Mlango Farm: A love affair with soil

Mlango Farm, situated in Ngecha village in Limuru, can only be described as a labor of love. Kamande Njenga and his wife Els Breet, moved into the farm in 2007 as newlyweds when the farm was nothing but bush. Today, they have been able to transform 10 acres of the land into an agricultural sanctuary where quality and sustainable foods are grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. To many this may seem a classic example of organic farming, but to Els it is still a work in progress as they are yet to power all machines at the farm with solar energy. Her determination to use 100% renewable energy to consider herself a fully organic farmer is admirable. It is hard to believe that neither Kamande nor Els had a background in agriculture when they started the farm. All the knowledge and skills they possess have been acquired through initially collaborating with experts and later, online resources. “When you are determined to learn, Google becomes your best friend” says Els. They attribute their success to understanding the fundamentals of farming, which, according to them, starts with healthy soil.
On the Mlango Farm website, they describe soil as a “partner which has to be kept healthy and treated with care.” This principle is evident in the way they use compost, crop residue, and crop rotation to enrich the soil. They are fully aware of the fact that building soil fertility over a period of time using organic matter makes all the major soil nutrients that are taken up by plants or lost through soil erosion naturally thus maintaining soil fertility. The success of soil care at the farm is evident through the quality of their produce. Many of their customers can attest to the tastiness of their produce.

Mlango Farm sits on a slope, which for most farmers can be a challenge, but Kamande and Els have worked with the landscape to create beautiful terraces and contours as a soil and water conservation measure, and for ease of farming. The accidental product of these particular conservation measures is they help to show off an attractive display of the colorful varieties of vegetables and herbs grown throughout the well-organized farm. One would be tempted to think that it was a floral display. They have also incorporated cover crops that ensure the soil remains intact and prevents surface runoff.

On youth and farming

Kamande and Els strongly believe that there should be more emphasis on farming in our education system if the youth are to be enticed into farming. It is because of this that they started the Mlango Farm Foundation, which raises funds to facilitate farm tours for schoolchildren, with the sole purpose of exposing them to agriculture in a fun and engaging way. The children get an opportunity to learn through first-hand experience on the farm doing activities like planting, weeding, watering and pick fresh produce. They also learn about the soil and its composition in a fun way that involves them seeing and touching worms from the compost. The use of visual aids and group activities ensures that the kids retain all that they learn and ensure that their attitude to farming is positive and fun. The children also get a chance to interact with a few farm animals like ducks, sheep, a horse, chickens and many more, which are kept specifically at Mlango Farm to entertain the children.

Mlango Farm grows Amaranth, Arrowroot, Avocado, Baby Carrot, Bananas, Beetroot, Borage, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese cabbage, Chives, Chayote, Courgette, Cucumber, Daikon, Coriander, Eggplant, Fennel, Green capsicum, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena, Lettuce (12 different types), Mint, Mizuna, Nasturtium, New Zealand Spinach, Pakchoi, Parsley, Peaches (only in November), Radish, Red Cabbage, Rucola, Sage, Savoy cabbage, Spinach, Spring Onion, Sukuma Wiki, Sweet potato, Swiss Chard, Taragon, Tatsoi, Tree tomatoes, Turnips. They also deliver fresh vegetables daily to hotels and restaurants in Nairobi and its environs, and farm share baskets with a variety of vegetables to individuals. In an isolated part of Mlango farm are bees, which play an integral part in the ecosystem and produce high quality honey. The honey is also sold to individual buyers.