Monday, 6 February 2012

Of Frost, Sunshine & other news...

As you would know for any Kenyan farmer, after the festive season in December, January and the better part of the first quarter becomes a busy month what with finishing off any pending harvests of any crop - be it cash- crops ( for me in the form of coffee), tea or food crops , maize, beans and the others.
It has also been a busy one for those who keep animals since the weather now has taken its toll on most of the vegetation and what would be otherwise be easy pickings for the cattle is now a hard day's work 3-4 times in a week.
Tea Bushes affected by Frost ( notice the discolouration) - image from 
Talking of weather, the region I come from ( or undertake most of farming for that matter) has been in the news due to frost affecting the tea farms both small-scale and large scale. It is quite tragic if you ask me because for the longest time Kenyans have been ignoring the calls for environmental conservation. The haphazard weather patterns we have seen in the last 5-10 years have been worrying especially considering our country is smack in the middle of the tropics.
Tree-cutting has been the order of the day and recently the area around Mt. Kenya - which is less than 20 miles from the farm - had a wild fire which was contained after more than 3 days. A similar but less serious situation was also reported along the Aberdare Ranges. These two highlands provide the area around Central Kenya with much of its water and this also trickles down to the other parts of the country in Nairobi, Eastern and Coastal regions. Reduce the acreage of trees on these areas and you drastically affect the water table and patterns downstream. I'll not lecture you on this for now.
Back to the frost and tea, and estimates put the loss at approximately KSh.100 million which is quite substantial  if you factor in that this is usually the low season for tea-picking due to the hot sunny conditions around most parts of the country. Kenya's foremost tea marketing agency KTDA quickly came together with stakeholders to introduce an insurance package to help cover farmers against such risks. This is a step in the right direction though it would most likely be adopted by large-scale farmers than the smaller-scale ones who are less educated on such products.
All in all, it would be advisable for farmers to make sure that they have a portion of their farms dedicated to trees which will not only save them from adverse weather conditions but also supplement their daily fuel and basic construction needs which is a challenge to most small-scale farmers.
Lucky for us the coffee bushes had largely been cleared of the harvest thus not much effect to that. We're also in the process of pruning the suckers and adding organic manure to the soil to ensure some moisture content and richness to the area around the bushes.

ION, the litter of dogs have been growing oh so fast and had their last set of injections in the last week of January. Just like human babies, the puppies ought to be treated with the utmost of care to ensure they're not  attacked by any virus or other conditions that may arise. They have also developed a healthy appetite and quickly trying to find their place among the other more mature dogs. I've had many people making promises of purchasing them but since most are non-committal I have opted to keep the puppies for the next couple of weeks.
Beautiful Heifer - image from Heifer International
Well, as I had said earlier, this time of the month becomes tricky fending for animals as fodder becomes scarce by the day. Thankfully we had some silage in place and this will supplement the daily requirements of the cows. Did I say that there is an addition to the small herd? Well a nice heifer turned 1 month on January 28th. It has been awhile since female calves were delivered in our part of the world, so this was a big blessing indeed and maybe a form of endorsement to our humble beginnings.

My farm-helps and I are now engaging in preparation of the grounds for planting for the long rains which ought to start anytime from the end of March or thereabouts if there are no delays like has been in the last couple of years. We have also been exploring hardy fodder which can be used to supplement the traditional napier grass, hay and other grasses.

I shall endeavour to chronicle some more activities in and around our part of the world, time permitting and Net connections being on point.  You can also drop me a line or two on your take on farming in Kenya and maybe even give us a tip too. E-mail me on or follow my tweets @E_Kamwenji. 

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