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    hyp AMiramar International College, a Nairobi-based technical college started in 2016, is providing students with three months training and loans to create hydroponic farms, as part of a mission to manufacture and market hydroponic equipment countrywide.

    With the population ballooning, but the land mass remaining static, hydroponics is a system of tiered farming without soil, which grows plants intensively in water-based, nutrient-rich solutions. This ensures the germination and growth of quality plants and greatly increases the speed of harvests.

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    The college, which is driven by a vision of empowering vulnerable youth, is offering three months training in hydroponic farming technology for free, covering crop science, entrepreneurship and marketing. 

    On completion, students are advanced a loan of Sh800,000 per pair by KCB through a partnership between the college and the bank to purchase the hydroponics equipment and construct warehouses to house the equipment.

    “The partnership between KCB bank and institution is to encourage youths who are usually cash strapped to venture into  farming, as setting up hydroponics can be expensive, which makes many youth shy away from it,” said Steve Nyawanga, Miramar International College’s hydroponic technician.

    The hydroponics are set up in the warehouse by the institution’s technicians who later provide extension services when farming begins. As part of the agreement between the students and the institution they can only grow capsicums, lettuce and tomatoes, as the institute needs to ensure the loans are repaid and it provides a ready market for these products, buying from farmers at current market prices.

    From these proceeds the students pay back the bank loan.

    “We provide a ready market for these products to enable smooth repayment of the loan and to make this farming sustainable as some money is left to the farmer to enable planting in the next season,”  said Nyawanga.The institution champions organic farming as the market for organic food is growing rapidly as consumers become more health conscious.“We want the products from these farms to be organic to protect consumers from ingesting harmful pesticides. We train our farmers how to fight pests and diseases using organic methods like planting other plants that repel diseases and pests,” he said. 


    Photo by Hydroponics Kenya 

    Hydroponic farming reduces water wastage and reduces the risk of pest and diseases by 99 per cent, compared with conventional farming, as getting rid of soils helps make your plants less vulnerable to soil-borne pests like bird and groundhogs and diseases like Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia.

    Instead, the technology allows farmers to control the whole environment for their plants’ growth, across temperature, lights, moisture, and especially nutrients. Plants are placed in ideal conditions, while nutrients are provided in the right amounts directly to the root systems.

    This ensures that the plants do not waste time searching for nutrients and focus on growing, which results in high yields.

    The college which is located at Muthiga, graduated 700 students December last year. The training has benefited students from Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, Thika, Kajiando and Nairobi.

    rabbits1Rabbit byproducts, urine and manure, are taking off as alternatives and supplements to inorganic fertiliser and pesticides for farmers who are shifting to organic production to meet growing demand for chemical-free crops and livestock.

    Rabbit byproducts, urine and manure, are taking off as alternatives and supplements to inorganic fertiliser and pesticides for farmers who are shifting to organic production to meet growing demand for chemical-free crops and livestock.
    Rabbits are ideal farm mammals for smallholders and in urban setups: they occupy very little space, requiring just a 6×2×2 ft hutch; eat very little at ½ to a cup of pellets and a cup of greens for every 1.8 Kg of their weight; and, unlike most farm animals, such as poultry, rabbits stop feeding once they are sated. They also drink less water than almost all other domestic animals.

    RELATED CONTENT:Thika company urgently looking for rabbits to meet rising meat demand

     Overall, rabbits are hardy and easily adaptable to almost all environment types and extremes.

    However, farmers are also now becoming more interested in their byproducts as consumer demand for organic crops raises new challenges in finding organic fertilisers and means of pest control.

    When mature, at four months and older, a rabbit can produce up to ¼ liter urine in a day. The nitrogenous waste concentration in their urine is high, because they drink very little water in relation to other animals.

    RELATED CONTENT:Man builds rabbits empire single-handedly despite financial challenges

    The waste of rabbits fed on greens are richer still in primary nutrients, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are all prerequisites for healthy plants.

    However, in that rabbit urine is highly concentrated, its direct application can burn crops. A 1:5 urine to water ratio has been proved to be most effective.

    To keep the urine as a fertilizer for longer use as molasses, leave the concoction to ferment for 3 weeks before diluting 1-part urine to 20 parts water.

    Rabbit urine as an organic fertiliser also acts to ward off rather than kill plant insect pests such as mites, leaf burrowers and bugs.

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     For its part, rabbit manures’ odorless, compacted and dry making it an ideal fertilizer too. Just like the rabbit urine, it is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, which work to enhance plant growth. Moreover, unlike other dung, even when directly applied without composting from the hutch it doesn’t scorch plants.

    Compared to cow dung, rabbit manure has four times the nutrients. It also adds double the value to soil that chicken manure does. Indeed, some companies, such as Kikaboni Aquaponics Farm in Kiserian, are now rearing free range rabbits solely to serve greenhouse grown crops.

    Rabbits are additionally a cheap protein source. However, as a means of moving to organic farming. rabbit keeping enables cheaper production and with proper market research organic products can fetch a premium price. 

    RELATED CONTENT:Crossbreeding boosts weight of Machakos farmer’s rabbits

     Supermarkets Tuskys Karen and Carrefour outlets in both Karen and Two Rivers Mall now have organic isles.

    Meanwhile organic markets are growing, including:Organic Farmers’ Market, adjacent Hillcrest Schools on Langata road; Kid Kenya Ventures Garden Estate; Karengata Farmers’ Market, Karen;US Embassy Organic Market, which is open on Thursday; andC-SHEP Farmers Market in Rongai. 

    Online organic stores such as Kalimoni Greens, Mlango Farm, Sylvia’s basket and Bridges Organic Restaurant now offer home deliveries for all things organic.

     In addition, events such as The Kenya Organic Food Festival and Exhibition held annually offer organic producers an opportunity to showcase their wares.

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