Kenyans live off farming as demand for farm produce grows
21 February 2015, 09:17
Nairobi - It was known for many years in Kenya as a business for the poor in rural areas and the rich who own huge tracts of land.
The poor were engaging in it for subsistence, while the rich to use their huge parcels and make money, particularly from exports.
However, all these perceptions are now changing as many Kenyans, particularly, the middle class embrace farming.
Farming has become one of the "coolest" businesses to engage in as market for produce expands and more people see the benefits of agribusiness.
From keeping livestock that include poultry and dairy cows and goats to growing fast-maturing horticultural crops like tomatoes and capsicum, farming is now the in-thing in Kenya.
And a good number of Kenyans, including the youth, are living off the trade reducing the reliance on white collar jobs.
"There is good money in farming, particularly if you diversify by growing crops and keeping livestock," Beatrice Kipsang, who is based in Uasin Gishu, said on Wednesday.
Kipsang grows various crops, among them maize, beans, bananas, wheat, cabbages, spinach, lettuce, green grams, tomatoes and various kinds of traditional vegetables.
The farmer also keeps 20 cows and 30 sheep on her over 15 acres.
"Maize and wheat occupy more than half of my 15 acres and the other ventures the rest although not on equal portions. For instance, tomatoes and cabbages occupy slightly over a quarter an acre each," she said.
Farming is all the 47-year-old does as she juggles between animals and crops.
"I get 210 litres of milk from my 14 lactating cows every day which I sell to a processor at 0.39 U.S. dollars a litre. I sell to them 200 litres and the rest I use at home," she said.
The farmer gets about 200 90kg bags of maize and 80 bags of wheat from her farm.
"The bulk of the produce I sell through a warehouse in Eldoret, where I take the bags soon after processing at home and store to wait for prices to go up. I will start selling the produce I harvested last October in April," she recounted.
Kipsang advised that one must diversify by growing various crops and keeping animals if they are to live off farming.
"I get over 2,000 dollars every month from my cows. This is good money that keeps me going. When something happens to the animals and they reduce production, I still earn from fast- maturing crops like tomatoes and capsicum," she said.
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Bernard Watitu who grows capsicum and tomatoes in Juja on the outskirts of Nairobi on a leased one-acre farm is another Kenyan living off farming.
"I have subdivided the one acre to ensure that I harvest throughout the year. When tomatoes or capsicum have matured on one part, on the other they are still growing. There is no time I have lacked harvest," said Gatitu, also keeps 100 layers in his compound in Nairobi.
He supplies his produce to traders mainly in the estate using a station wagon he owns. Sometimes he sells the produce himself, including eggs at 3.3 dollars a tray, from the boot of his car.
"My two ventures give me a minimum of 1,000 dollars every month. This is money that perhaps I would not be paid if I had chosen a white collar job."
Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer based on Kitale, said that many Kenyans have embraced farming due to ready market for produce and availability of improved livestock and crops varieties.
"In the past years scientists have come up with improved breeds that mature faster and yield more encouraging Kenyans to embrace farming. A good example is the improved chicken that many people are now keeping," Moina said.
However, he observed that farming is not all rosy as one has to grapple with diseases, low prices and high cost of production, challenges that Gatitu and Kipsang also faced.
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