Kiitho kya Mawithyululuko is an all-women umbrella body with 153 members engaged in bio-intensive organic farming, poultry keeping and basketry. But these women are not just any other group trying to irk a living out of small agricultural enterprises – a closer look reveals that they only grow indigenous food crops using natural methods of pest control and organic fertilisation.
Even the poultry they keep is indigenous. “We believe that an organic approach to farming is the only way to guarantee a clean and healthy supply of quality foods to society,” says Francesca Mbulu, chairlady of the group.
Besides producing food free from hormones and chemicals, the natural indigenous foods are less susceptible to attack by disease and pests. “Coccidiois is a major chicken disease here but normally our indigenous chicken are not heavily affected like the grade chicken,” says Josphat Kyalo, the group’s coordinator.
“We also weave baskets”, adds Rose Nduku, the secretary of the umbrella body. The group recently got a big contract to make about thirty thousand units. “We have been making baskets the old way for a long time but now the market wants a higher quality of basket we can no longer keep up with. Recently we had an opportunity to be trained on new methods of basketry that meet international basket standards and now we are back on track. We can now access markets we would otherwise not penetrate – thanks to ICE,” says Francesca. The entire basket weaving process up to the dying stage uses natural materials. “The dyes we use are organic and meet international dye standards. We no longer use saliva to weave the sisal fibres to thread like we used to – this is considered unhygienic by international standards.”
The group plans to expand to goat keeping in the future. “Because of the scarcity of feeds, we can no longer sustain large animals like cows. That is why we have opted to keep goats instead,” explains Nduku. These industrious women intend to rear the goats for milk and meat. “These will be indigenous of course!” adds the chair lady with a wide smile setting across her face.