Jafford Njeru, a lecturer at the department of environmental studies in Chuka University and also the co-ordinator of the university farms, lives to his calling.
Njeru, who holds a Natural Resource Management degree from Egerton University and a Masters in the same field, is not only in charge of the university farms but he has gone ahead to implement his skills in his five-acre farm.
Njeru grows sunflower at his farm in Weru, 12km from Chuka town, which is an arid area.
Sunflower is a drought-resistant plant. It has numerous benefits including boosting protein and fat requirement in animals (pigs, cattle and poultry) and it is highly palatable, with every part of it being utilised.
It is also known for other numerous health benefits that include the ability to improve digestion, brain power, its richness in potassium, selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium, which helps in lowering blood pressure thus reducing the possibility of a heart attack or stroke.
Sunflower is also rich in vitamin E; an antioxidant which helps prevent asthma, arthritis and colon cancer among other ailments.
When planting, he employs a spacing of 9ft by 2ft, which allows him to inter-crop other crops like maize, beans and cowpeas.
"Through intercropping, the performance of other crops is also enhanced, through nutrients and shade provision. Intercropping is key in farming and a farmer can derive numerous benefits that range from structural support for wind and heavy rain-prone plants, suppression of weeds and also provision of nutrients,” he explains.
He adds that wasted land is utilised and limits disease outbreak by increasing predator diversity.
Njeru has also practises agro-forestry, which he says reduces pressure on trees as one can easily acquire wood.
"This also helps maintain the soil structure by reducing the velocity of runoff and also in purifying the environment by eliminating chemical pollutants. Other farming activities like bee keeping can also be practised,” he adds.
Njeru also rears cattle, goats, sheep, chicken and pigs, and he supplements the cattle feeds with sunflower.