Joel Oguta is a founding member of OHR. Like his father, he broke tradition and donated his piece of land for the construction of the EK Center. Joel operates the EK organic demonstration farm and coordinates visiting WOOFers, hosting visitors from all over the world. He has conducted extensive research on organic farming, including the use of herbs as natural pesticides. Apart from the farm Joel works with Richard on various OHR/EK initiatives.
How did you get involved with organic farming?
I didn’t know about organic farming until my nephew Richard told me its importance and cost effectiveness compared to inorganic farming. Since I was previously doning “ordinary” farming, I met many challenges including buying chemicals, seeds and fertilizers which were very expensive.
Prior to farming I was trained as a motor vehicle mechanic and worked in both Mombasa and Nairobi. In 1997 the company collapsed and I moved back home to Mfangano where I started fishing. I did this for 5 years and since the catch went down and the price of fish reduced drastically, I quit fishing. I hence resorted to farming and began planting many different crops.
How do your personal interests fit with EK?
Most of my interests lie in farming. I would like to be a resource farmer whereby other farmers can come along and get more information. At the moment I am in charge of the store at the EK construction site, I monitor the provision of water at the site, and I am the Agriculture Director in charge of farming progress in OHR.
Favorite life motto?
My dad was the first person to plant the mango tree on Mfangano Island which was prohibited by our tradition in those days. He broke the binding of fear when he planted very many mango trees, and I also did the same by giving out land for the development of EKC; hence, “like father like son.”
Also, one of the better experiences I have ever had in my life is “getting to know the world at home.” I have hosted volunteers and Woofers in my life from different parts of the world. Now I have pictures of many cities and places in the world. I also have great ideas of how other countries are. My family and I have in return shared useful ideas with the volunteers.
Do you enjoy your job?
Yes, I like this job! I like being at home and working with my hands.
Why are OHR and the EK Center different from other community centers and VCT programs?
People see this as something good and they like to see it all connecting [the organic farming with the land, their health, and HIV].
What is one thing people should know about EK?
Come and see the farm! More people need to see it. We are ready to answer questions!