness on more sustainable forms of agriculture and hopefully this will lead to legislation by governments as well as push them to develop policies that can protect as well as promote organic farming.
Do you buy or grown organic food?would you love to be featured on our blog,please get in touch with us.
As always your feedback,comments and suggestions are welcome.See you in the comments section.
Having listened to a lot of people share the challenges that come with losing weight or making a healthier choice of what they put into their bodies,I do find that a lot of them have the mistaken belief that to live healthy is somehow more expensive.
It is not.
It is also interesting to see that most people choose to eat out rather than carry lunch or a snack to work which I think is healthier because then you know exactly what has gone into preparing that meal.
Carrying lunch or a snack to work was something I did when was employed some time back and the greatest motivation for doing so was because I got to save some of the money I would have used for lunch on something else like shoes or a handbag.
And no,I really do not mean that you should not enjoy lunch with friends and colleagues every now and then, you can .
To live healthy and to lose weight is affordable because we live in a country blessed with an abundance of healthy food.
When writing down meal plans for people who either want to adopt a healthier lifestyle or lose weight or manage any condition my first rule of thumb is to always get to hear from them what it is that they like eating .
Some of the questions I ask is what foods they enjoy eating and how using those choices I can help them make more healthier choices.Getting to know other foods then enjoy eating helps me show them how they can incorporate healthier choices from the foods that are available to them and that they can afford.
That is how I come up with a meal plan.
The first thing in being able to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle is to take stock of where you are and how you got there and a great tool that will tell you exactly how you ended up there is by keeping a food diary.
A food diary is a record of everything you eat through out the day,how often and in what amounts.It includes keeping track of what you ate for breakfast,lunch,dinner and any snacks in between.You need also to have an idea of how many tablespoons of oil you use in preparing your meals,how much margarine/butter and the number of teaspoons of sugar you are taking in.
A food diary can surprise you and just by looking at it you will be surprised at how much you really take in.With a detailed food diary a Nutritionist is able to calculate exactly how many calories you are taking in.
Now,back to discussing living healthy is not expensive and I will show how you can do that in just 3 simple ways.
1.Know where to shop
In Kenya we are blessed with an abundance of food and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can eat and are willing to spend.You just have to know where you need to be shopping.
Vegetables and fruits especially come cheap and we have no excuse to not eat more of them .Sources of carbohydrates like rice,maize flour,wheat flour,traditional grains like millet and sorghum are very readily available.You can get them at the supermarket,neighborhood kiosk or in the numerous open air markets scattered throughout Nairobi.
Toi market that is located on Ngong Road is a great place to buy vegetables cheaply and City Market gives you fairer prices on beef,chicken and fish fillets.Ngara Market and City Market just opposite the Aga Khan hospital will also give you a wide variety of fresh vegetables to pick from.
There are also the organic markets organized at various venues around Nairobi by the Organic Farmers Market as well as farmers around Nairobi who do deliveries of their produce every week.
It is the sources of protein that make mealtimes more expensive but you do not have to have beef,chicken,fish fillets to meet your nutritional requirements for protein.More affordable sources of protein are legumes like various varieties of beans,dried peas,omena(Lake Victoria sardines) offer youd the proteins your body needs without breaking the bank.
Omena can be bought for cheap at Toi Market.
“Yes,good food does not have to be eaten with a fork.It is all around us if we are willing to make the right choice.”
2.Carrying lunch or snacks to work
Which do you think is easier,carrying lunch to work or buying food 5 times a week from a restaurant ?
When you carry lunch to work then you have more choice over what exactly is in your plate and especially if you are losing weight then you need to know what it is you are putting into your body.
Having watched how our food habits have been changing over the years,I am happy to see the opening of more restaurants that are serving real food as well as the demand from Kenyans for healthier food rather than the choice of fries, deep fried chicken and soda that was available some years back.
This demand has seen restaurants that are serving traditional Kenyan foods as well as foods from other cultures find a home as well as enthusiastic foodies in Nairobi.
There has been an increase as well in the number of entrepreneurs setting up companies giving the Kenyan consumer more healthy food choices.
3.Learn how to cook
Maybe after reading the first two you thought how can I eat healthy when I cannot cook and I do not have time to learn?
If you cannot enroll for a class,but a cookery book from any of the bookshops,follow food bloggers or watch the food shows available on TV or YouTube as well.
A quick search of this blog will give you some recipes,easy ones I promise using local ingredients that you will enjoy.
When you cook for yourself you get to experiment and once you get cooking you will be surprised at what you can whip up with simple ingredients and a sense of creativity.
Eating healthy is only one side of the healthy living coin,physical exercise is the second side.
One of the most affordable ways of exercising available to anyone on planet earth is walking.Physical exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and every human being of whatever age will thrive with physical activity.
Physical activity also helps reduce the risk of developing certain conditions that may come with weight gain and it also helps improve physical as well as psychological well-being.
As always I love hearing feedback from readers,how are you living healthy or making more healthy choices,what has helped and what do you think I have left out from my list that has helped you and would help someone else?
Please share your feedback in the comments section.
“It is embarrassing that in the 21st century women should have to be expressing milk in washrooms and toilets.”
-Bob Collymore CEO,Safaricom
You know the event you are attending is going to be great and has been well planned for months when you are handed a sky blue media kit complete with a DVD by UNICEF .
I am entering the Michael Joseph Center and it looks resplendent in blue and white colors for the official launch of the breastfeeding week that is being celebrated in more than 17 countries across the world.
But first a thorough security check you are entering “Fort Knox”.
The Ministry of health together with relevant stake holders is launching Guidelines on Support for Working Mothers A first in Kenyaand the theme for this year is Breastfeeding at Work,Lets make it Work.
The Chief Guest for the event is James Macharia,the Cabinet Secretary for Health but he sends Dr James Kioko in his place.
As usual we are a wee bit late in starting the event,but not to worry i get time to admire the baby piano and nice seats at the MJ center,i almost wish i could carry one or six with me .
We are first led on a tour of Safaricom”s Mothers room and creche,facilities that are a first for a Kenyan company to invest in for their female staff who are parents or plan to be in the near future.
As Mrs Marilyn Mbuthia the Head of HR Operations tells us,female staff at Safaricom get an extra one month of maternity leave in addition to the statutory 12 weeks the government recommends.
Mothers working here also enjoy flexible working hours and a medical insurance that covers all costs from pre- natal,post natal to delivery costs.
We got entertainment from a group of mothers called Diamond Mothers,who meet at St Teresa’s Catholic Church in Mathare,an informal settlement in Nairobi and their skit on the challenges and benefits of breastfeeding deserved an award.
One of the mothers from the group recounted her experience losing a child at 5 months because she had started giving him complementary foods at 1 month.There was in drop silence as she told her story in Swahili.
The CEO of Safaricom Bob Collymore gave a passionate appeal for corporates to see facilities like a mothers room as being the right thing to do.
Every company needs to support women who choose to breastfeed and it need not be an expensive venture like what they have done,a mothers room to express milk is enough.
While making the workplace a conducive environment for mothers has largely been led by the private sector will the public sector slow to follow ,it is a milestone to finally see the government launch guidelines on making the workplace a more family and child friendly environment.
Who knows,we may just see a creche at parliament .