Monday, 17 February 2020

ORGANIC FARMING- Why have raised beds?

Using raised beds is a choice one has to make for oneself. It depends on circumstances.

We use broken fridges, freezers, jaccuzis, tyres, drums, bottles, diving tanks and soon adding a boat.
This Photo was taken on the 29th of January 2020.
On the Nomad farm we use raised beds because there is little topsoil on the shallow corral, the earth there is is not very fertile and in some places it has a low PH thanks to the Neem trees shedding their leaves.

This Photo was taken 16 days after the one above. Kress, Basil and Lettuce mixed

  • Raising the beds allows the area within the bed to be treated well and looked after, creating a microclimate filled with the correct microorganisms that help with productivity. IE- It's easier to control soil biology.

  • The more the beds are off the ground the less pests there are.

  • The higher the bed the easier the management and harvesting of it. (Waist height is ideal- Not having to bend or crouch).

  • Some negative's would be that some raised beds can dry out faster than ground beds. However this can be remedied by what material is used in the raised bed.

Adding worms to a contained raised bed means the worm colony will form, aerate the soil, fertilise the bed with their castings and so hopefully create a growing space that will take little effort to keep it producing.. sustainable thinking.

Friday, 14 February 2020

ORGANIC FARMING- Challenges -'SIAFU' a risk to chicken farming

It is always good to write about some of the problems faced in organic farming, others might be able to learn without having to make the same mistakes and maybe our solutions might help others facing the same issues.. in this case SIAFU or Army Ants.

Trying to stop the main army lines coming 
A couple of weeks ago, at eleven at night a call came from the Nomad farm reporting 'Siafu' were in the hen house'. It turned out the invasion was far larger. They were everywhere, the ground around the chickens and compost piles and the growing beds was literally crawling in battle ready ants ranging from a few millimetres to 3 centimetres in size.

We arrived in time to save the hens by setting fire to cut, dry grass and scattering it around the hen house before working our ways down the main 'arteries' of ants pouring in. NB. We were fortunate that we had access to cut, dried grass as we had been preparing to use it for mulching once dried and seeds had dropped.

The hens are waiting for the bugs from the freshly turned compost piles. One of the reasons for the piles being located here. An easy design idea that makes a difference in the long run (more free range diet) but it comes with its challenges.

Invasions like this happen occasionally throughout sub-saharan Africa, usually around the time of the rains when there is plenty of creatures around for the army ants to subdue in a blanket of bites before eating.. they are fully carnivorous ants, no salad for them. On the positive side they can be considered an 'African Spring-clean'. They enter one's house on one side, clean it out of bugs, mice, snakes, rats, and off they go.

In retrospect- the Ants were aiming for the bugs and grubs in the compost piles and the hen house.. not for the hens, but because the sawdust inside had not been replaced in far too long it was full of chicken poop and all the bugs that love that stuff.. all perfect Siafu food.

The compost piles, which were located along the edge of the hen run to make tossing fruit and veg to the hens easy and also so that the compost would attract and breed lots of bugs, some of which would end up in the hen run.. to help their diets be as free range as possible.

The problem is that a colony of millions of Siafu is like a single organism that consumes all slow moving living things in their path.. and we had enticed them right into our hen house.

So solutions?...PREVENTION. 

1.  We will change the saw dust more often, especially during the rainy season.

2.  After using fire to keep them at bay at night when they were most active we then collected some used engine oil from the Generator at The Sands and 're-used' it on all the legs of the chicken house where they were climbing up. We also re-oiled the stand for the Jacuzzi 'wormary' as Siafu LOVE worms.

3.  Wood ash poured on the ground in lines around ant sensitive areas also works until the ash gets wet and then it needs reapplication.

The hen house after the night of the ants.
 The house is built out of recycled wood, the nest boxes are recycled PET  bottles.
*Interestingly, when the old oil arrived at the farm someone thought it was for pouring ONTO the lines of Siafu! NOT A GOOD PLAN as oil is toxic and farms and ground water is not where it's wanted, keep it on the posts and walls. Luckily not too much damage was done.

  • It is important to note that Siafu and their invasions are a natural phenomenon, they provide an essential service to an ecosystem balancing populations of species that can otherwise get out of hand. (Mice, Rats, Termites etc) Completely Killing the colony (as opposed to trying to prevent it's attack on certain areas) is not permaculture lifestyle and it will come back to haunt you in other ways.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020


It's so nice when a year of hard work (gloves on, waste separation, weighing, recording, storing, delivering, recycling, reusing or up-cycling is finally worth it with light at the end of the tunnel and a little voice saying ''towards' zero waste is even more possible now'.


After a full year of waste data collection we have now been able to convert this data into visual references and a final outcome.

                 Fruit and Veg          Heavy Plastics           Paper and combust               Metal/Glass            Protien/Starches/Carbs
The above Bar graph shown the different waste types in relation to one another. 

Fruit and Vegetable waste (Dark Blue) is the highest produced waste and also the highest used by us for compost making, feeding chickens and worms.

Proteins, Starches and Carbohydrates (Light Blue) is the second highest produced waste, by the end of this year our goal is to have ALL of this, as well as the Paper waste (Green) being used or recycled.

In small quantities we then have 'heavy plastics' (reddish/brown) of which we use all LDPE and HDPE varieties in the Recycling Centre at the Marine Education Centre. Much of the plastic we produce is collected daily off the beach, any useful recyclables from this will also go into the shredder and extruder to make something new.

This leaves us with low volumes of Metals (purple) which is sent for recycling with any other heavy plastics or Glass (broken/food jars or bottles) that we can't use, reuse, recycle or up-cycle in the hotel, restaurant and the farm.


From the Data collected in 2019 The Sands at Nomad has used, recycled, reused, repurposed 57.5% of waste produced.

Places for improvement are in finding solutions to the Protiens, Starches and Carbohydrates (+-30% of our waste) Paper (which should be recycled and not incinerated), and E waste*. Watch this space.

NB. The charts shown in this Blog post show data from The Sands At Nomad's Boutique hotel as well as the Beach Bar restaurant which has arguably the highest customer numbers of any restaurant on the south coast of Kenya.

*Further waste types we have been collecting and stock piling in a hope of a eco-friendlier solution are E-waste (light bulbs, printer cartridges, electronics) and Hazardous waste (paint tins, filters, compressors). In the near future this will need to be sent to a company in Nairobi as all licences Hazardous waste collection and management companies on the south coast were closed by the Governor. This suggests that other institutions are sending their toxic waste to landfills. A truly Horrific thought.

Monday, 11 November 2019


As some of you may know, a little while ago The Sands went into partnerships with Kwale Plastics Plus Collectors (KPPC) A company looking to find a way for the greater Diani area to have a proper waste collection and management system.

Keyrings for the dive centre lockers using KPPC moulds
KPPC now have a location at the Sands Marine Education Center ( for their small recycling plant producing items from collected HDPE  and LDPE plastics. Through this partnership the Sands is now able to utilise HDPE and LDPE plastics from daily separations and beach clean-ups. (Less 'waste')

The location of the recycling centre, as part of the Conservation Education tour at the Sands is perfect for raising awareness to both guests and students groups showing links between waste management possibilities and personal or environmental health.

Colour sorting and cleaning
How the system works:

Twice a day the 'waste' from the beach, hotel, workshops, offices, private houses and restaurant is delivered to the 'Green Team' station behind the restaurant. Here the separation is checked, weighed, recorded. The hard plastics are further separated as the recyclable plastics (shreddable and extrudable) are removed. These are then taken to the recycling centre, and stored according to colours.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays the KPPC staff come to the centre to recycle, on other days the Nomad green team leader David works on products for The Sands.

Once the HDPE bottle tops etc have been shredded, the fine, colour sorted, plastics chips are put into the Extruder and pumped into moulds provided by KPPC. (These moulds were made in Nairobi by Plastiki Rafiki was actually this little company, based out of the Nairobi international school that made the recycling machinery that was then donated to KPPC. Big respect to them for this!

The KPPC Shredder make by Plastiki Rafiki
Currently the Sands is making some Key rings for the new diving locker room at Diving the Crab, the dive centre located at The Nomad Beach bar and restaurant.

Recyclable plastics are collected off the beach daily

Saturday, 2 November 2019


November the 3rd is 'World Jellyfish day'! yup, they have their own day and the Sands Green Team has made a plan to appreciate them just in time.

If you get the chance come and have a look at the main Bar in the Nomad's Beach Bar.. yesterday the maintenance team helped us to rig up the three jellyfishes from the roof, and put lights in them!

Recycled PET bottle art.. and lights
This recycled art project is meant as an awareness piece as much as just looking very cool. The plan is to allow people to see the kinds of things that can be made from what others may call trash. 

It's defiantly our treasure!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019


When the rains started we started plating furiously like all the farmers in Kwale who rely on the rainy seasons to produce. Despite having a well we have found growth and production does slow during the dry spells when we use our well water. (high in Chlorides)

We have had some issues with the heavy rains damaging seedlings, the fresh hatching of pests taking more.. but such is the way of organic farming. Healthy fruit and vegetables but the losses to the ecosystem are higher. More natural predators are essential.. so think what they like and need and ensure you have these around your farm. (IE Rock piles for lizards, bush/brush piles for hedgehogs)

This rains we have planted a lot of cow peas in the beds which were producing leaf greens before, this is to fix nitrogen back in the soil. 

Results from our recent soil test (Thank you Cropnuts Ltd) have shown that, in general over 5 test points, we have soil that is a little too Alkaline, (maybe due to the water from the well and the wood ash used to deter slugs and snails) we have too much Phosphorus in a couple of locations (too much composting) and we have high organic matter. (less composting and we will be considering adding some sand to break up the soil and allow it to be more airy (Hydrogen was too low on all points- a little gentle tilling might help).

Difficult at the coast- Broccoli
So what have we been producing in the past month?


Carrots, Pumpkins, Gerkins, Dhania, Kress, Rucola, Sukuma, Red Mustard leaf, Parsley, Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Mint, Broccoli, Spring Onions, Chives, Rosemary, Okra, Green Chilli's and Scotch Bonnet Chilli's.

Guavas, Pawpaws, Passion Fruit, Lemons, Bananas, Custard Apples

Aaand we have a few trials of some new stuff on the way.. if it works. ;0)

Friday, 25 October 2019


Through the history of the Sand's Organic Farm we have tried to find ways to re-use items which in many cases with other hotels would end up being thrown away and forgotten.. probably in some landfill.

How many re-used items can you see in this photo from the Sand's farm?
See if you can count how many up-cycled items are in this one photo above.. the answer is at the bottom of this post. ;-)

Compost making is actually very easy for anyone who has the organic waste, space and time..  When making it.. just think 'Lasagna'. Dry layer (air gets in), wet layer, dry layer, wet layer.. until it's a small  (turnable) pile.. if you want put a stick into the centre of the pile for you to do 'temperature checks' from time to time to ensure the decomposition is happening. 
Making the compost 'Lasagna' layers
The issue with some locations towards the coast is the wildlife. Baboons and monkeys can wreak havoc in a compost pit so for those that have these natural inhabitants around it is even more important to put your compost in a cage or a pit. (ensure it is turnable). 

Multiple compost piles turned and watered regularly
Organic waste that is available to wildlife will encourage the wildlife to remain in the area of the food, it will also encourage theft from houses and it will create some dependancy from the wildlife on the food waste. Basically problems all around for both the humans and the wildlife.

Answer to the question above- 6:

PET bottles as pots, 
20 L HDPE containers as pots
Empty Glass bottles for raised beds
Old Tires for raised planters
Broken Jacuzzi's as raised planters
Broken Mini-bars as raised planters

ORGANIC FARMING- Why have raised beds?

Using raised beds is a choice one has to make for oneself. It depends on circumstances. We use broken fridges, freezers, jaccuzis, ty...