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    Patrick Mwangi an enterprising farmer from Mathioya County is rewriting the rules of agribusiness in poultry farming having shrugged off temptations of joining the quail craze but focusing on the more neglected turkey.

    Having grown up in a home where turkey was a significant part of the farming business, Mwangi knew right these rare birds held the key for gaining financial independence. “My father reared turkey when I was still a boy but suddenly the birds disappeared from our homestead after a certain Christmas period when they were all sold out.” Despite this, the now youthful farmer had grasped some basics in rearing the birds and coupled with his love for farming, he vowed to give it a try in future.

    His childhood dream started being fulfilled after acquiring a loan in 2013. ‘’I had applied for the loan to pursue other ventures but decided to take a portion of it and gamble into this worthwhile venture. It was not easy to settle on the idea as this was also the time that the country was buzzing with quail farming which many farmers were running into with the hope of being instant millionaires,’’ he said. However, Mwangi managed to stay focused and pursued his dream starting with an initial investment of about Sh50, 000.

    As a shrewd farmer, Mwangi first, invested his time into research of the birds which he mainly did through online and farm visits to farmers who already had turkey. “I wanted to be sure of what I was investing in and as a matter of fact, I could only accomplish this through thorough background checks to ascertain their health risks, feeding regime and even market for its products like eggs and meat,” explained Mwangi. Having assured himself that the venture was worthwhile, he embarked on the main project starting off with construction of the structure.

    This initial cost included the house structures mainly made from wood and heavy metal on the sides with the normal iron sheets on the roof. He also fenced about half an acre to enable the mainly free roaming birds space to fend for themselves. In total the construction of the structure and the fencing cost was about Sh25000. He then started off his trade with seven mature Turkey six female and a male one.

    According to him he opted to begin with mature birds because of the high returns they promised and the ease of dealing with them. “The mature birds were a good bet to begin with because some were already laying eggs and they had finished all the requisite immunization requirements. Therefore I learnt on how to manage the whole flock from the experience I got from the initial stock.   In addition the birds are not heavy feeders compared to exotic chickens. Seven mature birds feeds on a paltry less than 2kilos of commercial feeds because they supplement the feed with their own free range feeds.

    The key to keeping turkey is allowing them enough space to fend for themselves. These birds also feed on and require sun light exposure for healthy breeding and growth. He noted, “If you deny them that then they may be very weak and develop rickety tendencies as I witnessed a case with one that my brother had kept in door together with quails.” If they are denied the spacious environment, Mwangi warned that even their laying pattern is heavily hampered.

    Currently Mwangi’s farm has over 18 birds. According to him, the market demand for the turkey and its eggs is overwhelming but still underfed. Since starting off, I have sold off over 10 turkeys with some mature male bird able to fetch over Sh9000 especially during the festive season. An egg retails at Sh150 and although the bird is not a good consistent layer, Mwangi noted that one bird can lay an average of four eggs per week. He has an incubator where he broods the chicks selling a one day old chick at Sh500. “Currently all the eggs in the incubator are already booked and am forced to turn down other clients with some coming as far as from Kissii and Kisumu,” noted Mwangi If slaughtered, a kilo of meat retails at Sh900 and some well fed male Turkeys can weigh up to 24 kilos making it a viable venture. According to this budding farmer if the birds are well fed, they start laying eggs at around five months although the mal take a longer period of about eight months to mature.

    Despite the promising rosy returns, the birds also have their fair share of challenges with Mwangi noting that the most challenging part of them is dealing with the young birds which are sensitive to cold temperatures. “The chicks are more fragile than the chicken to cold weather which infects them with respiratory complications but the key to this is granting the birds utmost attention, enough warmth and observing all the required immunization against diseases like cocidiosis, Newcastle, Gumboro among others.”  He advised that if one wants to reap from any agribusiness venture, then he needs to create time and physically involve himself in the day to day activities. “It’s only through doing this that you even inspire the workers to do the right thing and to take their work seriously”

    As fate would have it, Mwangi was destined for success and now nine months later he smiles back at the milestones he has achieved. I implore more serious farmers who want to reap the gains of agri business to ventiirre into this noble entity because the problem in the villages is that many farmers don’t venture into income generating agribusiness activities just for the sake without a clear vision of business model and how to reap gains in it. This he supports with the examples of turkey farmers in the country who rare may be two or four and at the peak of festive periods, they sell all the birds and again take long to start off.

    “This is a lifelong venture available for any stallholder farmer in the country and unlike quails which was hyped and faded, the Turkey birds have been here for ages and only few farmers dare go for it and as a result the returns are so mouth watering that one will not regret”

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    Kenyan cereal farmers long buffeted by post harvest losses and poor farm gate prices have found relief in a new scheme that allows them to store produce until a market shortage while using it as collateral to access financing.

    Traditionally most of the cereals harvested were susceptible to post harvest losses especially attack by weevils. And then there was the risk of a market glut due to farmers harvesting and selling at the same time.  The end result was poor pay. Middlemen would also cash in on farmers desperation to buy it at a rock bottom prices.

    But a new model is now allowing small farmers to store their produce in certified warehouses and use it to obtain credit from banks, avoiding middlemen who paid them and enable them buy good seeds and fertilizer and raise their yields.

    “Brokers have always been a thorn in the flesh of  poor farmers because they take advantage of the harvesting season to purchase farm produce very cheaply, then sell (inputs) to the farmers very expensively when such commodities are scarce in the market,” said Paddy Likhayo, a Kenyan-based grain storage expert.

    Joseph Karanja, a smallholder farmer in Rift Valley, said prices of farm produce, especially cereals, are always very low at harvest time and very high during the planting season, making it impossible for poor farmers to buy farm inputs at the right time.

    “Sometimes we end up planting without fertilisers because we cannot afford it, or at times we plant when it is too late because we did not get the finances in good time,” Karanja said.

    Experts say that a one-week delay in planting can reduce a crop’s yield by more than 50 percent, and Peter Njau, a research scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) , says late planting because of financial problems is one of the main reasons for poor yields among small farmers.

    To bridge this gap, the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC), in collaboration with theAlliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and selected commercial banks, is supporting farmers by letting them store their cereals in certified warehouses and use the warehouse receipts as collateral for loans to finance their farming activities.

    The process is known as a ‘Structured Grain Trading System,’ said EAGC Executive Director Gerald Masila, “This is a business venture for smallholder farmers. Those who tried it at first two years ago have already become self sustaining and can obtain loans without our support.”

    Many Kenyan smallholders do not produce enough to make up a consignment of 100 tonnes, the minimum required by standard EAGC warehouses, so they form groups and deliver their cereal together. In exchange, they receive a warehouse receipt which they can present to a bank as collateral for a loan.

    “In January 2011, we stored 113 (90kg) bags of maize at Lesiolo Grain Handlers and used the warehouse receipt to acquire a bank loan of Sh200,000  ($2,500). This enabled us to prepare our pieces of land in good time, buy the required farm inputs in advance, and plant on time without having sold our produce to brokers,” said Lydia Njoroge Gichuma, chairwoman of the 25-member Mwihoko Self Help Group in Nakuru, in the Rift Valley.

    “That was the first bank loan of my life,” said Gichuma, a mother of four.

    Lesiolo Grain Handlers Ltd is a private company that has joined the warehouse receipting system.

    Lending money to smallholders, particularly farmers, has always been a challenge because shifting climatic conditions and emergencies in the form of pests and disease mean there is no guarantee the crops will perform as expected, says Nixon Bugo, the Programme Officer, Innovative Finance, Policy and Partnership Programme at AGRA.

    Gichuma’s self-help group sold their grain in April, when the price had risen to Sh3,600 per bag from Sh2,200 in December. “This enabled us to pay off the bank loan at once, pay the warehouse charges and divide the remaining amount among ourselves depending on the amount of cereal stored by each individual,” she said.

    They now have another crop growing, which they expect to harvest soon, and take to the warehouse. Another group, the Kirima Self Help Group, deposited 111 bags of maize at Lesiolo in 2012, and withdrew it after the price appreciated.

    “The warehouse system reduces many risks because once the grain is stored, we do not worry about it being attacked by pests or aflatoxins, or being stolen. There is always a guarantee that we will get back our grain as indicated on the receipt whenever we need it,” said David Kamau Thuo, of Kirima SHG in Menengai, Nakuru.

    So far the EAGC has certified 10 warehouses with a capacity of 30,000 tonnes each in different parts of the country.

    Masila says that banks and related financial institutions are crucial to the scheme. “Their willingness to accept warehouse receipts as collateral is an important achievement for smallholder farmers,” he said, as it enables them to plant in good time and get better yields.

     The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Gender and Development Plan of Action underscores the importance of financial capital for farmers to improve production. “Buying seeds, fertilisers and other agricultural inputs often requires short-term loans, which are repaid when the crops are harvested,” the report reads.

    “With innovative financing, many banks are already changing their perception about giving credit to smallholder farmers. And that is the way to go, if we are to achieve a green revolution in Africa,” said Bugo of AGRA.

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    As global demand for coffee reaches unprecedented highs, Kenyan farmers are replanting what they uprooted decades ago due to its poor returns and this time even the government is keen to reap from the international demand.

    In the 1980s Africa produced about 30 percent of the world’s coffee, but today, going by current statistics, it only accounts for 13 percent, a far cry from its potential according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture.

    According to InternatiAs onal Coffee Organization, Ethiopia with 7.45 million bags in 2010 was lead producer, followed by Uganda with 3.1 million, Ivory Coast with 2.2 million, Tanzania 917,000 and Kenya 850,000. Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil with an estimated value of $80 billion annually.

    A reality check on the performance of most African producer countries indicates that all is not well as evidenced by recent statistics that the continent produced an estimated 17 million bags in 2010. This accounts for only 13 percent of the global coffee production compared to 30 percent in the 80s. In Kenya despite the good prices and government interventions, coffee production has remained low averaging between 40,000 metric tones and 55,000 metric tonnes.

    “In 10 years the supply gap will be 30 million bags. This is a big opportunity for farmers in the country to increase production and earn more from their produce,” said Coffee Board of Kenya Managing Director Ms Loise Njeru. The government projects to introduce coffee production to 100,000 metric tonnes according to Vision 2030. This however will still be below the peak of 130,000 metric tonnes achieved in 1988/89.

    World coffee prices are expected to remain high for over 10 years according to experts with supply falling below demand last year. About 158 million bags of coffee were consumed in the world in 2010 compared to 159 million bags the previous year.
    In 2010 the country received Sh16 billion, an improvement from Sh10 billion registered the previous year. Coffee earned the country Sh22 billion in 2011. “We have witnessed crazy prices at the Nairobi Coffee exchange. Speculation may correct this in the long run, but the prices will not come to the low levels they were due to constrained supply,” said Mr. Kennedy Gitonga an economist at Coffee Research Foundation.

    He said the Columbian mild which is similar to Kenya’s coffee will be coming to the market in few years after maturing, which will tilt the coffee market with added supply. However prices will be stabilized by rising demand, estimated at 2.5 percent per year.
    Mr. Gitonga said Kenya could exploit the anticipated decline in coffee production in the world, by taking measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and increasing production per tree. “Kenya has no carryover stocks, even in times of high supply, indicating that local coffee is highly sought after at the world market,” he said.

    And as researchers brace for challenges associated with the climate change, they are advising farmers to introduce measures that ensures that production is not reduced. Some of the challenges expected are new diseases and insects, drought and floods. Coffee Research Foundation, the body charged with carrying out coffee research in the country has advised farmers to initiate primary farming practices that have long been forgotten, to cushion the crop from the vagaries of nature.”The threat of climate change is real and the time to act is now to avoid being caught up a few years down the line. That is why we shall factor in climate change in our development of new varieties,” said the director of research Mr. Joseph Kimemia.  Among the measures cited by the research body include plating coffee friendly trees to keep the crop shaded. Planting grass strips in coffee rows and regular pruning are others.

    Tree shaded Mr. Kimemia said can reduce temperature by 4 degrees Celsius while the other measures can hold more water for the plant. Firms like Kakuzi have reduced acreage of coffee to reduce risks as production plummeted. They have converted some of the land under coffee to mango growing.

    But with the fast growing markets in China, India and Brazil, global supply of coffee is expected to be in a tight supply situation for several years and Africa has an opportunity to increase its production, the meeting convened for African coffee producer states and which deliberated on how to increase production and consumption noted.

    A growing middle class in these countries that is increasingly taking to drinking coffee, has led to reduced exports from some of the traditional coffee growing countries. There are other emerging markets like Russia that the continent could use to increase exports. The continent with an estimated population of 1 billion also has a potential to increase local consumption but also has to increase value addition and produce brands for local and export markets.

    However Kenyan coffee is a favourite in the global scene where it is purchased to blend produce from other countries.  This demand is rekindling hope to thousands of farmers who had previously abandoned the crop due to poor returns.

    That coffee sector is on the road to recovery can be seen from the eyes of  farmer Jeremiah Muthomi of Meru Greens who says that in parts of Eastern and Central where his firm has contracted out growers, farmers have gone back to coffee on parcels where they were growing horticultural produce. “With the current coffee boom, farmers have started replacing horticulture with coffee trees,” he said.
    Elgon Kenya Ltd is positioning itself to be a lead supplier to the coffee industry following the encouraging developments.

    But on the flipside of all this interesting developments, local consumption remains low. Compared with other continents, Africa has an average consumption of only 750 grammes per person per year. In Brazil consumption is at 2.8 kilos. Ethiopia which is the top producer in Africa consumes nearly half of its produce while in Kenya only 3% is consumed locally. Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Egypt which are non producing countries have a combined demand of 3.5 million bags every year and growing.

    A coffee expert from Brazil Mr Carlos Bando, said the continent needed to invest in local consumption habit surveys to understand their needs in a bid to encourage more consumption. According to ICO, coffee consumption is estimated to be growing at 2.4 percent per year, and in 2010 the volumes were 158.2 million bags, a slight drop from the 159.2 million in 2009.

    Among the reasons raised in the meeting for low coffee productions were concerns that farmers were aging and that it was necessary to encourage the youth to be active in reviving the crop. “We have to find innovative ways to encourage the youth to participate in growing coffee. Coffee has to appeal to the youth and has to be fashionable and trendy,” said Mr Ishak Lukenge from Uganda.

    He said a youth programme had been initiated in his country where tournaments are organized around coffee, where youths plant coffee and discuss the crop before tournaments.

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