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    Seven years ago, James Rioba Chacha bought a young female Borana cow from Olgorian, Masai Mara at KSh 8000. He raised it but it died seven months after giving birth to a female calf. Somewhat discouraged to have lost his money, Chacha raised the calf as his only hope.

    Today the young calf has grown into a big and healthy cow giving birth to many calves.

    When Farmbiz Africa visited him early August this year at his home in Kuria West Isebania division, Chacha was busy attending to his cow which had just given birth for the twelfth time.

    The cow he named Safina is always given special treatment because to him it has brought hope. It is also the parent of his many animals he owns today.

    “When I bought her mother there was nothing promising out of it because it looked small and unhealthy but died and gave birth to a golden calf which has now given me full return of my money and bonuses,” said Chacha as he attends to his cow.

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    Currently Chacha is milking five cows besides Safina. He milks them twice a day each giving him two litres of milk translating to 12 liters of milk per day.

    He says this is not an easy work but being with three wives and children helps in milking and general labour.

    “I have allocated each house task as far as my farm management is concerned giving me chance for supervision and visiting experts for advice,” said Chacha.

    The increasing population in Sirare town in Kenya, Tanzania border provides rich market for Chacha’s milk and other farm produce. He sells a litre liter of milk at Sh60 making Sh720 daily and Sh5, 040 in one week.

    His mature bulls weighing between 300 to 445 kg are sold at Sh50, 000 during normal months and Sh75, 000 during festive months like December.

    In a year he sells at least a bull. This added with the money from milking the cows, gives him approximately Sh1.8 million per year.

    With the advice received from an agro firm called Nuru International, Isebania branch, Chacha is able to feed well his cows out of sweet potatoe vines, napier grass and maize sucks.

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    In the unforgiving coastal climate and land that returns poor yields is the story of a rooftop garden, barely the size of a standard kitchen, hosting over 1100 different plant, and returning Sh20, 000 a month.
    The story of proper planning, constant monitoring of the small farm and cascading design of the sack gardens is better told by Tabitha Mwiwawi, the owner, and an interior designer who has borrowed lessons from his trade to perfect the art of urban farming in a land of scarcity.
    Tabitha who comes from Chuda in Mombasa uses water from her borehole during dry season to water her garden. This makes her production and supply consistent throughout the year.
    In her rooftop balcony a cocktail of hanging gardens and neatly cut bottles co-exist as they enjoy the cool coastal breeze. In this miniature farm, sukumawiki, spinach, cowpeas, dania , onions, cabbages, brinjals and pepper among other crops feeds Tabitha in what she has dedicated her life to doing.

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    They used water bottles neatly arranged are filled with charcoal dust, manure and soil and they serve as seed beds. Once seeds sprout they are transferred to the black plastic bags that serve as their growing medium until they are ripe for harvest.

    “Very many farmers at the coastal region have tried to grow various crops but the harsh weather and poor soils have disappointed. But people must eat. So what do we do? We have to get creative and beat the tough conditions. It is what I have chosen to do, and I am living proof that you can farm anywhere,” said Tabitha.

    The many crops in her rooftop gardens means that she can alternate planting and eventually harvesting them, giving her a steady income throughout the year. With an initial investment of Sh10,000 three years ago, Tabitha now earns on average Sh20,000 each month from the sale of the produce to her neighbours. This is enough for her since she also consumes part of what she grows meaning she cuts down on food budget, and because she does this farming as a part time job.

    “However it doesn’t look as rosy as it might sound. A lot of work goes into tending and taking care of the crops. For starters I wake up very early to ensure the garden is watered. Considering this is horticulture, I also have to be sensitive about what fertilizers and chemicals I use so I have to keep constant watch. I prefer foliar fertilizer. Then there is the weeding which plays a key role in determining the amount of yield I will get,” she said.

    Her farming especially in an area farmers have given up on farming is a rubberstamp to a gospel being advanced by policy and research institutions on the way forward in food production. According to institutions like Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa AGRA, and FAO, unprecedented population explosion is putting a strain on food production. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that arable land is dwindling as it gets replaced by housing developments and as it competes with the exploration of natural resources. The solution, the institutions insist, is in tapping small portions of land to produce more. Miniature gardens like Tabitha’s it is argued, can feed dozens of people comfortably.

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    By George Munene

    Uganda agripreneur Godfrey Kiberu, is shining a light on the potential for value addition of Africa's abundant avocado harvest which often goes to waste.

    “If we can value add the abundant avocados grown in the continent, we can be able to reduce the impact of relying on palm oil imports and create a ready market for our farmers,” he explained.

    Across Africa, the price of cooking oil has risen on average by 30 per cent owing to the Ukrainian crisis, export restrictions by palm oil-producing countries, and high demand and low supply of palm oil in the global market. 

    Kiberu sources the avocadoes from smallholder farmers across Uganda. He extracted oil by processing it using a locally fabricated machine after sun drying the fruit’s flesh.

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    His pressed oil products are sold through the Lavado Oil brand as cooking oil avocado seed tea and as a cosmetic.

    His company was recently the recipient of a Sh6M ($50,000) grant from the World Food Program (WFP) as part of its program pushing for the redesigning of food systems in Africa to reduce shortages occasioned by global crises.  

    “Currently, we can only produce 100 liters of oil every month as we are using very rudimentary methods, with this grant, we will push this to 1,000 liters,” Kiberu said.

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    “We are looking to fund African smallholder farmers and agripreneurs with extraordinary ideas that not only make them self-reliant but grow and be sustainable producers of food not only for their households but for their communities and the wider country. This will help build more reliable food systems in the continent,” highlighted WFP’s Uganda Deputy Director.

    Once he has the new machinery and is able to ramp up production, Kiberu’s Lavado Natural Oils is expected to hit the local market in a few months.

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