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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 IFOAM – Organics International ambassador 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!

Sylvia on her farm © Sylvia’s Basket

It has been 35 years since my first declaration and I know that dreams do come true. I am married and currently a farmer 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 tell apart 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 began to enjoy a wide variety of vegetables and my venture proved quite successful as we always had more than enough food to eat.

Sylvia sharing her experiences about being a smallscale organic farmer during the  #IGrowYourFood action day

The natural progression was to turn my hobby into a business. After three years of developing a successful vegetable garden, I started supplying vegetables to a few friends in Nairobi. It was not very difficult because I was only cultivating half an acre at the time. We then decided to expand like any other business and bought 15 acres. On this land, we only grew organic food using agroecological principles.

We sold most of our precious gold-standard vegetables at local markets at low prices to greedy middlemen, where they were never recognised as organic. It was very frustrating, especially after battling pests, disease, drought and unreliable labour!

A variety of vegetables are grown on the farm, for instance, kale, carrots, cabbage, maize, spinach and lettuce © Sylvia’s Basket

One day in October 2019, I had had 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 everyone who cared to follow our social media platforms that an affordable organic shop was about to open! Follow Sylvia on Instagram and Facebook.

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

Much as she started with a few acres, Sylvia now grows a variety of vegetables on her farm © Sylvia’s Basket

I opened the shop in November 2019, and then the sleepless nights began. I became an online marketer overnight. I transported lettuce under the scorching sun, and by the time I sold it, it was a shrivelled leaf. I hired 10 full-time employees and focused on sensitising people about why they should stop eating food sprayed with toxic substances.

In the meantime, I was purchasing very high-quality produce from dozens of smallholder farmers all over Kenya. I tried to find a mentor, but when I could not find one, I decided to train farmers to go organic.

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

Learn more about Sylvia's Basket here