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Monday, 13 May 2013

Solar-powered fence increase chances of farming

By Dennis Kipkirui
Residents of Laikipia may now rest after devising ways of curbing elephant menace. This is after they began constructing a simple fence to keep away the destructive animals. Mr. John Njeru a retired teacher is taking the lead. His proximity to Lariak forest where these animals inhabit has only served to make him devise the best method to reduce elephant menace. Njeru owns 13 acres adjacent to the forest. He bought eleven out of his retirement benefits and inherited two from his father after dividing the 12-acre farm amongst six brothers.

Mr.Njeru constructing solar-powered electric fence
Njeru settled in Laikipia County more than six years ago. He did this painfully after his life was endangered for fighting for the rights of coffee farmers in his Nyeri backyard.  “Anyhow this is a story for another day,” said Mr. Njeru appearing visibly disturbed after refusing to pursue this line of questioning. “I am not yet healed from the torture of coffee politics in Nyeri, we better talk about the more progressive things I have done to ensure that farmers here live safely and harvest their crops without being destroyed by elephants.”

As fate would have it, Njeru met another tragedy in his farm. Elephants invaded his farm one evening, and as he tried to drive them away, he was nearly killed by one of the jumbos. At the end of the day, crops were destroyed and had to run for his dear life. This made him realize that a permanent solution must be obtained however expensive it might be.

The solution came in form of a fence. He remembered a fence he once saw at Kifaru area in Nyeri County and thought that it was ideal for his farm. After thinking over it, he visited Gallagher Power Fencing East Africa Company in Nairobi that exclusively deals with electric fences.  The purpose of the visit was to familiarize him with construction of electric fences and whether he can borrow the technology from them and improvise it in his farm.

The visit was invaluable to the pensioner. Immediately he came back, he bought materials worth Ksh 180000 and began to construct the fence all by himself. The fence needed cement, metal rods, insulators and wires for materials.  Njeru molded the poles and erected round his farm. He also managed to purchase a powerful solar panel that could produce up to 125 watts. 

“When I fenced my farm, my brothers were amazed. They witnessed an incident whereby the elephants came during the day and could not access the farm. Every time they try to, the electric fence could hit them. They ended up going round the fence until they returned to the forest without a trace of destruction. They then requested me to help in fencing theirs. All I wanted from them were cables since I had purchased enough materials”, said Njeru. Today the whole family fence is electrified.

When the neighbors saw the development in their farm they approached him and asked for his assistance. Because of his desire to help the community he asked them, just like his brothers, to purchase materials. The villagers also saw it wise to request Mr. Njeru if he could arrange for some of them to visit the Gallagher Power company. 

They also petitioned the area MP to allocate them funds to construct the fence. The money was allocated up to a tune of Ksh 1.3 million.  The fence is now under construction and will cover a distance of 15 km. It is expected that this will keep elephants away from the farm just like it has managed in Njeru’s farm.

Njeru is now a happy horticultural farmer with annual revenue of Ksh 2 million from a 2 acre irrigated farm. He plants onions, cabbages carrots, butter nuts and water melons. He also has 500 plants of tree tomatoes. The electric fence has served to protect his produce and since he has plenty of water in the farm he farms in and out of season. 

The fence also helps him to keep away cattle rustlers and his animals from straying to the forest.

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