Growing up in Murang’a, Mr Mwangi — now final year Bachelor of Commerce student at Catholic University — was fond of the farm on which his family grew fruits and vegetables. But as he grew older, he noticed something unusual: the quality of the soil was deteriorating and the land was no longer as productive as before.
Unable to explain the phenomenon, he went round seeking a solution from other farmers.
“Every farmer I talked to advised me on various chemicals and fertilisers that I could use but I could not comprehend it.
Their names were too hard and I decided I could not use products whose names I could hardly pronounce,” he told the Business Daily in a recent interview.
Unable to find a viable solution, Mr Mwangi turned his search online. Little did he know that his presence online would later earn him important African farming accolades.
It took him one year to research on best farming practices and in the end organic farming was what he settled on. “Most people do not know about organic farming. It allows the soil to replenish itself. It is also the best pest control method,” said Mr Mwangi.
Thanks to his decision, his family’s 15-acre farm is fertile once again. They grow maize, beans, passion fruit, potatoes, parsley, cabbages and spinach on rotational basis. They also practice greenhouse and bamboo farming, which has proved to be lucrative.
Bamboo has a ready market in furniture dealers who are using it to replace wood which has become costly and unfriendly to the environment due to deforestation. Bamboo also takes a shorter period to grow and can be used as hedges and later harvested for cash.
Since Mr Mwangi is now a full-time student living in Nairobi, he is not fully involved with the technical work on the farm.
Instead, he has affirmed his role as the farm’s strategic manager in charge of research and marketing.
He has also sought to share his farm experience with other youth through his blog Youth Agropreneur, a blog he established in October last year with the goal of sharing important farming information with the public. Youth Agropreneur was short-listed in the YoBloco youth in agriculture blog competition award.
The blog won third place. Mr Mwangi will be travelling to Johannesburg, in May to receive his 800 euro cash prize and trophy.
“I first ran a blog on agriculture investments called investment Kenya.wordpress.com, then I decided to launch another blog that focuses on agriculture only—the one that won.”
He says that he learnt about the competition when a friend twitted him about it. One of the requirements was that the blog had to be solely on agriculture.
He says he was confident that he was going to make it among the top three, having searched through similar Web sites to compare with his.
With the prize money, Mr Mwangi intends to buy blue berry vines and set up an organic berry farm. But before that he will need to seek licence from UK for his organic export since that is the market that fascinates him. Each blue berry vine sells for Sh600.
The win has turned him into an avid blogger. He now contributes to two other blogs and runs three others on health, agriculture and technology.
“I blog on health and investments in agriculture.” Mr Mwangi advises youth to follow their passion instead of eyeing short-term monetary gain from job opportunities.
He advises them to invest in rewarding long-term ventures. “I started blogging one-and a-half year ago and its only last week that I got a huge reward for it. It took long but it was worth it,” he says.
Other winners were Nawsheen Hosenally, 23, from Mauritius, who took the first prize. Her blog link is http://nawsheenh.blogspot.com/.
The other top blogger was Sourou Nankpan from Benin. He is a 28-year-old biotechnologist graduate. His website link is http://www.agrobenin.com/
Two other Kenyans featured as runners up. They are Hudson Were, 28, and Grace Wanene aged 23.
They featured in position five and six respectively. Mr Were is an environmental science graduate from Kenyatta University. He was hosting a blog on sustainable development but later integrated agriculture into it. His website aims to provide the youth with information on agriculture and how to get them involved in farming.
He says the competition has helped him acquire more knowledge on farming techniques since is required to carry out extensive reading before writing an article. It has also provided him with the opportunity to network.
He is currently working with Biovision farmers’ communication project as the project assistant.
Ms Wanene is an environmentalist who is passionate about conservation, agriculture and rural development. She is a Bachelor of Science graduate from Egerton University. She launched her blog— Youth Agro-environment initiative in 2011.
The YoBloco competition was funded by Technical Centre for Agricultural and rural co-operation (CTA), a joint institution of African, Caribbean and Pacific, and European Union (EU) that seeks to advance food security through sound natural resource management and knowledge sharing.
The organisation, which is based in the Netherland, has 79 countries as members.
This article was originally published on Business Daily.