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Monday, 31 August 2015

Safe use of pesticides in conservation agriculture

By Samwel Nyaga
Safe use of pesticides is important, as incorrect use can be very hazardous. Speaking during a six days Conservation Agriculture Training of Trainer (TOT) course held on August 24-29, 2015 at Olympia Hotel in Nyahururu, Mr. Gichuki Hutu, Laikipia West Master Trainer said that farmers should use the least toxic pesticide available for pest control.
He said that pesticides use should be in accordance with registered labels and that it is necessary to read and apply the information supplied in the label. He noted that target organisms determine the use of insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides.
The County Government of Laikipia in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations organized the six days course.
He said that pesticides could enter the body through skin, mouth, and nose when being used. Major risk areas include: the risk to a person, property and the environment by accidental events such as spillage or fire; daily chemical exposure at the workplace; and chemical exposure through spray drift.
He urged farmers to seek for advice from extension officers on required amount of pesticides, pest identification, application rates, post-harvest interval, and affected crops.
Grain being mixed with Actellic super
Purchase of pesticides should be at registered agrochemical companies and approved stockists. They should be in original pack and not in damaged or leaking containers. The labels should be clear and the quantity should be for only a season.
Farmers should avoid transporting food, water, animal feed or other reactive hazardous substances with pesticides. Also, secure hazardous substances to ensure they do not fall during transportation.
“Use of protective clothing to cover pesticide entry into the body is important. Selection of spraying equipment’s is also important and they should not leak,” said Mr. Hutu.
He said that farmers should wear protective equipment to prevent skin contact and splashes during clean up.  Separate washing of work and domestic clothes is equally important.
“Thoroughly clean all spraying and protective equipment where run-off will not contaminate the environment or create a hazard.  You also need to wash yourself well,” said Mr. Hutu.
He urged farmers to store pesticides under lock and key. They should never be stored with foodstuffs or in living quarters. Ventilation in the store is also important and it should have fire-fighting equipment. Water and saw dust should always be near the store.
Simple sprayer calibration can help to avoid contamination of water or contact on the body while spraying as it reduces spray drift and enables preparation of enough pesticide for immediate use only.
Areas that need consideration during spraying are nozzle position in relation to contact target, time of spraying and wind or drift. Use of correct filters, pesticide formulation, and ensuring that water and equipment are clean can prevent nozzle blockage.
Other issues that farmers need to consider during spraying include: never sucking or blowing blocked nozzles to clear them; not pouring concentrated pesticides into tanks above shoulder height; and maintaining nozzles, hoses, regulator gauges and cartridges for respirators.
Others include: covering feed and water containers near areas where livestock are grazing; and observing strict re-entry periods where contact with foliage and skin is unavoidable.
“Follow advice on disposal of pesticides written on the labels. This is important in ensuring recommended disposal methods. Rinse empty containers to remove all traces of pesticide before disposal,” said Mr. Hutu.
Burning or burying away the containers from water resources are common disposal methods. Ventilated areas away from people, animals, dwellings, or crops are ideal locations for incinerating spilt products.
He said that it is important to take precautionary measures while handling pesticides. The first aid kit should contain a towel, clean clothing, an approved resuscitation mask for expired air resuscitation, disposable eyewash bottle and eyewash solution, soap, nail brush, and clear instructions on what to do with all this equipment.

Pest management in conservation agriculture

By Samwel Nyaga
Integrated pest management is important in keeping pest populations below economically injurious levels. Speaking during a six days Conservation Agriculture Training of Trainer (TOT) course held on August 24-29, 2015 at Olympia Hotel in Nyahururu, Mr. Gichuki Hutu, Laikipia West Master Trainer said that dependence on a single pest management method would have undesirable effects on crop production.
He said that farmers should recognize that there is no “cure-all” in pest control and they should determine and correct the cause of the pest problem by understanding pest biology and ecology.
Farmers being shown how to use Actellic to control weavils
The County Government of Laikipia in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations organized the six days course. 

 “Understanding crop growth and development is an underlying principle of integrated pest management. You need to know how to grow a healthy crop, when it is susceptible to pest damage and stress and how the environment affects pest and crop development,” said Mr. Hutu.
He said that the basic principles of intergraded pest management are prevention, observation, and intervention. He noted that integrated pest management is not static due to emergence of new pests, strains, shift in weed species and pesticide resistance.
The general aim of prevention is to reduce initial severity or buildup of pest infestation. This includes: Growing crops and choosing varieties appropriate for the location; sound rotations; use of herbicide tolerant or pest resistant crops; taking steps to encourage beneficial insects and animals; use of sowing and undersown mixed crops; careful harvesting; good Hygiene; and seed cleaning and storage.
Observation involves determining when and what action to take based on all available information like crop monitoring for pest and damage thresholds. Use of decision support systems to interpret collected data, sound record keeping, and advice and support from experts is also important.
Interventions aim to reduce the effects of economically damaging pest populations, weeds, and disease to acceptable levels through mechanical, chemical, and biological measures. He urged farmers to use pesticides only when the benefits outweigh the risks.
Farmers being traineed on best agricultural practices
Benefits of an integrated pest management program include: increased consumer confidence in the quality of food; increased crop profitability especially where presently pest control is poorly used or ineffectual; stable and reliable yields; reduced pest infestations; sustainable agricultural production; protection of environment through elimination of unnecessary pesticide applications; and reduced risk of crop loss by pests.
Each pest control technique must not only be environmentally sound but should be compatible with producers objectives like being economically viable, effective, understandable and able to be implemented in stages.
He said that it is possible to manipulate the environment to the crop’s advantage by utilizing all suitable pest management tactics like cultural, mechanical, sanitary, natural, biological, and host plant resistance method.
He noted that cultural control effectiveness is through agronomic practices designed to optimize growing conditions for the crops in order to create unfavorable conditions for the pest.
Sanitary control helps to avoid introducing a pest into a field. Cleaning field equipment, planting certified seeds and quarantines can ensure sanitary control.
He said that host plant resistance is by manipulating the crop to withstand or tolerate pests through natural breeding method and use of genetically modified plants.
Pest is an organism with characteristics that farmers see as damaging or unwanted, as it harms agriculture through feeding on crops or parasitizing livestock.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Cooperative in an ambitious plan to recruit 1000 members

By Moses Ndungu
The Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, based in Sipili town, Laikipia West Sub County has started an ambitious plan to recruit 1000 members by December this year. The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre is supporting the recruitment plan.
Currently with a membership of 345, the cooperative is targeting farmers from Sipili, Muhotetu, Karandi, and Ol-Moran areas. The recruitment drive will also see the cooperative open three new aggregation centers to complement the one in Sipili town.
Formed in 2013, the cooperative emerged from the work undertaken by ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre with the support of the Ford Foundation’s Expanding Livelihoods for Poor Households Initiative (ELOPHI).
Some of the members being trained on good agricultural practices

The cooperative’s mandate is mainly to aggregate the farming communities by pooling them together and empowering them to take control of their farm’s enterprises, aggregation of farm produce and collective marketing to enhance their bargaining power and profit margins.
Mr. Waweru Kanja, Chairman, Laikipia Produce, and Marketing Cooperative Society said that the cooperative is keen to increase farmer’s income and ensure food security thus alleviating poverty amongst smallholder farmers.
He said that new members would be able to enjoy free services that include: training in agribusiness; training in maize, tomato, and tree tomato value chains; text messages on availability of new stocks; aggregation of cereals; access to Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) market; and access to storage facilities.
Other benefits include: guaranteed better market for members cereals; market commodities prices via Sokopepe; training on Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS); extension services; and better prices for agro inputs.
“Through seeds and fertilizer services, the cooperative has been able to control market prices in Sipili Township, reduced cases of fake seeds and boosted members bargaining power,” said Mr. Kanja.
He said that the cooperative has been linking smallholder farmers with a fair market like HGSFP and reducing exploitation of farmers by traders. Formation of partnerships with input producers has also helped the cooperative to secure farm inputs at fair prices thus reducing member’s production cost.
He said that the support provided by partners that include; ALIN, SNV- Netherlands Development Organization, Kenya Seed Company Ltd, MEA Ltd, Kilimo Biashara Profilers, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock has enabled them to undertake a lot of activities on behalf of farmers.
Subsidized government fertilizer being offloaded into the cooperative store
“We intend to become a leading farmer   based organization by increasing the wealth, food, and nutritional security of farmers. We are empowering smallholder farmers with skills to aggregate farm produce and become agribusiness oriented,” said Mr. Kanja.
As one of SNV’s Grain Business Hub (GBH), the cooperative has been able to trade in grains efficiently, effectively and sustainably. It has also been able to access other structured grain markets.
Mr. Bob Aston from Ng’arua Maarifa Centre noted that ALIN is keen to ensure members of the cooperative benefit through SOKO+. The digital commodity trading and information system links small-scale farmers to end retailers/bulk purchasers of produce.
“SOKO+ has harnessed the power of information and communication technologies by enabling farmers to efficiently reach and exploit a fair market for their produce,” said Mr. Aston.
He said that the organization is also keen to ensure members of the cooperative commercialize their farming enterprises through use of FARMIS. The service provides farmers with a secure environment to record, store, analyze and generate reports of their agricultural enterprises.
“FARMIS gives farmers holistic year-round monitoring, data collection, entry, storage, and mid-season analysis to enable appropriate farm planning and sustainable market linkages,” said Mr. Aston.
ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre has been working with smallholder farmers in Laikipia West Sub County by providing information and knowledge products focused on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change, natural resources management (NRM), sustainable land management (SLM), and markets.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Empowering Kenyan women through legal protection

By Racheal Thumbi
Gender equality and women empowerment can go a long way in not only uplifting their livelihood but also improving the economy of the Country. Women can only reach their full potential when given an opportunity.
Women empowerment and their full participation based on equality in all spheres of society including participation in the decision-making process and access to power are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development, and peace.
Women have less access to education, land, and employment. Traditional ideas about the roles of girls and women particularly in rural areas have restricted their contributions. These ideas hold women back from contributing to important development goals, especially in areas of economic growth, nutrition and food security.
Women during a meeting
The Constitution of Kenya 2010, lauded as one of the most progressive in the world, provides a comprehensive Bill of Rights, which spearheads the protection of women. It prohibits discrimination based on among other things, sex, pregnancy, and marital status.
The Kenya constitution has also improved women’s rights particularly on citizenship, land, property, and participation in the political process. 

It has also ensured that a third of elected and appointed posts in public offices are women.
Provisions like Article 27(4) (6) require the state to take legislative and other measures including affirmative action to redress disadvantage. Article 14(1) (2) also guarantees equal citizenship rights for women and in particular the direct applicability of the Constitutional right of women to pass on Kenyan citizenship to their foreign spouses and children born outside of Kenya.
The Country has also put into place important legal protections for women. These include Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that provides for equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights.
African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights also articulates a number of basic rights among them Article 18 that provides for elimination of every discrimination against women.
Ratification of conventions like the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has helped to deal with civil rights, legal status of women, reproduction rights, and cultural factors among others.
These existing legal protections all provide an opportunity for the enactment of progressive laws. However, there are several drawbacks, which would constitute unfair and discriminatory laws among the Kenyan women.
Women knitting
Inadequate knowledge in the society particularly in rural areas on the various laws is a hindrance to access to justice. 

It is also clear that parliament has not prioritized the enactment of a number of bills that would eliminate sex discriminatory provisions.
There is also minimal or lack of effective monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the constitution protects women.
Enforcing the already existing legal protections can improve the legal status of women particularly in regards to sexual, gender based violence and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is also important to create zero tolerance policy with respect to matters of sexual abuse and punishing perpetrators appropriately.
The enactment of the Sexual Offences Act, 2006 provided a comprehensive framework for the protection of women and girls from sexual violence while the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 prohibited the practice of female genital mutilation and safeguards against violation of a person’s mental or physical integrity.
Despite the availability of the two laws, sexual offences and offences relating to FGM are difficult to prosecute as they often involve close relatives. Cultural attitudes and practices also prevent many women from reporting such cases due to the associated stigma.
While recognizing the ongoing efforts aimed at increasing the enrolment and retention of girls in schools, other barriers such as good quality education, physical infrastructure, trained and qualified teachers hinder the achievement of education.
The countless acts of courage carried out by women and their determination to make positive change has significantly contributed to the social and economic development of the country. However, disparity between women and men characterizes most spheres of society in the Country.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Exchange visit proves beneficial to farmers

By Bob Aston
Exchange visits have become an ideal way of sharing knowledge between farmers. The practical demonstrations not only lead to mutual knowledge increase but also ensure farmers are able to share experiences and also adopt innovations and ideas.
Need for knowledge sharing prompted the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia to organize for a 3 days exchange visit for 35 farmers drawn from various Maize Value Chain Groups (VCGs) in the County.
On August 12, 2015, the farmers started a journey that would see them visit Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS)-Nakuru, Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) Agribusiness Expo at Kabarak University, Schemers Community Based Organization (CBO), and Kapsuswa Farm in Eldoret.
The farmers leaving Laikipia for Nakuru and Eldoret

Farmers were able to interact, share information, and learn best agricultural practices from their counterparts in Eldoret. 

The visit to KEPHIS provided the farmers with an opportunity to learn about seed certification, Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND), seed handling and selling, seed procurement, quality marks, and documentation.

Nahashon Mwangi, Business Field Coordinator, Laikipia Produce, and Marketing Cooperative Society noted that the information that he learned during the exchange visit has helped him to understand how best he can ensure members of the cooperative embrace agribusiness and how he can manage it.
He was particularly glad that he visited the EAGC stand during the Agribusiness expo. At the stand, he learned more about post-harvest handling.
“The exposure that I received will enable me to convey the information to members of the cooperative and also open their mind on what we can do to ensure that we succeed. Schemers CBO is an example on how we can also improve farmers livelihood,” said Nahashon.
He expects that he will be able to convey the knowledge gained to the members of the cooperative so that they can be able to reduce losses during harvest in order for them to enjoy better returns.
 “The trip triggered and changed my attitude towards farming. I felt challenged to think big and to have a diverse picture about the whole idea of farming. I hope what we have learned will be the fuel to incorporate in us a yes we can do attitude,” said Nahashon.
Some of the farmers admiring the 'Charolais' bull during the EAGC Agribusiness Expo
On her part, Mary Maina from Losogwa Maize VCG said that the information that she obtained from KEPHIS had a huge impact in her life. 
She now knows that she has to demand for official receipts with lot numbers any time when she purchases seeds. This will make follow up easy when she needs to complain to KEPHIS about lack of seed germination.
“I am now aware that I have to ensure that I buy seeds from certified stockists and that I should demand for seed test certificate when I doubt whether seeds are genuine,” said Mary.
She reckons that farmers have never known that carry stock seeds needs re-testing after every season and that seed companies should always check the viability of carry stock seeds. She said that she would now be confirming whether seeds lot numbers are KEPHIS-generated.
“I never knew that seeds have to be tested for two cycles before they are released to farmers. The exchange visit was beneficial. The information that I gathered was invaluable and will impact on many farmers,” said Mary.
Similarly, Robert Ndungu from Karaba Maize VCG expressed his admiration by the work that Schemers CBO has been doing. His group is interested in aggregating cereals this year and he believes the knowledge that he gained will go a long way in making this a reality.
 “I learned a lot about how as a group we can mobilize members to raise funds for undertaking various development projects. I am going to try and see how as a group we can also fund raise in order to start construction of a warehouse,” said Mr. Ndungu.
The farmers enjoying a glass of milk at Kapsuswa Farm in Eldoret
He was able to learn how to manage a store and how farmers can come together in order to bulk produce and seek for market once they harvest. Of particular interest to him was how the Warehousing Receipting System (WRS) works. This is an avenue that he believes can ensure other traders do not exploit farmers.
“The exchange visit was an eye opener. We can also be apostles of change in Laikipia County. It is imperative that as maize farmers we embrace agribusiness and also realize that we can improve our livelihood through value addition of cereals,” said Mr. Ndungu.
On her part, Annastacia Mwaura noted that she had not comprehended the importance of soil analysis until after the visit to KEPHIS. She learned that it is a way of accessing soil fertility and plant nutrient requirements.
She said that the first priority in her farm next season would be to analyze her soil so that she can know the accurate assessment of the soil fertility in her farm and the recommended fertilizer use.
 “The exchange visit enabled me to grasp the fact that community support is the root of a better and successful organization. We were challenged as farmers from Laikipia County as our counterparts from Eldoret are more organized than us,” said Mwaura.
ASDSP is keen in supporting the transformation of Kenya’s agricultural sector into an innovative, commercially oriented, competitive, and modern industry. It has already implemented a concept note on Post-harvest management technologies and is now in the process of implementing a concept note that seeks to increase maize production in Laikipia County and strengthening Maize VCGs to become Grain Business Hubs.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Women Economic, Social, and Political Empowerment

Source: Self Help Groups (SHGs)
Women make up one half of the world’s human capital and yet women continue to be dependent on men as regards control and access to resources and decision making. Thus, empowering and educating girls and women and leveraging their talent and leadership fully in the global economy, politics, and society emerges as a development imperative.
Development experts and policy analysts have claimed that empowering women and girls is quintessential to promoting quick and equitable economic growth and long-term stability. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which all 193 UN member states endorsed, included promoting gender equality and empowering women as its Goal 3.
According to the MDG Report 2012 – “Assessing the Progress in Africa towards the MDGs,” the consequences to society of not investing in gender equality and female empowerment can be heavy.
Women knitting. Photo by SHGs
Over one third of the world’s poor reside in Africa and though over the last century African countries have made significant strides in promoting gender equity, the equality in society in terms of access and control over resources, social, economic and political are yet to be achieved. 

While there has been notable success in some countries in achieving equality in primary education, a lot needs to be done to enhance livelihood options and provide space for women in political decision-making.
In politics, Africa needs to move beyond women’s participation to improving their capacity for contributing to development discussions and outcomes. In India too, the gender divide especially in rural areas, is quite intense and women are often subjected to various kinds of discrimination and denial of rights.
Women bear a disproportionate brunt of poverty, which forces them into increasing drudgery, longer hours of work under conditions of poor nutrition, food insecurity and falling health. The entrenched socio economic prejudices results in progressive marginalisation of women’s role in household, neighbourhood and in the community.
However, despite these limitations, India has achieved some noteworthy success in women empowerment and poverty reduction. Over the years, various efforts have been made by many Government and Non-Government Organizations to promote women empowerment especially in rural areas.
One of the important steps in the direction was the formation of Self Help Groups (SHGs). Linkage between SHGs and microfinance institutions further galvanized the process. By the end of year 2000, microfinance services had reached to over 79 million poor, especially women.
Microfinance Institutions have served as an instrument for empowerment to SHGs formed by poor women by extending credit facility, encouraging savings by the groups and promoting social networking and involvement.
SHGs have played a major role in poverty alleviation in many countries. More equitable access to assets and services – land, water, credit, banking and financial services strengthens women’s rights and promotes economic growth. This would go a long way in ensuring sustainable development.
You can download a copy of the third edition of SHGs here

Kenyan women boost health and wealth by growing crops in sacks

By Caroline Wambui
Central Kenya's Nturukuma region is not kind to farmers - its erratic rainfall, desert vegetation and drying riverbeds push most people into making a living through trade rather than agriculture.
Jane Kairuthi Kathurima toiled for years as an animal herder in the semi-arid conditions of Laikipia County, but struggled to feed her family – until she discovered sack farming, which has transformed her life and those of her children.
“Being in an environment where food was scarce and lacking in nutrition, I had to find an alternative way to survive,” said Kathurima, who is HIV-positive. "If I sat doing nothing I would die, so I had no choice but to embrace farming in whatever manner I could.”
Kathurima cuts kale from her sack farm. TRF/Caroline Wambui
Sack farming involves filling a series of bags with soil, manure, and pebbles for drainage, and growing plants on the top and in holes in the sides. The sacks allow people to grow food in places with limited access to arable land and water.
Two years after setting up her sack farm, Kathurima now grows enough vegetables - including spinach, lettuce, beet, and arugula - to feed her family and sell the surplus to the community.
By bucking tradition and learning a new way to cultivate crops in Nturukuma's harsh conditions, she has become a successful, well-respected farmer. Now she is supporting other food-insecure farmers by encouraging them to think differently.
The group behind sack farming in Kenya is GROOTS (Grassroots Organisations Operating Together in Sisterhood), a global network of women-led groups which help women solve problems in their communities by changing the way they do things.
Rahab Ngima Githaiga, vice chairman of one of the GROOTS member organisations, says sack farming has empowered women and changed lives by improving family nutrition and enabling children to go to school.
After Kathurima joined Likii Home Base Care, a group that supports people with life-threatening illnesses, she received training in becoming financially secure and eating well. She was also introduced to a variety of farming methods.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Value addition of milk key in ensuring better returns

By Bob Aston
The dairy industry is the most developed of the livestock subsectors. It plays a critical role in the livelihood of many farmers in Kenya. Growth in the subsector has made Kenya to be the highest milk producer in Africa.
At the 1,500 acres, Kapsuswa Farm “land of Grass” located at Sugoi area of Uasin Gishu County, farmers are able to learn first-hand the benefit of investing in dairy farming. On August 14, 2015, the farm hosted 35 farmers drawn from various groups in Laikipia County.
The farmers were particularly interested in learning about value addition and increasing milk production. The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia supported the farmers visit.
Some of the cows being milked

Mr. Charles Boit, Group Managing Director of Kapsuswa Farm, SB. Tea Estate Group, and Ratinwet Farm informed the delegation that it had taken them 20 years to reach where they are in the dairy subsector.

The three farms specialize in cereal farming, dairy, and tea production. They employ close to 300 farm workers. Most of the cows are Friesian although there are also Ayrshire, and Jersey.
Mr. Boit noted that success in the industry depends on a farmer’s ability to select the correct breed and ensuring good feeding and management. He urged farmers to invest in high-yield cows.
Initially, the farm used to produce 500 litres of milk per day but this has now increased to more than 2,600 litres per day. Each cow produces an average of 25 litres while some produce as much as 40 litres per day.  Milked cows are usually around 80-90 in a day. He expects the herd to grow to 400 cows in a few years.
The dairy unit houses a calving unit, resting, feeding, and milking area for the cows. The cows feed on different feedlot depending on how much milk they produce.
The farm uses a milking machine. The machine not only reduces labour requirements but also ensures a better quality milking operation. The machine can milk eight (8) cows at once.
A piping system ensures direct transfer of milk into coolers after milking. The farm has batch pasteurizers that preserve quality of milk products by destroying spoilage microorganisms and enzymes that contribute to reduced quality and shelf life of milk.  
Also installed are dispensers, dubbed Any Time Milk (ATM) machine. They can dispense 2,000 litres a day.  The piping transfer system ensures that milk does not come into direct contact with humans.
Farmers being shown the calving unit
A calving unit in the farm ensures protection of calves against climatic stress, infections, and parasites. Mr. Boit believes that proper management of the dairy cow at calving will result in the birth of a healthy calf and prevent losses in young stocks. 
The calves will remain indoors and grow in groups until they attain the required weight for artificial insemination (AI).
 “Calves will never attain genetic potential when not looked at properly. This important stage needs proper monitoring. Males are sold within two weeks of birth,” said Mr. Boit
He said that a section of maize produced at the farm is for making silage for the dairy cows. The farm has five silage pits. They make their own dairy meals.
“Like any other agriculture enterprise challenges are there. There is a time when price fluctuation and milk glut forced farmers to pour milk due to lack of market. Value addition has now resolved such eventualities,” said Mr. Boit.
Through value addition, the farm is able to sell fresh milk between 60 – 75 kshs per litre depending on the season while fermented milk retails at between 70-75 Kshs per litre.
Mr. Boit’s parting short is that dairy farming requires huge investments. The success enjoyed at the farm has taken 20 years.  Farmers should also go for high pedigree cows, as they can be the difference between a successful and struggling dairy farmer.

Enjoying good returns from agricultural enterprises

By Bob Aston
The year 2008 marked a great turning point for Mr. Charles Boit. He quit his job as a Business Development Manager with Unilever Tea East Africa to manage his parent’s farm. The allure to return home and oversee the family agricultural enterprises was too strong and he finally had to accept that agriculture was his calling.
Mr. Boit now the Group Managing Director of Samsaraline Co. Ltd, Kapsuswa Farm, SB. Tea Estate Group, and Ratinwet Farm grew in a family whose farming enterprises included cereal farming, dairy, and tea production.
On August 14, 2015, he hosted a group of 35 farmers drawn from various Maize value chain groups in Laikipia County at Kapsuswa Farm (Land of Grass). The 1,500 acres maize farm located at Sugoi area of Uasin Gishu County is approximately 22 kilometres from Eldoret town. The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia supported the farmers visit.
The farmers at one of the maize fields

Mr. Boit noted that maize production increased from an average of 15 bags to 30 bags an acre once he started managing the farm.

“I had learned a lot at the farm while growing up. I always had a passion for farming and I knew that one day I would return back to do what I enjoy,” said Mr. Boit.
He said that they are using minimum tillage over the traditional plough-based farming system.  The soil conservation system ensures minimum soil disturbance. Soon they will move to zero tillage.
“The system does not turn the soil over and ensures improved soil structure and less risk of damage of machinery. We are also witnessing reduced soil erosion and runoff,” said Mr. Boit.
He holds an MSc degree in Biochemical Engineering from the University College London and a BSc, Pharmacology, from the Kings College London.
Land preparation and planting
He said that they have managed to improve the PH of the soil from 5.0 to 5.6 through use of lime. The acidic soil used to reduce the productivity of the farm by stunting root growth and inhibiting plant development.
Lime has helped to boost the nutrients in the soil. A tractor pulled lime spreader with two rotating disks does distribution of lime in the farm. After applying lime, they move to harrowing. This breaks up the soil surface to help prepare the soil seedbed for planting.
Use of a chisel plough after the harrow ensures that hardpans are shattered and water infiltration is improved. The chisel plough helps in getting deep tillage. This aerates the soil while leaving crop residue at the top of the soil.
The farmers being shown how a six row planter works
Mr. Boit said that they have to do one more harrow before planting. He noted that despite the availability of various types of certified seeds they have been using PAN 691 from Pannar Seed Kenya Ltd, as it does not grow long like other seed varieties. This makes it easier to use combine harvester during harvesting.
They ensure that there is maximum yield production through optimized planting. The calibrated 6-row planter ensures factoring in of agronomic principles. With an unconventional spacing of 10 cm -20 cm between seedlings, an acre of land usually takes as much as 3,000 seeds. This is deliberate, as some seeds will not germinate.
Mr. Boit noted that although their seed spacing is unconventional it works for them. He urged farmers to dry plant.
´Planting speed is critical. It is important to ensure that the speed of the planter is between 8-10km/h. Going slower ensures you plant faster and you take good care of your machine, “said Mr. Boit.
The maize is top dressed using UREA due to its high nitrogen content and as it has always given them higher returns. Top dressing machine ensures uniform application of UREA. Manual application of fertilizer is only through application of half a bag of Ammonium Sulfate per acre. Lumax is used both as a pre and post herbicide for controlling weeds.
Harvesting and value addition
Mr. Boit said that they usually harvest maize when the moisture content of maize is around 20.0 percent. Use of combine harvesters during harvesting has ensured that reaping, threshing, and winnowing is a single process. This has reduced harvesting cost and time.
The farmers at the Kapsuswa Farm warehouse
After harvesting, the grain tank is loaded into a tractor pulled trailer and transported to the 33,000 square feet warehouse.  A mechanical dryer then dries the maize to the required moisture content of 13.0 percent.
The warehouse can hold 100,000 bags of cereals. Last year the farm stored 20,000 bags of maize in the warehouse. Part of the produced maize is for making silage for dairy cows. The farm has five silage pits.
In order to reap the benefits of value addition, the farm has invested in a maize milling plant to allow it to mill its own maize flour. The plant will be operational once they receive the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) certification. They will be able to mill 24,000 kgs of maize flour per day
“The problem with most youths is that they expect to get good returns within a very short period. There are no shortcuts in farming, as you have to be patient. We got where we are now through hard work and it took a long time to accomplish what we have,” said Mr. Boit.
Despite the success enjoyed by the farm, things have not been always gone according to plan. Pests and diseases have always affected production. There is a time when they managed to harvest only 35 bags of maize in the whole farm.
Maize is widely considered as a staple food in Kenya. Records indicate that an average Kenyan consumes 98 kilograms of maize per year. Despite various challenges that the sector faces, most farmers do not shy away from investing in maize production.