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    By George Munene

    Low mar­ket prices can leave small scale farm­ers frus­trated, but one Kisumu okra farmer has proven that simple value ad­di­tion of valu­able crop can triple his farm­ing in­come with just one har­vest­ing period.

    With a short shelf life of seven to ten days, small scale farm­ers of this crop find it dif­fi­cult to own cold rooms due to their ex­or­bit­ant prices. This is where Paul Ochi­eng saw an op­por­tun­ity- sun dry­ing. Which has en­abled him to ex­port six kilos of dried okra weekly to South Sudan at a price of Sh100 per kilo, com­pared to other farm­ers who fetch just Sh80 for the fresh pro­duce loc­ally.

    The an­nual post-har­vest losses of fresh hor­ti­cul­tural crops in Kenya are es­tim­ated at more than 50 per cent ac­cord­ing to a 2010 re­search by The In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Trop­ical Ag­ri­cul­ture (IITA). Space and fa­cil­it­ies to handle food products, es­pe­cially fresh pro­duce re­main in­suf­fi­cient. This res­ults in high levels of waste and spoil­age dwind­ling farm­ers’ in­come.

    “What opened my eyes in the dry­ing of okra was when I met South Su­danese stu­dents from the Great Lakes Uni­versity of Kisumu (GLUK) in 2016 who were buy­ing the pro­duce to trade back home. We agreed on a pur­chase price of Sh100 per kilo, Sh20 more than what Kisumu traders gave,” says Paul.

    Re­lated News: Farm­Biz TV:Farmer grows fast acre of okra to make Sh6k in profits a day

    Re­lated News: Ex­porter look­ing for ginger, gar­lic, okra, pump­kin for its grow­ing mar­kets

    Due to the good qual­ity of Paul’s okra plant and high de­mand for the plant back in S. Sudan, the pur­chase price of a kilo moved from Sh100 per kilo to Sh300 per kilo—this was triple the ini­tial agree­ment.

    To pre­pare the fruit for dry­ing Paul cuts the ve­get­able into slices of 1- 4 cm cross length and spreads them on hot rocks about 10:00 am in the morn­ing when the rocks are already heated by the fa­cil­it­at­ing for speedy dry­ing.

    “In India, where okra is highly con­sumed, farm­ers often dry the pro­duce using hot air driers or mi­crowaves, but for me, I take ad­vant­age of the rocks in my homestead since I leave close Kit Mi­kayi a fam­ous tour­ist at­trac­tion site,” he adds.

    Des­pite ex­port­ing it as flour, Ochie’ng is paid in fresh weight. 150 kilos of fresh okra can pro­duce about three kilos of flour which is packed in bags. This has re­duced trans­port costs by al­most 75 per cent.

    “The high yield­ing "Pusa sawani" okra vari­ety I grow ma­tures in 45 to 55 days. I har­vest 350kg a week; 300kg is turned into flour (about 6kg) for ex­port to S. Sudan at Sh300 per kilo of fresh weight with the re­main­ing 50kg sup­plied as fresh pro­duce to Kisumu City’s Ju­bilee Mar­ket at Sh80 a kilo.” The farmer ex­plained. This trans­lates to Sh94,000 gross in­come a week and Sh367,000 a month.

    Re­lated News: Refugee chan­ging her life by grow­ing sweet potato, okra and kale in her camp kit­chen garden

    He says the har­vest­ing period of okra being three months, at the end of every sea­son he earns a gross of Sh1,128,000.

    The stu­dents have also opened a res­taur­ant within GLUK, mak­ing and serving okra flour cha­patis and snacks to the many South Su­danese and other stu­dents in the cam­pus. This has meant Paul con­tinu­ally in­crease his pro­duc­tion to match rising de­mand.

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    A Uasin Gishu dairy farmer has raised his income by combining Ayrshire cow milk which has a higher butterfat content at 3.4 per cent—about 10 percent more than Holstein Fresian milk. 

    Ayrshire cows with that of Friesian after abandoning maize farming due to exploitation from middlemen whom he said denied him of his full returns.

    Willy Kirwa abandoned maize farming after struggling to make ends meet due to the crop's poor farm gate prices and perennial disease attacks.

    ”I had sought out alternatives and was finally convinced of the economic potential in dairy farming. After doing some quick calculations, I realised that returns were quite impressive,” said the famer.

    “I secured a loan of Sh200,000 to assist me in constructing the structures and also facilitate take-off,” said the farmer.  

    RELATED STORY: Upgrading an ayrshire with a friesian can boost farmers milk production at low costs

    With his initial heard of 10 cows, he started to improve their quality by buying additional pedigree animals which included Holstein, Friesian and Ayrshire breeds.  He then secured a bigger loan of Sh1m having successfully cleared the previous debt. 

    “I used the money to purchase a milking machine and to buy more high quality animals, he said. 

    With 20 animals on zero grazing, he was gradually realising his dream having secured a steady market for his milk supply including a local school that offered him a very competitive price.

    To be a class above the rest, Mr. Kirwa devised a method that has ensured that his milk is the most sought after commodity by both companies and individuals.

    “I realized that Ayrshire cows have thick creamed milk which I now combine with milk from the Friesian using my own formula,” he said. 

    RELATED STORY: How farmer improves Friesian milk quality

    The milk has been the talking point of his customers, with others waiting to sample it and become customers.

    “I wanted to try out something different to ensure my commodity remained relevant in the market,” he added.

    Mr. Kirwa has also turned to breeding with his heifers forming part of his growing herd.  “I source for the best semen globally to ensure I get the best breeds, “he said. 

    A heifer on his farm fetches more than Sh150, 000.  Today, the animals have increased to 36.  On average he milks more than 25 animals at any given month which produces about 350litres of milk daily.

    RELATED STORY: Star farmer: Dairy farming lifts Rift Valley farmer to national and international stardom

    This translates to a tidy sum of money at the end of the month, depending on market forces.  “The milk market in this area is so huge that we even run short of supplies,” he said.

    To cut on costs and maximize on profits, Mr Kirwa has turned to growing and operating his own animal feed. 

    He also purchases drugs for these animals from leading pharmaceutical firm on wholesale, which helps to cut down the cost of treating them by almost half. “I invite veterinary officers only to check on the heath of the animals, but supply the drugs, “he added

    The farmer is also planning to take his dairy farming a notch higher by turning to value addition. He plans to purchase a coolant in the coming months, before engaging in packaging and selling yoghurt.

    With his success spreading like bushfire in the village of Kapseret, budding dairy farmers have been flocking to his home to learn a few basics on rearing dairy animals at a fee. He charges between Sh300 and Sh400 to educate farmers on the best practices when carrying out dairy business, “he said. 

    According to Mr. Kirwa the most encouraging aspect of the visits is that most of the farmers are fresh graduates eager to break with the past and start income generating project.  

    Apart from dairy farming Mr. Kirwa also rears chicken and reaping the fruits of resilience, as he and his wife seek to expand their tentacles in farming in a complete departure from the traditional of growing maize.

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    By George Munene

    Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has promised small-holder tea farmers a better pay next year once all reforms undertaken by the government take hold in the tea sector. 

    "There's been a steady rise in the prices of tea at auction while plans are underway to lower the cost of production, transportation and storage of processed tea. Smallholder tea farmers should expect much better pay by the end of 2021/22 Financial Year," Munya said while at a visit to Weru Tea Factory in Tharaka Nithi overseeing the plant's progress on some of the highlighted reforms.

    Related News: Njeru Industries shakes up tea buying with fast payments

    Related News: Government tea reforms lead to record 40% price rise

    The implementation of a minimum reserve price in July this year has led to an increase in the price of tea at the Mombasa auction from a low of Sh199 in April to a record Sh374.64 per kilogram in mid-October. 

    The CS lay the blame for the poor tea bonuses being paid out to farmers now to farmers on the ousted Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) officials and factory directors.

    Related News: Automated tea picking machine helps farmers halve production costs & improve quality

    "After the initial resistance by the former tea cartels in June this year, the prices of tea at the Mombasa Auction, have increased steadily. The government realized that the declining tea prices, were a result of direct sales where cartels were the beneficiaries. Once we stopped the direct sale of green leaf--which makes up 95 per cent of the tea exported from Kenya--there has been a 42 per cent average increase in its price, from July to date," he said.

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