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Crazy for Organic!

Sylvia Kuria is an organic farmer in Kenya who founded Sylvia’s Basket, a farm based in Limuru, committed to providing fresh organic vegetables to its customers. She is also an ambassador of IFOAM – Organics International who has conducted workshops to teach women and other smallholder farmers how to grow food organically. She told us the story of what set her on the organic path.

When I was five years old, I was on an eight-hour trip from Nairobi to Western Kenya to visit my grandparents. I was admiring the beautiful Limuru area and I boldly declared to my mother that when I grew up, I would marry a young lad from Limuru and become a farmer! My mom laughed it off until early 2004 when I also made another bold declaration that I had found my young lad from Limuru and we were getting married that year!

It has been 35 years since my first declaration, and I know that dreams do come true. I am married and currently farming in Limuru. I was born and raised in the city, so you can imagine how little faith people had in this city girl who could not differentiate a bean plant from a weed!

I was too excited to care and soon started growing a variety of organic vegetables in my kitchen garden. My family begun enjoying a wide variety of vegetables and my venture proved quite successful because we always had more than enough food to eat.

The natural progression was to move my hobby to a business. After three years of developing a successful kitchen garden, I started delivering vegetables to a few friends in Nairobi. It was not very difficult because by then, I was only cultivating on half an acre. We then decided to scale up like any other business would, and acquired 15 acres. On this land, we grew only organic food, using agroecological principles.

We sold most of our precious gold-standard vegetables at the local markets where it was never recognised as organic, and at low prices to greedy middle men. It was very frustrating especially after battling pests, diseases, drought and unreliable labor!

One day in October 2019, I said enough is enough! I went online, looked for space and secured a tiny matchbox of a stall to sell our farm produce. I then contacted all my networks and started visiting organic farmers all over the country with the good news that they would have a shop that would buy all their produce every week! I also went online and told anyone who cared to follow our social media platforms that an affordable organic shop was set to open! Follow Sylvia on Instagram and Facebook.

Some friends and family were very sure I was too ambitious, but that sounded more like an encouragement to me. After all, I never heard of a mediocre person who conquered anything!

I opened the shop in November 2019, and then the sleepless nights started. Overnight, I became an online marketer. I transported lettuce under the scotching sun and by the time I sold it, it was a shriveled leaf. I hired 10 fulltime staff and focused on sensitising people on why they should stop eating food sprayed with poisonous substances.

In the meantime, I was purchasing very high-quality produce from tens of smallscale farmers all over Kenya. I tried finding a mentor, but when I failed to find any, I decided to train farmers on how to convert to organic.

I realized my dream and made it a mission to keep working hard till I see my African brothers and sisters eating safe organic food. Afterall, organic is for all and not a select few! Remember, only “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs.

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