The numerous demonstration garden units of the Crops Department are a vital component of MHAC’s programs in GROW BIOINTENSIVE training. The department is divided into four sections, field crop, gardens, research, and agro-forestry.
The most important principle of GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming is learning to care for the soil, for the soil to nourish the crops so that the crops can nourish ourselves. Returning to the soil what we take out leads to improved and sustainable soil fertility. In short we "grow the soil", which is the backbone of sustainable farming.
Our GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming activities that help small-scale farmers produce more healthy products include:
· Recycling and composting of crop residue, animal manure and green manuring
· Crop rotation, diversity, companion planting, and growing open pollinated crops
· Deep soil preparation
· Mulching to conserve moisture
· Close spacing of plants, enabled by these practices.
We don't use man-made chemical based fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Compost, tea manure and some local plant extracts are used for appropriate purposes in crop production. Our farming practices are environmentally friendly and sustainable.
John Okomba, head of Crops Department
Livestock Department, a student attends to chicks
MHAC offers training in livestock management, including dairy cattle, dairy goats, sheep, poultry, pigs, donkeys and rabbits. MHAC lays emphasis on training farmers to keep and manage small ruminants like the dairy goats for milk production and other small livestock such as chicken and rabbits to produce valuable animal proteins that help alleviate malnutrition. This training is especially relevant for resource poor small-scale farmers without the adequate land and resources needed to rear large ruminants. The amount of food required for one Friesian dairy cow can sustain approximately 5 dairy goats.
Training on livestock is offered as an integral part of GROW BIOINTENSIVE at the Centre. The animals, farmers and crops enjoy a mutual interrelationship in this sustainable farming system. As the farmers who have adopted the GROW BIOINTENSIVE technology reap high yields of healthy organic produce, the small livestock utilize crop residues from the organic garden and produce valuable additional products for the family food and income. The animals’ waste products are recycled on the farm to boost soil fertility—plant nutrients are therefore recycled through the animal and crop wastes back to the soil for new plants uptake.
Chicken production is highly valued by over 90% of the farmer groups who attend training at the Centre. Poultry farming can be a very important means of providing proteins from eggs and meat, and a source of income to the family. Rabbits can be cheaply kept and easily multiplied to large numbers in a short time as they require little food and their generation interval is short. Rabbits produce good quality meat.
MHAC outreach farmer has learned how to keep healthy dairy goats
Antcha Kaye, 3-month MHAC trainee from Chad
Appropriate Technology Department
MHAC aims to inspire and mentor students in courses on appropriate technology that can accelerate socio-economic development of the nation.
The Appropriate Technology Department also offers consultancy services to outside organizations and individuals in biogas technology, bee keeping, solar energy and draft animal technology. Some of the consulting organizations include ITDG, FITCA, the Ministry of Agriculture, Church Based Organizations, and World Vision.
We make and sell bee-keeping equipment, draft animal harnesses and accessories, solar cookers, solar water heaters, wood/fuel saving jikos (burners), and more.
We have been recognized for excellence in a wide range of innovations.For example, we developed and tested a donkey harness that is used specifically in steep slope terrain to carry aluminum milk containers (cans).We have developed an improved solar water heating system by incorporating a “kuni” booster water heating device.Because it uses both solar energy and dry biomass it is more effective, especially on cloudy days.Experimentation with innovation is continuous at MHAC.
Our technical expertise has been shared with many farmers, oranizations, and government extension officers through demonstrations, training, consultancy services, and exhibitions during the Agricultural Show of Kenya (ASK), North Rift Branch, Kitale.