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    Fodder grass farming helps supplement farmer incomes

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    Boma Rhodes.

    Peter Mutisya, a fod­der crop farmer in Kivaa vil­lage, Machakos County earns over Sh85, 000 per sea­son from sales of Rhodes and Bra­chiaria grass com­pared to maize and beans that used to give him Sh10, 000 per sea­son five years ago.

    The ir­reg­u­lar and in­suf­fi­cient rain­fall af­fected his yields, har­vest­ing only five bags of maize and 10kg of beans at most per sea­son. “I was al­ways re­ly­ing on re­lief food from the gov­ern­ment and well-wish­ers be­cause after selling maize and beans and settled school fees I was left with noth­ing,” he said.

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    In the South­east­ern re­gion of Kenya where Mutisya comes from the drought has af­fected har­vests and live­stock. Ac­cord­ing to Kenya Met­eor­o­lo­gical De­part­ment Au­gust 2017 re­port the area re­ceived de­pressed rain­fall of less than 40 per cent of the March-April-May sea­sonal rain­fall.

    This has promp­ted Mutisya and other farm­ers in the re­gion to look for al­tern­at­ive sources of in­come in grow­ing fod­der crops.

    In 2015 Mutisya vis­ited Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural and Live­stock Re­search Or­gan­isa­tion’s (Kalro) Arid and Range Lands Re­search In­sti­tute at Katumanu branch in Machakos County and bought seeds of Boma Rhodes hay and Bra­chiaria grass at Sh800 and Sh1, 000 per kilo re­spect­ively to plant on his six acres farm.

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    He fol­lowed the ag­ro­nomic in­struc­tions given by the Kalro of­ficers and within a short time he was har­vest­ing his first crops for mar­ket. “I was sur­prised that after three to four months both Rhodes and Bra­chiaria were ma­ture for har­vest,” said the father of three.

    Mutisya’s cus­tom­ers are an­imal keep­ers who visit his farm to buy feeds for their an­im­als. He sells Boma Rhodes at Sh300 per bale and Sh20 per kilo of Bra­chiaria grass. He har­vests both in three phases a sea­son get­ting 150 bales and about 20,000Kg of Boma Rhodes and Bra­chiaria grass re­spect­ively. This gives him a sum of Sh85, 000 in a given sea­son.

    Mutisya no longer relys on their vil­lage chief’s char­ity food to feed his fam­ily. “With the money I get from selling the grass, I am able to settle my bills and buy enough food to sus­tain my fam­ily.”

    A grow­ing num­ber of Kenyans liv­ing in arid areas are swap­ping staple crops for live­stock fod­der like Rhodes or Bra­chiaria grass, which re­quire less water to grow, ac­cord­ing to the Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural and Live­stock Re­search Or­gan­iz­a­tion.

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     “Rain-fed staple farm­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult in Kenya due to poor rain­fall, whereas grow­ing fod­der can help farm­ers with­stand pro­longed drought." Said Joseph Mureithi, Kalro dir­ector.

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