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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Farming Innovation using locally available materials

By Philip Mwamrizi
In the recent past agricultural farming has taken a totally new dimension. Certified seeds customized for regions, soil testing, commercial fertilizers and tested and approved modern practice and farming techniques are the sectors’ new vocabulary.
With all this information out for use, innovation and creativity has slowly crept into the minds of farmers where one takes into practice specific or a combination of relevant info that best works for him or her.
Lucy  at her green house
One such farmer is Lucy Mwangi, a resident of Naibrom in Laikipia County. After her hotel business collapsed in 2008, Lucy decided to venture into small scale commercial agriculture by first building a greenhouse. 
Her creativity and innovation drew in her husband Francis Mwangi Mbugua who also started showing interest in the project. Francis who is commonly known as ‘Fanana’ decided to scale down his carpentry work in order to concentrate on farming.
“I could not afford erecting a green house supported by metallic bars while buying a green house was beyond my reach,” said Lucy.
 “We had to be innovative. My husband built this using timber poles and PVC material we brought in Nakuru. He is a carpenter by profession so his skills really helped,” added Lucy.
The finishing process included digging several trenches two feet wide and deep along the length and filling them up with a mixture of rich top soil, saw dust, charcoal powder and other plant waste to create fertile arable planting medium.
The family has grown tomatoes, capsicum, onions, kales and spinach in the green house which is estimated to be 50 by 100 feet.
A visitor who came to view the green house
Lucy said that returns from the green house has helped the family improve its economic livelihood. The family has been able to pay school fees, medical bills and even bought a piece of land in the neighborhood to expand their plot. Many visitors have also been coming to visit the farm to learn from her.
Lucy’s youngest daughter who cleared form four last year has also taken a keen interest in the project and now has a portion of the greenhouse house set aside for her. She has now grown vegetables in her portion of the green house.
Her innovation has constantly been increasing as she seeks to improve yields. Saw dust and other waste from her husband carpentry workshop always ends up in the farm. Water from the kitchen is also recycled into the farm.
“I would advise other farmers that they should not restrict themselves to size of land, rain pattern or good soil to plant crops,” said Lucy.
Like any other project, the greenhouse has its equal share of problems. The current rains experienced in the country have been her biggest menace coupled with the strong winds in the region. The weather mishap blew away PVC materials covering the structure. In some parts trees swaying by wind and rubbing against the walls tore the material. More than half the greenhouse was destroyed by strong winds.
Lucy also said that her other challenge is lack of water for irrigating the crops in the greenhouse. Keeping the soil moist has also been a challenge due to evaporation caused by heat in the greenhouse. Others include pest and diseases which are common in any farm and constant threat from elephants.
 “Everything is possible. We are working with a small piece of land but despite the challenges, we are succeeding,” said Lucy.
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