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    By George Munene

    Nicholas Kibet readily admits that he fell back on farming as a last resort. After taking a failed stab at politics in 2017—the 29 year old resident of Kapsabet town had been a candidate for the member of county assembly seat—he’d spent most of his savings and in his own words; ”Maisha ilikuwa imekuwa ngumu.”

    One thing he still had though was land, and farming with its low barrier of entry provided him with an opportunity to build from having five chickens to now a flock of more than 200 and some 70 doper sheep.

    He supplies 10 chicken daily to a local restaurant, and hatches on average 100 chicks every month.  He also sells at least two rams each for between Sh8000-10,000 every month.

    His reasoning for opting for pure kienyeji chicken: “The local demand for kienyeji chicken is insatiable; they are hardy—resistant to most diseases and thrive fed on a little In the way of commercial feeds.”

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    For his 200 mature birds he says, eight kilograms of feed is all he needs for them in the morning before free ranging them on his one acre farm for the rest of the dayHis mature bird are fed on layers mash, two 50 kilogram bags at a cost of Sh5000 last his 100 birds one month .His chickens reach three kilograms at a timely six months when he sells them in bulk at a local hotel for Sh700 or for Sh1000-900 to individual buyers.  Chicks, more than grown chickens are the real money makers he says: one-day old chicks go for Sh100, two-month-olds for Sh250-200 while four month old sell for Sh450-400. A 50kg chick mash bag goes for between Sh2,000 and 2,500 and feeds 100 of his chick for a month. 

    “In all the years I have been raising kienyeji chicken, given they are well vaccinated and regularly dewormed the only cause of disease I can think off is housing them in an unclean, unaerated coop. Deworming at the first month and every two or three months is paramount too, given free ranged chicken go about ingesting most of everything they come across,” Nicholas advices. His routine vaccinations constitute Newcastle at three weeks and fowl pox on the first month.

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    His sheep project he says was birthed from the success of his poultry business. “Whatever profits I made from my chicken, I made sure to save some Sh10,000-5,000 every week which Id earmarked as starting capital for my sheep business; with the success of the poultry side of things it was far easier to start up he says.

    Starting off with three indigenous sheep he’s just finished construction of a new modern shed housing 70 sheep, 40 of which are pure-line dopers.  “The doper is hardy, is a light to moderate eater consuming about sven kilograms daily and a fast maturer that gathers weight quickly. Compared to other breeds its mutton also doesn’t have any characteristic sheep’s smell making it a favourite for consumers.” “The market appetite is certainly there,” he says. With standing orders from as far as Nairobi for one day old sheep at Sh3000; thus far, the business is proving more than a good bet. He grazes his sheep on forest land supplementing them with bhoma rhodes hay and 5 kilograms of dairy meal twice every week.        

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    By George Munene

    Before the first case of Corona virus was reported in the country on 13th March, 50 tonnes of khat worth Sh16 million was shipped daily to Somalia from Igembe’s three main miraa growing regions; Meru North, South and Central.

    An agricultural sector that is the main source of livelihood for up to 50,000 households has ground to a halt; with no end in sight for the pain that miraa farmers have endured for the last eight months.

    “Schools are just now reopening, my members are going to seek for soft loans SACCOS would usually easily advance to them, but are being turned down. The picking, packaging and transport costs for miraa are about Sh1000/kg; local markets are oversupplied –you’ll get no more than Sh1000 for the same. It is not a question of how much less farmers are earning, there just is nothing to earn,” says Kimathi Munjuri, chairman of the 38,000 registered member, Nyambene Miraa Traders Association.  

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    With the onset of rains, miraa in shambas is now more prolific than ever. The government’s forever delayed promise of having the situation resolved means farmers have to reach into their own pockets to cover for harvests with money they barely have to help maintain their trees. What was once one of Kenya’s most lucrative crops— within the country, a kilogram of kangeta fetched Sh2000 and that of kisa Sh3000; exports, done in 100 kilogram bundles fetched Sh20,000 each— now serves as no more than mulch for shambas.

    The situation for miraa farmers looks even grimmer owing to a diplomatic impasse with Somalia which is seeking formal redress from Kenya over:

    • Its violation of Somalia’s airspace
    • Kenya’s perceived interference in Somalia’s internal affairs and its treatment of Somalia as a smaller brother rather than equal
    • Kenya’s allowing in Somalian goods such as fish, rice, honey, meat and milk
    • Stopping the mandatory spot check of Somali flights at Wajir for inspection

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    This has allowed Ethiopia to steal a march on Kenya and begin exporting its khat into Somalia. This worries Kimathi—“as Somalian khat consumers acquire a taste for Ethiopian miraa, Kenyan farmer face the prospect of losing the market completely,” he warns.

    The halt in business has left the towns of Laare, Mutuati and Maua as ghost towns and the multiplier effects on the wider economy of the region are only just beginning to be felt.

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    avocado farming

    By George Munene

    The global demand for avocadoes is projected to double by 2024 according to a report by market watchers Infiniti Research Limited. Coupled with Kenya signing a deal gaining entry into the mammoth Chinese market on 25th April 2019, this makes avocado growing for the export market project as safe lucrative bet as any in farming.

    Data from the Avocado Society of Kenya and the Directorate of Horticulture shows that export sales of avocadoes to 42 countries in the first half of 2020 hit a record 58,400 tonnes.

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    Despite the momentary cessation of international travel occasioned by Covid-19, the country is projected to have earned Sh8 billion from avocado export. The record half year high is partly attributable to the pandemic, which has led to growing demand for fruits with avocadoes being highly recommended for their high alkaline content.

    “The increase also owes to more acreage in the country coming under avocado production and an improvement in the quality of fruit being produced by farmers. The global rise in demand only serves as more good news for our farmers,” says Avocado Society of Kenya Chief Executive Ernest Muthomi.

    With declining production in other regions of the world and a growing global demand, the country is tapping into; a four kilogram pack of fuerte avocadoes now fetches Sh1760 up from Sh1100 the previous year.

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    The European Union was Kenya’s biggest buyer of avocadoes at 45,737 tonnes as of June with the Netherlands the leading importer at 16.3million kilograms.

    Kenya is the world’s third largest producer of avocadoes and recently overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest avocado exporter.

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