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Young farmer cuts lucrative niche in offering organic farming solutions

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By George Munene

George Mu­turi, a 26-year-old farmer has cut a luc­rat­ive niche for him­self in of­fer­ing in­nov­at­ive or­ganic farm­ing solu­tions through the rear­ing of red­worms, black sol­dier flies and grow­ing azolla. Ven­tures which net him about Sh50,000 a month.

Lack­ing school fees after com­plet­ing his sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion, Mu­turi began rear­ing poultry and rab­bits in 2013, he however changed tack in 2015. “Through in­ter­net re­search I found the rear­ing of red­worms to be a novel and more prom­ising busi­ness op­por­tun­ity. ICIPE (In­ter­na­tional Centre for In­sect Physiology and Eco­logy) was en­cour­aging farm­ers to take on the ven­ture by of­fer­ing free worms, from them I got my first batch, start­ing out with an aim to propag­ate the earth­worms as a source of chicken feed,” Mu­turi says.

However, due to their low pro­duc­tion rates he opted to use them for ver­mi­cul­ture –pro­duc­tion of an af­ford­able or­ganic fer­til­iser called ver­mi­com­post (a product of the de­com­pos­ing ve­get­able or an­imal waste using spe­cies of worms) that he sells to other farm­ers for crop pro­duc­tion. From mak­ing just 100-150 kilo­grams of ver­mi­com­post six years ago the res­id­ent of Lari, Ki­ambu County, now pro­duces two tonnes of ver­mi­com­post monthly for his stand­ing cli­ents. He sells a kilo­gram for Sh50.

Re­lated News: Red­worm rear­ing prom­ises bet­ter in­come for un­der­gradu­ate

Re­lated News: Black Sol­dier Fly grower en­list­ing farm­ers to earn in­come

The worms feed on an­imal ma­nure (he opts for the more avail­able cow dung) as well as dry and wet leaves. For his pro­duc­tion of two tonnes, he uses 200-300kg of earth­worms and 2.5 tonnes of raw ma­ter­ial. Whilst he is able to source ve­get­at­ive ma­ter­ial from his home he has to buy cow dung from neigh­bour­ing farms. This he says, runs his total cost of pro­duc­tion to Sh25/Kg. He rears his worms in a simple shed made out of offcuts and nylon paper. The basic para­met­ers to ob­serve in set­ting up a ver­mi­com­post unit are en­sur­ing it is shaded from dir­ect sun­light; en­sur­ing tem­per­at­ures within the unit do not ex­ceed 35°C or go below 15°C. The mois­ture con­tent level also needs to hover at around 40%. The worms can be fed at one go or in­ter­mit­tently—about once every week and the fer­til­iser is ready for har­vest after 45 days.

Mu­turi’s new­est pro­ject is the farm­ing of azolla, a water fern that is rich in pro­teins and serves as a sup­ple­ment to feed for chick­ens, ducks, pigs, fish, cattle, sheep, goats and rab­bits. Azzola has been in vogue amongst poultry farm­ers in the know for its high rate of growth in water without dis­pla­cing ex­ist­ing crops and its abil­ity to pro­lif­er­ate without in­or­ganic ni­tro­gen fer­til­isa­tion. “Again, through on­line re­search, I got to read up on the be­ne­fits of azolla as a sup­ple­ment to tra­di­tional chicken feed, I got the seeds from one of the pi­on­eer­ing farm­ers in its growth in Nairobi, ex­plains George. Mu­turi propag­ates his azolla in a foot deep 1.5M*7.5M ar­ti­fi­cial pond. The azolla is ready for har­vest after just three weeks. Every three days one col­lects up to 10-15 kilo­grams. One kilo­gram of azolla is fit to provide suf­fi­cient di­et­ary pro­tein for up to 50 chick­ens. Most of his azolla is con­sumed by his chicken, though he sells 10-20 kilo­grams of it at Sh1000 per kilo­gram every month to other farm­ers.

Re­lated News: How to set a simple ver­mi­cul­ture sys­tem for your kit­chen garden

He also rears black sol­dier flies in a setup that farms 100 kilo­grams every two weeks—most of which he feeds to his chicken and pigs. He sells 15 kg of BSF lar­vae at Sh2000 per kg every month to starter farm­ers.

George Mu­turi: 0717411668

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