Transforming Farming in Semi-Arid Regions with Paper Mulching: The Success Story of Samuel Gachoka Mwaniki
How the Innovative Use of Paper Mulching Can Help Farmers Combat Nematodes, Reduce Production Costs, and Boost Yields in Dry and Semi-Arid Regions.
Samuel Gachoka Mwaniki is a Kenyan farmer who has faced numerous challenges over the years but has managed to overcome them through determination and innovation. His story is an inspiration to many farmers who are struggling to make a living from agriculture.
Mwaniki started farming in 2008 but faced numerous challenges, including nematodes and fungal diseases associated with the pests. These diseases are difficult to detect, but crops affected by nematodes do not thrive, turn pale, wilt and eventually die. Until he took a short break in 2018, Mwaniki was growing French beans, tomatoes, onions, cabbage and capsicum on his 20-acre farm in Joska, Machakos County.
One of his biggest challenges was water. He relied on the heavily polluted and scarce River Athi to irrigate his crops, and he feared producing crops that would not be fit for human consumption. Tuta absoluta, a highly destructive pest, also gave Mwaniki endless sleepless nights. He recalls losing his spinach and tomato harvest valued at Sh400,000 to nematodes.
After the heavy financial loss, Mwaniki took a leave to plan the way forward. He engaged in research and talked with an Ol Joro Orok-based farmer who was using paper mulch to grow his crops. He then moved to Naivasha to revive his farming and started practising paper mulching on tomatoes.
Paper mulching, also known as plastic mulching, helps keep crop diseases and pests away. Mwaniki’s five-acre farm in Naivasha has capsicum, red and white cabbage, onions, spinach, and sukuma wiki. Plastic mulching is practised on an acre that has green pepper and red cabbage.
Mwaniki says the shiny dark-grey polythene paper greatly reduces production costs. “Apart from helping control pests and diseases, the paper stops the growth of weeds and conserves moisture,” he says.
Crops grown using the technology mature fast, and Mwaniki says he starts harvesting capsicum two months after transplanting, instead of three under open soil. “The technology is not labour-intensive and reduces production costs by up to 80 per cent,” says the 42-year-old politician.
Mwaniki’s story shows that farmers can benefit from adopting innovative and sustainable farming practices. Paper mulching is a viable farming method, especially in dry and semi-arid areas, since it reduces evaporation. This technology can transform a semi-arid region into a food basket, as demonstrated by Mwaniki’s farm.
The use of paper mulch has enabled Mwaniki to produce vegetables and fruits organically, as it has largely reduced the use of chemicals. In addition, his produce is clean, and he has managed to reduce his production costs significantly. Whiteflies are the only pests that attack Mwaniki’s crops, and he has managed to control them using environmentally friendly methods.
Farmers facing similar challenges can benefit from Mwaniki’s story by adopting similar sustainable farming practices. Paper mulching is a simple but effective technique that can help control pests and diseases, reduce weed growth, and conserve moisture. It is also labour-saving and reduces production costs significantly.
Mwaniki’s experience shows that farmers can achieve success through innovation and perseverance. Despite facing numerous challenges, he never gave up on farming and sought innovative solutions to his problems. His story is an inspiration to many farmers who are struggling to make a living from agriculture.
In addition to adopting sustainable farming practices, farmers can also benefit from networking and seeking advice from experienced farmers. Mwaniki learned about paper mulching from an Ol Joro Orok-based farmer, and he has since shared his experience with other farmers in his region. Networking can help farmers learn about new farming practices and technologies,