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AgricGuru Kenya

The number one agricultural Kenyan site. For all your Agriculture 101 needs.

Growing Up in the Countryside

Let me start by saying, I really didn’t grow up in the countryside, but I am no city girl either. Every holiday and this was thrice a year, we the children of my parent would be ceremoniously whisked off to grandma`s (ushago) for the entire period of the holiday. Ceremoniously you ask? This is because owing a car then was huge luxury. Hence majority of the city parents who had the same idea would all converge at the Machakos Country bus to dispatch their little ones.  I often felt as if, we were being deported, this is because we carried everything we owned on this trip. My school books (which we would never touch), toys, all my clothes and anything my parents deemed necessary. To add on top of that was a mountain of shopping “food” to eat during our stay. By the way due to my Grandma’s generous nature, the “food” wouldn’t last a week at her granary.

Freedom, fresh air and open spaces make the countryside the best playground for children. Our grandparents, who can be easily manipulated by fake tears, would allow us to play from dusk to dawn. We would climb trees, swim in shallow muddy trenches and chase after goats. At the end of the day we would count our accomplishments in the number scars one would achieve. In this conquest, seldom did we have boys or girls activity, we all played together as one. To date using scars in my legs as illustrations, I can tell stories of my childhood at the countryside.

Continue reading “Growing Up in the Countryside”

2017 Kenya’s Elections Effect on Agriculture

Let’s all be sincere, a kind of Euphoria mixed with despair often befalls us as we enter the election year.

electionsEuphoria because elections represent change, an opportunity for us to make big decisions, a stage for our voices to be heard, it is our time as citizens to shine.  The leaders take their time to woe us with sweet words, money and even sometimes with song and dances (Yeah, Kenya politicians SMH).

Despair because when it is all said and done, we lose big time. We get leaders that we didn’t anticipate, we get violence and chaos, we lose time and sometimes unfortunately lives. Agriculture is not spared the heart ache either.

Euphoria

70% of Kenyan voters are in the rural areas, and they too are woo. We see politician proclaiming big changes for us. New factories, more machinery, more agricultural loans and the list is endless. This is the period of euphoria for farmers. They see hope as addressed by the politicians, they can smell change in the air almost tasting it, but will they grasp it at the end of the elections?

A good example is the president reopening flopped factories in regions like western Kenya. Are the reasons why the factories closed addressed? Or is it a quick fix, to get the media’s attention and gather the rural people votes. Yet the factories are on their knees and will crawl through for a few months to the election, before they absolutely die? New machinery is speedily imported into the country to help the farmers cultivate, good. But do we take a minute to care on the costs associated with maintenance, do we have skilled people to operate and service the expensive equipment. Or after the first great season, will the tractors be laid at the Ministry of Agriculture offices, because of lack of spare part that cannot be replaced within the country?

Despair

All elections come and go, the results will be here with us for the next 5 years. Leaders that spent their every waking moment in the local towns, will travel to Nairobi and never be seen again for the next 5 years. All the promises, of more extension officers, more funds, and more technology will be shelved until the next 5 years.

Most of the youth, will have abandoned their crops and livestock, in the Euphoria of the elections, only to return to weak crops and animals that will under produce and hence face real losses. The markets that will be sustained by free election money, will instantly drop once that well dries up. Hopes will be dashed, once the women who sang praises so cheerfully for “mheshimiwa” realize that he played them and there are no funds to help them with their “Chama project”

So here is my advice take it or …………………..

Look for local leaders that you know face the same struggle as yourselves. They live among your homes and their children go to the same schools as your children. Choose leaders that have been in your shoes and know intimately the current community problems. Choose leaders with genuine, workable and achievable solutions. Remember elections are done and won or lost in one day. So equally spare at most two day. One day to get your voters card and one day to vote. Don’t ignore your daily hustle. Continue serving your crops and animals with the same care as you did before. Be yourself a Farmer and not a sycophant. Boots are to be worn in the farm not licked!

Following In Our Father’s Footsteps

60 years old, is the average age of a Kenyan farmer. Yet our population comprises of 78% youth aged 14-35years, who have no interest at all in farming. http://www.ke.undp.org/content/kenya/en/home/ourwork/inecgr/successstories/cultivating-youth-entrepreneurship-through-agribusiness.html

proud-farmer

Most of these 60 years old farmers educate their sons and daughter to be Doctors, Lawyers and Entrepreneurs. At their time of death, these great sons and daughters, chop the land into smaller pieces and sell it for a quick buck.

What are the repercussions to the Kenyan Agricultural industry?

  1. Most marketing messages targeting farmers are most rudimentary in nature. This is due to the belief that the average farmer is 60 years old and not educated or socialized enough for more intricate marketing avenues. The radio is the key tool. Note almost all Agro-chemical marketing campaigns are 70% run on Radio and 30% using Salesmen on the ground. Yet in other industries such as Banking, manufacturing innovation is on high gear to try and outdo competitors in the battle to gain consumers attention.
  1. Use of technology has taken a back burner. The Old is Gold analogy literally describes the relationship of Technology vs Kenyan farmers. While other countries (who take agriculture seriously) have developed and are producing all year round and even in some countries, they don’t need soil. Only a handful of farmers in Kenya appreciate and accommodate Technology in the industry. The most sophisticated of the Kenyan farmers are the ones doing irrigation. Technology has the capacity to increase our production, lower our cost, maximize on small pieces of land and make Agriculture a pleasant activity. If our youth concentrate solely on being established in social media technologies, we shall forever cry of drought and lack of enough food to feed our people.
  1. Land subdivision is a plague we must fight with all our strength. Smaller pieces of land lower the capacity. Crops that require volume to be efficient financially e.g. Maize, wheat, corn, rice, potatoes are losing out in the market. This crops have the capacity to provide food for the country but If only grown in the right sizes of land. Instead the great sons and daughters of our fathers are busy, subdividing and selling land as `Plots`

Youth lets be sober as we make this life making/breaking decisions. Let’s not sell our fathers land in 5 minutes, which he took 10 years to accumulate. Let’s not wait until we are 45-50 years and just about to retire to venture into agriculture. Let’s see the value of Agriculture, through our fathers and grandfathers eyes. Remember the sweat and hard work, they put into the ground to make it produce for them. But most of all remember the joy and pride they felt when achieving a bountiful harvest.

Extension services and Agriculture training available

Their is big bucks to be made in Agriculture!!

Get a professional to show you how….

Get in touch with Agricguru ~ Extension Agriculture Experts and Trainers

They are available in Nairobi, Kenya

contact us at wanjohimarywanjiku@gmail.com

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What are the opportunities for the Agriculture Kenyan Graduate?

Like me if you stumbled into agriculture or better still JAB in their indefinite wisdom chose this as you degree program, what and where are the opportunities?

I chose agriculture in high school as the lesser evil to French which I was so ecstatic about, only later to find that I couldn’t learn a new language even for the death of me. So when I was selected to pursue BSC. Agriculture by JAB (Joint admission Kenya University Board), lets say it wasn’t my preferred choice.

Many years later, I have graduated and worked in the Agriculture industry in Kenya such I have seen opportunities in many areas for us Agriculture graduates and it is only fair I give a heads up to my peeps who may think they are doomed by their agriculture degree.

Entrepreneurship

I start with this, because although most graduates prefer to be employed, it’s the most Lucrative. Starting your own farm be it livestock or crops is liberating …no nagging bosses ;). With the information gathered in college you’re more empowered to make better decisions hence have potential to have better yields and higher quality products. The key to this is getting Capital to start up a venture (greenhouse, Buy some cows, chicken, hybrid seeds etc.) Secondly use technology, yes technology is your friend, use it to increase production and maximize output. You are a graduate you know what I mean. This is an opportunity to empower other youth by giving them jobs. Yes you will be the “boss” choose staff wisely good skills are a must-have.

Sales & Marketing

There are a lot of products to be consumed in the Agriculture sector, this include: Seeds, Chemicals, fertilizers, Machinery and even technology http://mfarm.co.ke/ . Output from farms e.g. eggs, flowers, fruits, vegetables all need to be created markets for, to influence sales. It’s often said the best paid people are the marketers so here is a great opportunity for any agriculture graduate. The only challenge at the lower levels its more or less hawking from one shamba to another, later you get promoted to a motorbike (you need a license to drive this death traps), much later the company car and the big bucks stream in. The beauty of it is that a very flexible job, no formal dressing or working hour, as long as you deliver the sales figures you can dress as you please great right?

Research & Development

For the above products to be legally sold in countries e.g. Kenya for example a lot of research has to be conducted. I feel this is the career choice for the first class boring chop in class. It’s slow paced work, which involves a lot of data taking and analysis. For one product to be registered for use in Kenya you have to do tests on at least 3 seasons, so as I said its slow, but there is good money in it…

Agriculture Extension

Sometimes you’re called Mwalimu… your revered and respected even though you might be using a Bicycle provided after months of request by the government. However if your employed by private companies, it might just be a motorcycle. The Wakulima’s listen very keenly to your advice however they never seem to get the time to do it as you showed them…. Aversion to change!

NGO’s Projects Facilitators

If you are in a good project the money can be great. However NGO work require hard work and results to explain the big bucks. It’s also cut throat and a lot of competition and a lot is expected of you. Another thing is that most of the jobs are usually in places nobody really likes to live in… even the people who live there hate it. Ngo’s likes http://www.wvi.org/kenya will send you to Turkana and other parts of northern Kenya I don’t even know, soon you will be in Somali!

So this are just the few I like of course there is the teaching angle as well, which I am not particularly keen on, but if someone feels it’s their calling they may pursue it….

Other graduates find jobs in different sectors like Banking or insurance that target Farmers to use their products and services. If all fails, talk about agriculture be a blogger just like me.

Either way wherever you land, work hard and do your best and you will definitely shine.

Products Watch

Fungicides
In this cold weather we are bound to catch flu, Crops too are very susceptible during the cold and rainy seasons. Different crops get different diseases all caused by fungal infections. For example vegetables like tomatoes, Potatoes, Sweet Peppers, kales cabbages & spinach the diseases are almost similar this includes Early & late blight, powdery mildews and damping off. Crops that go through the nursery stage due to excess watering also experience cold climate diseases even when it’s hot. Crop that you look big and strong like Coffee trees, fruit trees (mangoes, passion, pawpaw & oranges) are also not spared the cold weather wrath.
With this in mind just as you would buy a jacket or a warm sweater to anticipate the cold weather, a good Fungicide is prudent. Diseases in crops are caused by different organisms but fungi bear the most responsibility when it comes to crop diseases and they can only be controlled by Fungicides. Fungi like cold moist weather to propagate hence their high incidence in cold climate. The good news is that Fungicides can be curative as well as preventative, though to avoid loss its recommend to use them as a preventive measure.
So what makes a good Fungicide?

1.It should be easily absorbed by the plant; if this product is going to effective in protecting or curing the plant, it better be inside the plant and not just on top.
2.Rain-fastness, during the rainy season chances of it raining a few hours after you have just sprayed are extremely high so you would want a product that has a stickiness to the leaves hence not easily washed off and put all your efforts in vain.
3.Cover Wide range of crops ;most Kenyans tend to grow more than one crop on one piece of land so you want a product that can protect different crops at the same time
4.Effective (just noticed) this should be point 1. Of course a product that works or delivers and the longer it keeps working the better 
5.Cost effective; a product that considers the mkulima’s pocket, we all like pocket friendly products.

In case you’re sufficiently motivated below is a list of available fungicides in Kenya of course the list is longer but here is a selected few, now you know they key points to check in choosing the best fit for you and your crops.

Ridomil Gold -from Syngenta East Africa
Funguran-oH -from Twiga Chemicals
Bayleton –from Bayer chemicals
Oshothane 80WP- from Osho chemicals

Agriculture in Nairobi what are your options?

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It’s hard to imagine the possibility of doing Agriculture in Nairobi let alone practice it, but it is possible. Am not talking about the pretty potted plants in our lofty offices in the urban centers or the unkempt trees and shrubs that align our streets but food production and if well done it can even earn you an alternate income 😉

So what are the available options?

Green housing

Definitely not in the CBD but in most of Nairobi outskirts see Rongai, Karen, Ngong, Ruai, Kiambu you can be able to squeeze in a green house in your small plot and maximize on the space

The ideal greenhouse size is 8m wide by 30m long; it can be a steel or wooden structure. They can however be made larger or smaller to your specification. The cost on average is 130,000-150,000 depending on the company building it for you. The companies involved are like Hortipro limited. Amiran limited among others in the industry. So what do they offer in their packages? The structure of course, seeds, chemicals and agronomical advice for an entire crop season. This might work well for you in the first season but what about subsequent seasons? This will be covered better on my next article.

So what to grow in a greenhouse? Since it’s an expensive venture high value crops are suggested, this are crops that that fetch good prices on the markets like Tomatoes, Peppers , flowers (ok let’s not get over ambitious on our backyards) but you get the jist.

Why greenhouse? Apart from the fact is sounds cool to say I own a greenhouse The best answer is that if well-handled they can earn you some income, with over 1000 plants of tomatoes in one greenhouse each plant producing over 15kg of tomatoes and a kilo going for 25KSh. You do the math…. Tomatoes in the greenhouse take a relatively short time an average of 75-90 days from transplant to harvest.

Things to think about before start-up/Challenges: Expensive start up, disease & pest prevalence hence high cost of chemicals and of course finding good markets.

Chicken rearing

Never mind that this is one of the most noisiest enterprises, its profitable and does well in small spaces hence perfect for Nairobians. They call it poultry farming because apart from chicken you can diversify to other birds like ducks, pigeons, ostriches even QUAILS fall into this category.

How to go about it? Determine what your goal is that is; broiler chickens, eggs or even day old chicks if you happen to purchase an incubator. Once this is decided, get some eggs to hatch this takes around 21 days, however it’s easier getting day old chicks and nurture them.

Why chicken farming? It’s a lucrative business; its takes a short time for broilers like 8weeks max, for them to be ready for the market. Layers take longer 5-6 months to start laying eggs but after this you can expect continuous supply of eggs for a long while and even later you can still sell them for meat (that chicken meat you have to boil for an hour before it softens). Eggs are now retailing for around 12 shillings each so a tray of 30 eggs is around 360/= so depending on the numbers of layers you have you can do the math. A bonus is that the chickens lay daily they never go on holiday….

Things to think about before start-up/Challenges: The cost of startup depends on your preference for example if you choose to buy chicks (really small chickens), it might be costly but it saves time. If you choose to have your mother chicken lay on her eggs for you to get stock, its cheap, but not time conscious & unfortunately not 100% hatch is promised. So how to stock is the first question. The bird’s structure can be another expense also depending on type. Birds need to eat and chicken feed is not that cheap other costs include vaccination. Another obvious worry would be markets.

Starting an agricultural business like any other venture it’s not easy. Yes the challenges are there and many of them at that. However the reward is equally sweet. This will give you an opportunity to see something grow within the bounds of your efforts. An extra income is I believe crucial to all Nairobians and having no boss to take orders from makes me give an agriculture venture a clear thumbs up!

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