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    Githaiga Ngarry Kihara delivering brachiaria grass splits to a customer. He uses his personal car to deliver the splits within 150km radius from his Nairobi base and Nyeri farm and sources public transportation and currier services to reach his buyers from far places.

    A farmer has relocated his supply station from Nyeri to Nairobi, a move that has seen him triple his customers and income to Sh100,000 a month against Sh30,000 he used to make three months ago.

    Githaiga Ngarry Kihara started growing Brachiaria Mulatto II hybrid grass in August 2017 with the aim of supplying grass splits to livestock farmers in Nyeri. However, he decided to move to Nairobi to expand his customer base since there are no direct routes from the county to regions like Western, Central and Rift Valley.

     “I can now serve my customers from other regions with much ease due to availability of transport services available in Nairobi which has enabled me deliver the grass while still fresh” said Githaiga.

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    He uses his personal car to deliver the splits within 150km radius from his Nairobi base and Nyeri farm, and sources public transportation and currier services to reach his buyers from far places such as Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, Nakuru and Narok among others.

    There are over 176 matatu saccos and 41 courier service companies in kenya according to Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA) saccos registration list for financial year which ended December 2016. This gives Githaiga a range of options in transporting his splits to farmers from far.

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    He can currently serve up to 30 customers in a week who places different orders ranging between Sh1,000 and Sh5,000 with the number increasing during rainy seasons as most farmers in the county depend on rain-fed agriculture practices.

    “I deliver over 2,500 brachiaria splits to my customers selling split at Sh10 every week but during rainy seasons I deliver about 3000 splits because more farmers plant during this time,” he said.

    Though farmers pay for the delivery, Githaiga does free delivery to customers who place orders above Sh12,000 to promote impulse buying by his customers.

    Githaiga who has been in this business for just six months is also posting pictures of brachiaria grass and its importance on his Facebook page (Githaiga N. Kihara) improving his reach for farmers.

    “Through Facebook posts I receive enquiries and orders by Kenyans in diaspora living in the US, South Korea, South Sudan, UK, Switzerland and Botswana who want the splits to be delivered to their families in Kenya,”

    “I not only post to attract sales but I also find it as an opportunity to educate farmers and friends on Facebook more about brachiaria grass,”

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    “An acre requires 2500 splits planting at spacing of 1 m × 1metre. The grass has high crude proteins content of around 18per cent, drought tolerance of up to 6months, makes excellent silage and increases in milk production.”

     For more, contact Githaiga on +254 722 722189.


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    Smallholder farmers can feed their animals all year round with Guatemala grass, an alternative fodder crop that withstands Napier stunt and head smut diseases. The grass doesn’t harden hence can be fed to livestock even when overgrown.

    According to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the grass can produce five to seven tonnes of dry matter per acre in one year enough to feed one dairy cow for a whole year. Guatemala grass is fed to livestock to improve milk production and can triple milk yields.

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    Evans Muugu, a Nyeri dairy farmer for instance has increased milk yields from his three lactating cows from 15 to 25 liters per cow after feeding them on Guatemala grass.

    “I was introduced to the fodder in 2004 by a friend who worked at Egerton University’s department of agriculture, since then I have cultivated it and never turned back,” said Muugu.

    The farmer, who was a former police officer, has increased his initial cultivation of the fodder from half an acre to two acres.


    Guatemala grass at the 2017 Nairobi International Trade Fair

    Guatemala grass grows well in the mid to high altitude areas of Western Kenya. To plant it, cut root splits to attain a length of 20 to 30cm. Plant one root split per hole and apply either one soda bottle top per hole (one bag of DAP per acre). Alternatively, farm yard manure can be applied at the rate of two handfuls per hole. After planting, the soil should be covered firmly to enable the splits grow without interference.

    Proper management practices should be carried out in the field. These include weeding regularly whenever weeds appear. The first harvesting is usually three to four months after planting. The harvest is done by cutting using a machete. During the harvesting process, a stubble height of 10cm is maintained to encourage quick re-growth.

    A subsequent harvest is done after six to eight weeks intervals. After every 2nd harvest, apply two to three bottle-tops of CAN per stool or two bags per acre, or apply two handfuls of farm yard manure/compost per stool (four tonnes FYM/compost per acre)

    The grass is chopped to two to three centimeter pieces and fed to livestock when fresh. If the harvest is plenty, a farmer can opt to make silage for dry season feeding of his herd.

    Farmers can source planting materials at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, the Ministry of Agriculture or other farmers who grow the grass.

    Evans Muugu can be reached on +254 727 794 065.

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    From an initial investment of Sh75, 000 a farmer investing in one acre of pepino melon farming is capable of making Sh295, 000 within three months.

    The amount is three times higher than a farmer who plants maize and harvests an average of 30 bags per acre with each bag retailing at Sh3, 000. A farmer investing in the melons would also earn income in three months as compared to maize which take about six months to mature.

    The initial amount would be used to purchase 4900 seedlings at the cost of Sh100 per seedling. The rest would be used for land cultivation and paying casual laborers. 

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    The pepino melon plant is a perennial with a lifespan of four and half years, propagated from cuttings, and typically planted at a space of three by three feet. It can grow to a height of 1.2 meters when fully matured. The melon does well in drained and fertile soils but it does also well in other types, and only needs support to keep fruits above the ground. The plants yield fruits after three months.

    An acre can support some 4900 sticks and, with rains or irrigation during dry periods, every plant can yield six to eight mature fruits per month.


    Wilson Ndung'u, a pepino melon farmer picking the fruits ready for sale

    To grow pepino melon, seeds are planted in the seedbed at a spacing of 30x30cm and in holes of about 30cm deep, and they sprout after about two weeks. They are then left to grow for about three weeks to a month and they are ready for sale.

    One can also propagate the melon using cuttings, which are put in nylon bags filled with soil and manure. After a month of watering, the cuttings develop roots and new leaves start sprouting. They will then flower after a week signaling their readiness for sale.

    The flowering starts almost immediately or within a week of transplanting right from the nursery/seedling bed. After planting, the fruits develop and they take about five to six months to start ripening. The fruit is harvested by plucking it from the plant, and it continues all through for up to three to years.

    Pepino melons require moderate rainfall, organic manure mixed with soil at a ratio of 1:3 and inorganic fertilizer such as DAP or 17:17which is optional depending on the fertility of the soil. During dry seasons, mulching should be done to prevent much water from evaporating.

    Pepino is entirely edible providing fiber that aids digestion. But the fruit also has large deposits of vitamin A, C, K and B, and is rich in minerals such as copper and iron, which are essential in blood formation and in boosting immunity. Potassium in the fruit also helps in lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow, as well as in central nervous system coordination.

    The melon is also a diuretic, accelerating the passage of urine, which is a key benefit for patients with diabetes, which is prevalent in Kenya.

    With 4900 plants a farmer who picks approximately 5 fruits per week would earn Sh24, 500 amounting to Sh294, 000 in three months’ time. The pepino melon market includes supermarkets across Kenyan towns, urban markets and groceries and consumers alike who visit farms to purchase the produce.

    Pepino melon seedlings can be found by contacting Wilson Ndung’u on +254 723 117 816.



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