Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Humble Beginnings; Finding Land & Initial Farming Choices

Cultivation is indeed but a simple process. It starts with identification of land that is suitable. What to be farmed is mostly determined by the weather and geographical location.

Kururu River - A river that is next to my farm emanating from Mount Kenya
   As a young farmer, I have a keen interest in both crop and animal farming. I initially started off with crops as with crops as I wanted to put my profession into practice. After my initial research through talking to already established farmers, information from the ministry of agriculture and online, The first problem I faced was finding a suitable land in which to start my farming.
 However, after seeking advice, I was able to acquire a small piece at first for free from my relatives but after two seasons (10 months) a small fee was to be charged. I was hopeful that by then I would be able to see returns from the farm.

 I cultivated vegetables as they mature quickly and have a ready market. Ideally they should be under greenhouses to control pests and diseases but financial constraints could not allow me to build one. I decided to start by cultivating cabbages which I intercropped with maize and beans. That was in the year 2005 march just before the onset of the long rains.

My nieces showing off some of the bananas from the farm
 In 2006, I increased the land size to 3 acres and added tomatoes and French beans to ensure that I was harvesting something atleast each month. At around July 2007. I was able to get 5 more acres and now I had 8 acres. Due to being disappointed by a poor market for cabbages and tomatoes especially during rainy months (Long rains from April to August) and short rains (Nov – Dec), I decided to increase production of baby corn, french beans and regular beans. These do not fetch good profits but they enable one to have continuity.

Indeed farmers do have to work extra hard to achieve or get returns.

 It is then that I realized that there was a scarcity of pure bred dogs in my locality thus it became part of my commitment to serve that need. As vegetable production went on, frustrations started. These were due to the lack of a market price on which one can rely.
Many are the times that my produce went to waste due ‘Flooding’ in the market. There were too many farmers with the same commodity and not enough demand for it.

Since I couldn’t afford to preserve excess, a lot went to waste. This made it difficult to process as the losses caused a huge drawback on my cash flow.

 I started livestock production to try and have a constant line of produce that would not be flooded in the market. Also, animal produce have a more stable market price that one can operate within.
 Towards the end of year 2007 I realized I was having a lot of crop matter that could be used as fodder thus in 2008 I began a small diary project (1 cow and 3 goats).

 This turned out to be a good decision since in the 2nd quarter of the year, farm inputs escalated. I reduced the farm to 3 acres where I could manage without buying fertilizers unlike crops which go for a few months. In a way, the two complement each other; crop and livestock farming. Since part of the excess vegetables are fed to the cows and goats I rear. The manure collected from the animals is used on the farm eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. It also saves cost of production.

 Indeed a farmer’s main problem is being able to identify a constant market for one’s produce, where to delivery and how much . Most are usually at a disadvantage since communication is poor especially among farmers themselves due to lack of networking. Unlike the marketers(Middle men) who keep each other updated, farmers do not.

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