Half acre city farm rakes Sh750k monthly

In a classic example of what land maximization can do, a half acre farm in Ruai area just 20 kilometres away from Nairobi's city centre, is raking over Sh750,000 a month having specialized in greenhouse farming, livestock, strawberry farming among others.

The farm has also received global recognition. During the 2011 World Food Day, it was awarded the best farm trophy among small scale farms in Nairobi by the Food Agricultural Organization in collaboration with the Kenyan government. And for the past three years, it has also been used by the Njiri District agricultural office to stage its field days.

There is nothing so spectacular about a farm being in the outskirts of the city, but Sanla Farm is impressive. It is an agricultural showcase of the fortunes a small piece of land can yield. It has been recognised for its exemplary use of small land and modern farming techniques and for being in the forefront in ensuring food security.

On only half an acre of land, the farm has 20 dairy cows, which produce more than 500 litres of milk daily, three 50 by 100 feet greenhouses, where tomatoes, cabbages and green pepper are grown, a fish pond, homestead, borehole and a biogas unit.
According to Mrs Nancy Karanja, the brains behind the venture, the farm rakes in about Sh750,000. “I have been declared the Farmer of the year in the last three years by the Njiri District Agricultural Office for using my land efficiently to accommodate so many activities,” she says.

On arriving at the farm, one is immediately struck by how well organized it is, right from the gate. Everything seems to be just where it should be. A safely secured cowshed with pedigree animals welcomes you into the farm. Next to the cowshed is a calf pen with five well fed animals. There is a feed store full of hay, silage and napier grass. Nearby is a newly constructed biogas plant and a crop section.
What is amazing is how such a small piece of land could accommodate the three greenhouses. They occupy a quarter of the land. Strawberries and watermelons lie under drip irrigation next to the greenhouses.

The 5m by 6m fishpond is in one corner near the borehole and holds more than 300 tilapia. Mrs Karanja 35, a former accountant is reliving her childhood dream of making a living through farming. Her quest is not only amazing, but also inspiring, considering that soiling hands to make a living is not something many young women relish. But to her its a passion.

“I started with one Fresian cow that my mother gave me in 2008. It used to produce about 10 litres of milk. Today I have 20 Fresian cows that guarantee sound cash daily,”she says with as sense of satisfaction. Customers travel from far and wide to buy her quality produce. Her five employees, she says, have made her work lighter.

In 2003, she recalls feeling an irresistible urge to buy more cows. “This is after enjoying the fortunes of the one cow that I had,”she said. To quench her thirst, she sold the cow, topped up the money and bought two of a superior breed at Sh70,000 each. This raised her milk output to 30 litres per cow a day.
“Today I have 20 quality cows that give me more than 500 litres each day. We currently sell a litre at Sh50,” she said.

At the time she was venturing into dairy farming, she also tried her hand at greenhouse farming. She started with a 50ft by 100ft structure at a cost of Sh75,000, where she planted tomatoes. They did well. Now she has three in which she plants tomatoes, pilipili hoho (green pepper) and sukuma wiki (kale) and cabbages. “I used to sell 10 crates of tomatoes a week at Sh800 each. Now I sell tomatoes, onions, cauliflower and green beans,”she said. Vegetables alone earn her an average of Sh50,000 amonth.
When she ventured into fish farming, she started with 70 fingerlings. Today, she has more than 300 tilapia in her pond.

“Fish reproduction is rapid., depending on what type of food you give them. There is also high demand for fish. Infact I am planning to double the number in the next one year,”she added. To cut down on costs, she collects cow dung for use as fertilizer. She also makes silage by mixing napier grass, molasses and waste food products. She gets napier grass from another farm, shreds it into half inch long pieces and packs it in polythene bags to ferment. After a week she is able to feed the animals.

And as the urban population burgeons to unmanageable levels, Sanla Farm has positioned itself to feed the rising population with traders and households scrambling to get produce from the farm. “We like the farm's produce because they are fresh and are grown with the right farming practises,”said Victor Omamo a trader who sells produce at Nairobi's Marikiti market and supplies them to other retail fresh produce traders who supplies to the over 3.5 million Nairobi residents.