Chinese natural insecticide plantation in Kenya changes locals' life
Oct 25 , 2015

NAIVASHA, Kenya, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Li Changhong, a Chinese businessman, believes pyrethrum, known as natural insecticide, is the best agricultural product for him to plant in Kenya and export back to China.

"I came to Kenya in 2008 to look for investment opportunities. I found pyrethrum was the best product from Kenya which I could export to China," Li told Xinhua on his pyrethrum plantation.

Li said the plant doesn't grow well in China but quite fits the climate in Kenya.

Kenya was once the world's leading producer of pyrethrum, a plant that can be made into insecticides.

However, the industry has drastically fallen due to poor management in the past two decades.

Li's plantation owns 150 hectares of land in Kijabe town, some 60km from the capital, Nairobi.

Despite what he termed as "bureaucratic difficulties" in Kenya, Li's business has been welcomed by the local community and in turn it has created jobs here, changing people's life.

Samuel Agachucha, a local farmer, said he was happy getting a job on the plantation that could feed his family.

"It was hard to get a job in the city and city life was much more expensive. Now, I have a job right at home. It has changed my life. I had nothing to give to my wife. Life was harder before without a job," said Agachucha.

The 34-year-old man, who inherited a land of half-hectare from his father, said he has decided to replace maize and beans on his land, which his father had been relying on in the past years, with pyrethrum, as the maize has always been a target of monkeys.

To help more locals, who wanted to join, gain the farming skills, Li has helped them set up a organization.

"We are very happy to have learnt how to prepare the pyrethrum from the tree nurseries to the farm all the way to the harvesting process," said Tabitha Kamau, 56, the organization's head and Li's plantation manager.

After training, the farmers have become more "productive", Li said, adding he wanted his business to cover 5,000 local farmers by giving them seeds and purchasing their plants.

"We are now teaching other members of the community how to plant pyrethrum. In this way, we shall be a community that is self-sufficient in our needs, not just in the production of maize, but also pyrethrum," Kamau said.

With their jobs secured and income rising, the local community has created a new school, reviving education for children.

Teachers in the school are supported by the locals, with at least five of them paid directly by workers on Li's plantation.

Li said he is now in talks with Nyandarua county government for an expansion for his plantation to 3,000 hectares in the next two years.

Currently exporting the plants back to China, Li has a bigger plan. He wants to cooperate with suppliers in China to build a 7 million U.S. dollar pyrethrum plant in Nairobi.

"In two years, I hope I will be able to build the pyrethrum factory," Li said.