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    Poor timing and entry of middlemen in the supply chain are chopping off more than 40 per cent of the farmer’s earnings from snap peas despite the rise in prices for most agro-products.

    Snap peas, snow peas and French beans are among Kenya’s leading fresh produce exported to the European Union, the US and other countries.

    Although the export market is wide and paying well, Meru County farmer Julius Laban is selling snap peas to middlemen, who are paying dismally.

    The brokers transport the produce to exporters in Nairobi.

    Being a fresh product, holding it more can cause more losses, and this is pushing the farmer to dispose of the snap peas at Sh100 per kilo instead of the usual Sh250 for the same quantity.

    With sufficient rain, Laban harvests at least 800kg from a 10m by 70m plot, which he says, should ideally earn him Sh200,000 in gross income.

    Given the competition from other farmers, who flood the market, he has settled for a gross income of Sh80,000.

    “Farmers have no choice when they cannot access high-end markets on their own. They take whatever the brokers offer. The export market for most horticultural products is flourishing, but this only benefits those who never worked hard in the farm,” he said.

    Producing when every farmer is having the same crop reduces the price of the commodity as the buyers are spoilt for choice.

    READ ALSO: Towns offering double prices for fresh peas

    READ ALSO: Farmer preserves peas with tobacco leaves and chilli, saving a fortune

    READ ALSO: Intensifying cow peas population increases yields per acre

    The price of commodities has been on the rise and only those who relied on irrigation benefitted from the high prices.

    Snow peas take about eight weeks to mature. From the onset of the rains in March, the harvest is already booming. When the peas are in plenty, the buyers cut down on the price as the desperate farmers struggle to sell the fresh produce.

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    One agripreneur is capturing the rising craze for healthy foods instead of synthetic mineral supplements by wadding into amaranth seeds, a crop fought by many as a weed.

    While those growing the amaranth are doing so for harvesting the leaves for vegetables, Ann Muthoni has settled for the seeds, which she is converting into flour for sale.

    Already, she is supplying the flour to supermarket and retail outlets across the country.

    Muthoni has contracted farmers to supply the seeds for processing at the Nairobi Ruai factory, Annico Enterprise.

     The plant produces one ton of amaranth flour daily in form of porridge flour, fortified maize meal, whole and buffed gains, among others.

     The government of Kenya requires maize floor processors to fortify the products with nutritional elements in fighting malnutrition.

    Nutritionists say amaranth is an immunity booster that is also a strong antioxidant. It is rich in iron, calcium among other major minerals essential for good health.

    Iron deficiency leads to anaemia while low levels of calcium can cause weak bones and teeth.

    This makes amaranth an appropriate delicacy for mothers soon after birth, for it would help them in replenishing lost blood.

    Since babies may not consume amaranth vegetables, flour porridge supplies the calcium needed for strong bones and teeth formation.

    READ ALSO: Farmers cash in on demand for lucrative amaranth seeds

    READ ALSO: Amaranth: from weed to wonder crop

    Synthetic mineral supplements are available, but healthy conscious population is shifting its focus to the natural sources of nourishment.

    Muthoni, nutritional expert learnt about turning amaranth seeds into flour for natural mineral supplements while in Sweden.

    Before setting the company in 2008, she had to train farmers on the role of the seeds, and the possible markets she was preparing for them.

    In leading by example, she also took up the farming.

    The shying away from the propagation of commercial amaranth by most farmers in Kenya is no surprise. The global United Nations’ agency for fighting hunger, Foods and Agriculture Organisation report of 2010 says farmers resist change hoping the traditional crops will do well at some point.  This is hurting productivity in the developing countries.

    A case in point was that of farmers in South Africa refusing to abandon maize despite low yields due to depleted soils.

    Instead of practicing crop rotation, intercropping with legumes and other varieties to boost production, they prefer what they are used to.

    The same is the case in Kenya. Muthoni says the demand for the amaranth seed products is rising, but the farmers are yet to seize the opportunity. They are still stuck in maize production.

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    Fishpond officer Fredck Misoi at Kakamega ASK SHow

    Ponds fed with human urine generate food for fish faster by four days, while saving farmers at least 24kg of commercial fertiliser required after every two weeks, a new research has revealed.

    At least 24kg of commercial nitrogenous fertiliser is applied per acre every two weeks, according to the global agency, Food and Agriculture Organisation.

    But a research by the University of Kalyani, India, says half a litre of human urine is required for every 4,500 litres of water to trigger multiplication of zooplankton in four days. Plankton are colonies of green microscopic organisms that are major sources of food for fish.

     The research compared half a kilo of human urine with cowdung, vermicompost, chicken drippings and cow urine.

    In the various setups, Moina micrura plankton grew four days earlier in the human urine than the others.

    The research, which was published in the Ecological Engineering journal, said that the readiness to release the rich nitrogen and other ions in the human urine quickened the propagation process of the plankton.

    A 50kg bag of CAN fertiliser costs between Sh2,500 and Sh3,000 in Kenya. A farmer using human urine in fish production can save this amount every month given that the application is twice in the same period.

    READ ALSO:Two chickens and two rabbits multiply 50 fish weight in six months

    READ ALSO: Cowdung stops snakes from feeding on fish

    READ ALSO: Aquaponic farming turns fish waste into cheap organic fertiliser

    Jared Mokaya, a Kenya Prisons Officer in charge of agriculture in Nakuru correction facility, said high populations of plankton also help in purifying the pond water.

    “The green micro-organisms collectively produce the highest amount of oxygen in the world. In the process of food manufacturing, they absorb carbon dioxide, which is released by the fish during respiration,” Mokaya said in an earlier interview with www.farmbizafrica.com.

    The officer has established and helps farmers come up with integrated fish ponds where rabbits and chicken houses are constructed over fish ponds to release their waste into the water. The urine and droppings promotes growth of the plankton in the pond. Vegetables are grown over the chicken and rabbit house to be the food for these animals.

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