Table of Contents
- Principles of Bio-Farming
- 1. Bio-farming is a living organism
- 2. Bio-farming leads to biodiversity
- 3. Bio-farming must include both animals and plants
- 4. Bio-farming provides farm fertility
- 5. Eco-farming compost is made with farm waste
- 6. Bio-farming creates awareness
- 7. Eco-farming promotes unique seeds and animal breeds
- 8. Bio-farming promotes plant and soil health
- 9. Bio-farming is respectful to animals
- 10. Bio-farming works in harmony with the environment
- 11. Holistic approach to pests and diseases
- 12. Bio-farming offers future solutions
- Animal Care in Bio-Farming
- Feeding Animals in a Bio-Farm
- Fertilizing the Land in Bio-Farming
- Benefits of Bio-Farming
- FAQs About Bio-Farming in Kenya
- Final Thoughts
Bio-farming in Kenya is a relatively new concept that is slowly gaining momentum. Many governmental and private agencies advocate for this farming method due to its immense environmental benefits. But what are the benefits of this type of farming over the other methods? How is it practised? Most of all, is it a good farming method for farmers?
In this article, we shall learn about bio-farming, its principles, and how you can begin or transition to this farming method. We shall also learn about its benefits both to the farmer as well as to the environment. Keep reading the article to gain a better understanding of bio-farming in Kenya.
Bio-farming, also called eco-farming, is the production of human food through natural means, with no or limited impact on the environment. The farmer has to consider the environmental setup in order to come up with the best way of food production without importing external products (fertilizers and pesticides) into the farm.
Probably the question in your mind right now would be, ‘what about organic farming?’ Bio-farming is considered a stricter form of organic farming. It can be said that before your product is certified as a bioproduct, it will already be an organic product. Organic farming aims to produce food of high nutritional quality and flavor while avoiding using artificial fertilizers or synthetic chemicals, with some limited use of naturally-occurring pesticides and fertilizers.
Bio-farming takes those standards further. It considers all aspects of the farm as closely related and linked together. This philosophy extends to animals, soils, plants, and mother nature. Bio-dynamic farming aims to produce highly nutritious, quality food – creating healthier (and delicious) food options for people while also creating a healthier farm ecosystem. Healthy plants and animals create healthier soils that replenish the earth by building fertility from within.
Organic farming adheres to the following guidelines:
- No use of chemical pesticides.
- No use of artificial fertiliser.
- No use of genetically modified seeds.
- Responsible use of energy and natural resources.
Eco-farming adheres to the following guidelines:
- The minimization of waste production.
- The recycling of any waste produced (organic waste is placed on the compost pile).
- Planting vegetation around crops increases the welfare of bees, birds, etc.
Principles of Bio-Farming
If you want to practice eco-farming, then you should be aware of the following principles:
1. Bio-farming is a living organism
A bio-farm should be considered as a single living entity with several related elements like fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, and people. Bio farmers and gardeners work to nurture and harmonize these elements, managing them in a holistic and dynamic way to support the health and vitality of the whole. In a bio-farm, no single thing exists without the others. The nurturing of these relationships between the different elements in a bio-farm is what makes it work. If any of the elements fail, the whole system will fail or perform poorly.
2. Bio-farming leads to biodiversity
Each bio-farm or garden is inspired by the biodiversity of natural ecosystems and the uniqueness of each landscape. Annual and perennial vegetables, herbs, flowers, berries, fruits, nuts, grains, pasture, forage, native plants, and pollinator hedgerows can all contribute to plant diversity, amplifying the health and resilience of the farm organism.
Diversity in domestic animals is also beneficial, as each animal species brings a different relationship to the land and unique quality of manure. The diversity of plant and animal life can be developed over time, starting with a few primary crops and one or two species of animals (even as small as earthworms or honeybees), and adding more species as the farm organism matures.
3. Bio-farming must include both animals and plants
For eco-farming to be successful, it must include plants and animals, which work together to fill complementary roles in the web of life. Many conventional and organic farms only grow crops or raise livestock, which may be more efficient by some measures, but creates imbalances such as nutrient deficiency (if only growing plants) or pollution from excess manure (if only raising animals). Bio-farms and gardens work to bring plants, animals, and soil together through living, conscious relationships so that they each support and balance the entire system.
4. Bio-farming provides farm fertility
Eco-farming plants are grown in the ground in living soil, which provides a quality of health and nutrition not possible with chemical fertilizers. Eco-farms aspire to generate their own fertility through composting, integrating animals, cover cropping, and crop rotation. Composting brings animal manures, plant material, and soil into a healthy relationship and transforms them into a potent source of strength and fertility for the farm organism.
Adding different animals to the farm helps cycle nutrients and provides manures that nurture the soil. Cover crops also contribute to on-farm fertility, adding plant diversity and bringing life and sensitivity to the soil through oxygen and nitrogen. Crop rotation helps balance the needs of each crop and enables a diversity of creative expression in the soil. Together, these practices reduce or eliminate the need for imported fertilizers and enable the farm to move toward equilibrium and resilience.
5. Eco-farming compost is made with farm waste
Only bio-degradable farm waste should be used during the preparation of compost in eco-farming. The farmer should be aware of all the natural materials found on the farm that can aid in the preparation of compost manure. There should be no additions imported from outside the farm, which would mean that there are segments of the whole farm that are insufficient. Remember that the whole meaning of eco-farming is to have the farm self-sufficient, with very limited additions from outside.
6. Bio-farming creates awareness
A bio-farmer should be acutely aware and in tune with the environment. That means you carefully examine the land, the animals, and the whole ecosystem in order to understand what is needed at all times. Eco-farming is not a fixed way of farming. Changes should be made when and where they are necessary to keep the whole farm organism moving in tandem. Failure to be aware of what is happening or needed within various parts of the ecosystem will lead to failure of that part, which means eventual failure of the whole farm organism. Remember that failure of one will mean failure of all.
7. Eco-farming promotes unique seeds and animal breeds
Bio-farmers and gardeners favor open-pollinated, heirloom, non-GMO seeds and heritage breeds of animals. As a bio-farmer, you should strive toward generating seed and animal stocks from within the farm, incorporating selection and breeding into farm activities when possible in order to develop unique, locally adapted, and sensitized plants and animals with excellent nutrition and flavor and resistance to pests and diseases.
The natural influence of the environment should be considered in developing plants and animals that can thrive in current conditions and contribute to the health of the farm and community. That is why in eco-farming, the farmer is encouraged to select their own breed of animals and seeds without importing from outside the farm. Only by doing that can you guarantee your seed and animal breeds are the best for your farm. Remember that by importing seed and animal breeds into the farm, you risk importing diseases into the farm.
8. Bio-farming promotes plant and soil health
Biodegradable compost and spray are combined to bring healing, vitality, and sensitivity to the farm and garden. There are two important bio-sprays you should learn about in eco-farming. Horn manure spray and horsetail tea spray. Horn manure spray is made from cow manure buried inside a cow horn during winter. Horn silica increases plant immunity, strengthens photosynthesis, and enhances ripening. Horsetail tea helps prevent fungal diseases and balances the watery element in plants and soil.
Together, biodegradable compost and sprays bring plants into a dynamic relationship with soil, water, air, warmth, and the environment to help them develop in a healthy and balanced way, access the full spectrum of nutrients they need, and become more resilient to pests, diseases, and extreme climate conditions.
9. Bio-farming is respectful to animals
Bio-farmers farmers care for domestic animals in ways that support their inherent health and the full expression of their nature. Animals are given feed that is appropriate for their digestive systems and are never fed animal by-products. Calves and lambs are raised on the milk of the herd, not milk replacers. Chickens keep their beaks, and cows keep their horns, as each part of the animal serves an important natural function. All animals have access to the outdoors, free-range forage, and plenty of space to move around freely. In eco-farming, you should never interfere with the well-being of farm animals.
In Eco-farming, AI (artificial insemination) and treating sick animals with antibiotics is prohibited. Farmers should fertilize their animals using male animals on the farm, and in case an animal falls sick, the farmer is supposed to use natural methods to help cure the disease. That is why in a strict bio-farm, the farmer prefers mercy killing of irrecoverable sick animals rather than confining them or treating them with antibiotics.
10. Bio-farming works in harmony with the environment
In eco-farming, farmers and gardeners observe the rhythms and cycles of the earth, sun, moon, stars, and planets and seek to understand the subtle ways that the environment influences the growth and development of plants and animals. Bio-farming calendars support this awareness and understanding by providing detailed astronomical information and indications of optimal times for sowing, transplanting, cultivating, harvesting, and using the eco-farming preparations.
Bio-farmers are very knowledgeable when it comes to changes in the environment. They can easily tell what each change will bring and what is supposed to be done. Every activity in an eco-farm is guided and informed by these environmental changes and occurrences. Only by strictly observing the environment can a bio-farmer hope to be successful.
11. Holistic approach to pests and diseases
Eco-farming focuses on creating the conditions for optimal soil, plant, and animal health, providing balanced nutrition, and supporting healthy immunity. When farms and gardens incorporate a robust diversity of plants and animals and create a habitat for natural predators, pests and diseases have few places to thrive.
When a disease or pest presents itself, it often points to an imbalance in the farm organism and can be seen as nature’s way of correcting the imbalance. In the case of an outbreak, biological controls can be used, but a bio-farmer also tries to understand the underlying imbalance and find ways to adjust management practices to bring the farm organism to greater health. In eco-farming, prevention is better than cure. Bio-farmers strive to achieve a pest and disease-free environment for all the animals and plants to thrive in.
12. Bio-farming offers future solutions
Eco-farming is a conscious, participatory, and responsible way of farming and being in the world, which brings healing to the soil, plants, animals, people, and the planet. Each unique and self-sustaining farm organism contributes generously to the ecological, economic, social, and spiritual vitality of its surrounding community and the whole living earth. Through biodynamics, we can access new capacities in human creativity to sense and respond to the needs of the earth and unfold new solutions in a living and dynamic way.
Bio-farmers believe that it’s only through sustainable farming practices that the future food security of mankind is assured. That is because conventional farming methods are slowly but surely contributing to the destruction of the environment, which will eventually lead to an environment that cannot produce food.
Animal Care in Bio-Farming
Bio-farmers care for their animals in a way that supports the full expression of their nature. This means that animals are given feed that is appropriate for their digestive and immune systems, which is all grown naturally, often on the farm itself. All animals have access to plenty of space to roam around freely. Dehorning cattle, a common practice with naturally horned breeds, is discouraged in bio-farming.
In eco-farming, the farmer should take care of the animals, not just as a source of wealth and food but as a part of the whole farm. You should understand the importance of the animals in making all other parts of the ecosystem function properly. In a bio-farm, every animal has their part to play, without which the whole system is at risk of failure.
Feeding Animals in a Bio-Farm
Feeding the animals is an important aspect of eco-farming. As a rule, both bio-dynamic and organic farmers will only feed their animals certified bio-farming/organic feed, respectively. However, in organic farming, any amount of organic feed may come from outside of the farm.
Any feed given to the animals in a bio-farm must come from the farm itself. The eventual aim is complete self-sufficiency. This means there is a much larger requirement for bio-dynamic dairy farmers to grow crops to feed the herd – and practicing crop rotation is a must. Bio-farmers select their feed crops based on nutritional quality for the animals but also to promote biodiversity in the surrounding area, with a focus on plants that attract bees and other pollinators.
Fertilizing the Land in Bio-Farming
When it comes to fertilizers, organic and bio-farmers both agree that synthetic fertilizers are unnatural and unnecessary. But as farmers, we’re all practical. We have to do something to help our crops grow, but organic and bio-dynamic farming approaches are a bit different. Under both practices, only approved natural inputs are allowed, as per the organic certification. However, organic farmers are privy to several naturally-made fertilizers, which they may import onto the farm to speed up the growth process.
In eco-farming, bio-farmers are limited to the use of bio-dynamic preparations made on the farm with a mixture of manure, herbs, and minerals. In fact, the preparations must be used for a farm to meet the bio-dynamic certification. All the materials used in a compost must come from the farm, with no additions from outside. It is the view of bio-farmers that if a farm needs to import material from outside, then it is not self-sufficient, and there are imbalances that should be addressed.
Bio-farmers who produce bio-gas have an added advantage because they can use the sludge as a natural fertilizer for their farms. In Kenya, BioZone is the best solution when it comes to biogas production.
The Biozone Biogas Biodigester provides free liquid natural fertilizer, which is very helpful in bio-farming. This biologically stable organic fertilizer is safe to use on any plant. It has very minimal micro-organisms that can be classified as pathogens. It doesn’t give off a strong odor and is easy to administer since it’s a liquid.
Benefits of Bio-Farming
The following are the benefits of bio-farming in Kenya:
- Bio agriculture preserves the environment as it reduces water contamination with chemicals and pesticides.
- It reduces the use of non-renewable energy sources and manufactured materials and thus reduces global warming and the large absorption of soil carbon.
- It makes the soil a living environment where useful animals and creatures grow.
- It enriches wildlife and increases the number of natural enemies and beneficial predators.
- Strengthening and building of the soil through following crop cycles, increasing the organic materials, and stimulating the reproduction of animals and plants.
- Provides healthy food free of antibiotics, chemicals, and pesticides.
- Reducing the risks to farmers resulting from the use of toxic substances.
- Developing the rural areas and making them harmonious with nature.
- It is a source of employment, especially in rural areas, where bio-farms need a lot of manpower.
FAQs About Bio-Farming in Kenya
What is bio-farming?
When they hear about bio-farming or eco-farming, many people assume it is the same as organic farming. But they are slightly different methods of farming. While both methods avoid the usage of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, eco-farming takes it further by ensuring that all bio-materials used in the farm come from the farm itself. While an organic farmer can import organic materials to be used as inputs in the farmer, a bio-farmer will strive to get all the inputs from the farm.
Why are farmers being advised to embrace bio-farming?
There are those who wonder why farmers are being encouraged to establish bio-farms instead of the regular methods of farming. The following are the main reasons:
– The consumer’s desire to obtain safe food that does not contain pesticide residues or chemicals.
– Reducing environmental degradation: The current agricultural practices have led to the use of pesticides and chemicals that pollute the soil and water and hence the food chain (food and water).
– Preserving the fertility and vitality of the soil by repeatedly using compost and not using pesticides.
– Preserving biological diversity.
– Maintaining human health by avoiding consumption of food and water contaminated with pesticides.
– The profitable returns of bio-farming.
How does bio-farming fight climate change?
Many people, especially farmers, wonder why environmentalists advocate for bio-farming when it comes to combating climate change. Eco-farming reduces damage to the environment, for example, by limiting or removing pollutants such as pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers, water conservation practices, soil conservation practices, soil fertility restoration, and the conservation of agricultural biological diversity.
Eco-farming also helps fight climate change by using minimal fossil fuel-produced inputs like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and feeds. By cutting reliance on these inputs, bio-farming ensures minimal carbon footprint.
What are the four pillars of bio-farming?
Many, especially beginner farmers, may have heard about the four pillars of eco-farming and wondered what they are. Bio-farming revolves around crop rotation, green manure/compost, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation. Combined, they transform the farm into a single living entity with closely related operations, making it a success. Failure to adhere to one of the pillars will lead to the eventual failure of the farm.
What does biologically grown mean?
Many people might have seen products labeled as “biologically grown” and wondered what it means. Biologically grown foods rely on natural farming methods, soil preservation, crop rotation, and managing farmland in a way that builds strong, nutritious soils naturally. Any product labeled as such means it has been produced in a certified bio-farm
How does one get a bio-farming certification?
There are those who ask about how to get a bio-farming certification. As we have seen above, bio-certification is an improved organic certification. Therefore, in order to obtain a bio-certification, you will first have to be a certified organic farmer. After that, you can now apply again and demonstrate that your farm has become fully sufficient and that very few inputs are imported into the farm. Only after self-sufficiency has been proved can one hope to have a bio-certification.
Which is easier, organic or bio-farming?
Some people ask which is easier, organic or eco-farming. Many farmers who have switched to bio-farming say that it is easier than organic farming. That is because all the inputs required in the farm come from the farm, unlike in organic farming, whereby inputs are imported to the farm. But you should note that before switching to eco-farming, you must start as an organic farmer first. That is because organic farming lays the groundwork for bio-farming.
As has been demonstrated above, bio-farming is an advanced and stricter form of organic farming where the farmer moves towards farm independence. Only when the full cycle of farm production happens without inputs from outside can you claim to be a bio-farmer. To achieve that, many people will need a helping hand from experts. In Kenya, BioZone produces certified organic and bioproducts that will prove of immense help if you are thinking of going down this route. Make consultations today, and you will have a strong starting point.