Monthly Archives: July 2013

Online hub lures ‘digital’ youth back to farms:

untitledIN SUMMARY

· A moment at the site is eye opening on just the kind of information the young farmers seek from fellow members.

Forget the search for the elusive jobs. Youths who graduated from school recently are going back to farms and making good returns.

And the problem is no longer marketing their produce; they have set up a digital marketing platform where buyers meet sellers — online.

In the last six months alone, the digital farmers hub has risen to over 13,900 members, creating a seller-buyer pool that is now drawing graduates and school leavers into agribusiness.

Dubbed Mkulima Young, youths in rural areas are earning thousands of shillings every month. Take Daniel Kimani, one of the champions of Mkulima Young, for example. A mechanical engineering diploma holder, he has mounted an aquaponic project that  is earning him about Sh300,000 a month. He runs a fish rearing and strawberry farming project.

He taps ammonia produced by the fish in form of waste to organically grow the strawberries. The berries do not require soil or manure and are mounted on 2-metre plastic towers which carry at least 20 plants.

“The fish waste-filled pond water is taken through the stone-filled tower to filter it, its oxygenated and returned to the pond. It leaves the ammonia on the tower which strawberry uses to grow,” says Mr Kimani, who is also trained in Aquatic Science at Moi University.

The project in Gitiri, Kinangop, has 5,000 fingerlings and 5,000 fish and soon, he will have about 2.5 tonnes of fish. “The mathematics is simple. One kilo of fish goes for Sh400. 2,500 kilos will bring Sh1 million,” he says.

The towers on which he grows the berries are on wooden blocks of 3-by-2 feet which carry 400 plants. “My 300 blocks have 12,000 plants which produce at least 1,000 kilos of strawberry per month. I sell a kilo at Sh500,” he explains. All this came from a Sh200,000 seed capital.

Another Mkulima Young member Money team visited is Maryann Wairimu, 22. At her Gad Eden greenhouse and nursery in Kiserian, Kajiado County, she plants seedlings for traditional vegetables and horticultural crops.

The Applied Science graduate is contracted by farmers who want to plant crops and she grows the seedlings in her nursery. She needed Sh100,000 to put up the mini greenhouse and buy trays. Today, through postings at Mkulima Young website, she sells the seedlings to as far as Uganda. She joined the hub when it had 83 members in February. Each month, the least I get is a profit of Sh70,000,” she reveals.

At her nurseries, there are seedlings of capsicum, tomatoes, strawberry, and more than 20 types of vegetables. When the seedlings are mature, I post on the site that I have them and the orders come,” she says.

In Mweiga, Nyeri County, Regina Muthoni, 21, runs Mwema Innovations, a fodder hydroponics farm. Here, she grows and trains farmers to plant barley grass in water without using soil. She sells barley seeds for Sh100 a kilo.

“A kilo of seeds produces 8-10 kilos of fodder. An area measuring 5-by-2.5 metres will grow fodder that can feed 37 pigs, 54 chicken and three dairy cows as a supplement to raise production,” notes Regina, an alumnus of Othaya Girls.

A perusal into her income data indicates she sells about 100 bags of the fodder, earning her not less than Sh60,000 per month. “To start a small set up, you require about Sh20,000,” she says

Each of these farmers has benefited from Mkulima Young membership. “When I have a question, produce to sell or something I need to buy, I post it there. Calls start to come in immediately,” says Ms Wairimu.

A moment at the site is eye opening on just the kind of information the young farmers seek from fellow members. Mkulima Young founder Joseph Macharia says over half of the members are farmers. Others are traders in agricultural produce and several of them are experts in various fields,” says Mr Macharia, an agriculture extension expert.

Earn decent incomes:

He says 95 per cent of the members are aged 32 years and below. “Most times, we host agriculture programmes in local radio stations. Nine out of 10 listeners who contact us are aged 25-30 years,” he says.

The ultimate goal, he notes, is to attract youths back to farms where they can earn decent incomes. “The digital platform helps get the market and information from either the experts or those experienced in farming of certain crops or livestock,” he says.

Social media is where the youths are.

According to the director of Extension Services at the Ministry of Agriculture, Ms Mary Kamau, there are only 5,600 extension officers in the country. “1,600 are in management level while only 4,000 are in active practice,” said Ms Kamau. She notes that Kenya needs 8,000 more technical and field officers to serve a growing number of farmers.

Source: Nation Newspaper
By BILLY MUIRURI bmuiruri@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Wednesday, July 24 2013 at 16:53

Firm helps Flower farms cultivate ‘best-fit’ varieties:

pressman In Summary:

· Through research, farmers get the plant breeds which are suitable for the climatic conditions in their farms as well as what would fetch more in their target markets

Bob Goedemans is a breath of fresh air in the Kenyan horticultural business. He is giving flower farmers the chance to dictate the varieties which they want to cultivate on their farms.

Through crossbreeding in laboratories, pollen grains of different rose flowers are ‘married’ to produce a new plant breed that has the combination of the qualities of the parent plants.

This way, Mr Goedemans has not only managed to give Kenyan flower growers a chance to cultivate what is favourable to their climate but also an opportunity to set their own identity in an increasingly competitive market.

About a decade ago, many of the flower varieties grown in Kenya were being imported from Holland, Colombia or Israel. Unfortunately, most of those varieties could not withstand the local tropical climate and thereby performed poorly in the market.

This was not only a loss to the farmers as they had to invest more in chemicals and earn less, eventually losing out to the competition. Mr Goedemans’ relocation to Kenya from Holland six years ago has brought a symbiotic business relationship between him and the local farmers: he has drawn his satisfaction, both financial and personal, from seeing many Kenyan businessmen who have invested in the million-dollar horticultural business reap handsomely.

Growers have the prerogative to grow the flowers that can withstand the weather conditions in their home area besides the breeds which are acceptable in their target markets.

Former Agriculture minister, Dr Sally Kosgei, who is also the owner of Sosian Flower Company in Eldoret is a frequent visitor of Njoro-based Preesman Limited and so are other firms like Oserian and Primarosa.

Mr Goedemans company is arguably the largest flower breeding centre in Kenya. Currently, it has over 50 tested and certified ready-to-be-grown flower varieties.

He told Money: “All a grower needs to know is his farm’s altitude and other threats such as pests, and we will bring forth a breed that is resilient”.

Before the variety is availed to the market, he said, it will have undergone intensive research.  “There is a team of botanists and agronomists who make sure that only the most suitable brand is brought to the clients,” he said.

Preesman Ltd produces over one million seeds a year and it is from this bulk that the ‘best fit’ varieties are selected. After an agreement has been reached between him and the farmer, he sells the new variety to the grower on condition that he will earn annual royalties from each of his breeds.

The royalties paid by the grower are dictated by a number of factors: “The market demand of that particular flower and the quantity ordered by the (would-be) buyer,” he says.

He explained that the more the demand for that particular flower is in the market, the more royalty the buyer has to pay.

The flowers are given names, which Mr Goedemans says are patented. And in his four-acre farm in Nakuru County, there are flowers called ‘the Pirate’.

But all what Mr Goedemans is doing is not new. The technology has been in existence in Kenya since the late ‘80s, albeit in small-scale. But it has become popular in Kenya because of the collaboration between the scientists behind the crossbreeding and the increasing number of large-scale flower farms.

Most Kenyans interested in flower business have embraced the technology and now have a lot of benefits to show.

Dr Sally Kosgei who is Preesman’s customer said that Kenya’s horticultural status rivals global giants like Colombia and Ecuador and therefore ‘it was about time the gap between the marketing and the science behind the flowers was bridged’.

“Normally, we are just interested in what the flowers will fetch according to the one marketing the flower breed, but actually, when a grower knows the science behind these flowers, he is able to choose what is fit for his farm”, she said.

“It is better than other breeders coming to pitch tent here temporarily and leaving sooner than our curiosity has been satisfied”, she added.

Mr Daniel Moge, the managing director of Kimman Rosses in Elburgon says that Preesman Ltd is a big boost for the growers because it is closer and they can make numerous trips to the farms to acquaint themselves with the process.

“I am assured of having 90 per cent produce from the breeds I request from this company but I may only have 30 per cent had I ordered them from a faraway firm,” Mr Moge said.

Dr Kosgei says that in the past, she and her colleagues had to make trips to Europe scouting for flower breeds. Other flower breeding companies in Kenya include Piet Schreurs, Deruiter, Lex and Stockman-Rozen in Naivasha.

Source: Nation Newspaper.
By VERAH OKEYO okeyoverah@gmail.com: Posted Thursday, July 18 2013 at 01:00