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Monday, 28 April 2014

Pursuit of high yield leads a farmer to give land for demo

By Bob Aston
Demonstration plots have been used for a long time as training grounds for farmers on best farming practices. During a capacity building training organized by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, Charles Nderitu, a resident of Naibrom in Laikipia County volunteered to be among five (5) farmers who would give their land to be used as a demonstration plot.
Charles inspecting the land set aside for the demo plot
Charles has set aside a quarter of an acre for the demonstration. ALIN has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd to set up the demo plots.
MEA Ltd conducted soil analysis for him. He was informed that the analysis will be able to determine an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility status that can be used to make fertilizer recommendations. This will ensure that there is enough fertilizer application to meet the requirements of the crops while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil.
Charles has already been issued with four and a half kilos of certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd. The varieties that will be planted in the demo plot are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
He has also been issued with 25kg of 23:23:0 fertilizer and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) for top dressing by MEA Ltd.
Charles has been farming in a five (5) acre piece of land since 1979. He has planted beans, maize, tree tomato, avocado, oranges, passion fruits and mangoes. He has also kept poultry, cows and sheep.
Charles inspecting the land set aside for the demo plot
He has been investing more than Ksh 45,000 in his farm every year with maize farming consuming a big portion of the investment. Despite the huge investment he has been harvesting less than 10 bags per acre.
“It has been hard for me to break even. I expect to learn from the demo plot on how I can practice farming as a business. I want to make money and I believe this will be possible after learning from what we will be taught in the demo plot,” said Charles.
High input cost has always deterred him from purchasing some inputs required for his farm. For 30 years he has been using 25 kg of DAP per acre.
The soil analysis report which he received from MEA Ltd indicated that his soil is acidic due to continuous use of DAP. He was advised to use NPK 23:23:0 and five (5) tonnes of manure per acre.
“I have already bought 23:23:0 and I am now waiting to plant after they have planted in the demonstration plot. I will no longer use DAP as I have been advised against its use,” said Charles.
Charles has never used Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) despite its importance. He has been using stock borer and foliar spray instead of CAN.
“My advice to farmers is to follow what they are taught by agricultural extension officers. Most of us normally assume that we know but the truth is we are not gaining a lot from our farms,” said Charles.
Charles has not kept any record of his farming enterprises. He has a vague sense of the direction his farm is taking and as such his agricultural enterprise is deemed to be risky and ‘unbankable’.
Charles inspecting the land set aside for the demo plot
He has now decided to join Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya). FARMIS Kenya has been introduced by Sokopepe Ltd to help farmers keep their farm records.
“FARMIS-Kenya has been introduced at a good time. I will be able to capture records and truly practice farming as a business,” said Charles.
Registered farmers will purchase a Farm Book at Kshs. 850 per year for better records keeping and management. The system will also generate interactive reports like ledger reports, profit and loss accounts and balance sheet.
 “I will be able to receive progress report on my farming activities. Formalizing my farm records will help me to improve my economic gains and increase profits,” said Charles.
Charles can be reached through 0726007267.
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