“Farming gives me more joy than I had ever experienced while working at the Mumias sugar company. When I was discontinued from work, it was a painful period in my life. Although I was employed on a temporary basis on a small salary, at that time, it was a big thing to be employed and especially in a big company like Mumias despite earning little money,” stated Aaron Boge.
Aaron is a farmer in Gambogi in Vihiga. On a modest 2.5, acre piece of land, he earns a living through farming. Despite many farmers in the region depending on rain-fed agriculture, though small, he does irrigation for some of the crops in his farm. He prefers organic type of farming and he is currently an employer. Every month his returns could approximately reach up to Shillings 60,000, only 300,000 shy away from a million annually. Much more than he had ever dreamt of earning while on employment and on his terms.
Aaron and his wife are members of the Kamai group which currently boasts of 22 members. It is one of the groups under AYODEF that has benefitted from some of the capacity building initiatives by them. AYODEF- is an Awareness Youth Development Foundation; a community based rural youth organization involved in community based initiatives and integrated rural development in western Kenya.
Aaron Boge tending to his cows
Aaron and his wife Leah are up to date with the latest in the agricultural technological know-how and they are very comfortable being farmers in their small farm which is definitely worth a fortune.
They plant vitally all the crops that most of the farmers in this area plant. The difference with them is that they are earning much more than the ordinary farmer.
“In our farm we plant kales, we also have milk producing grade cows, and we also practice crop rotation. This has ensured that our soils are always fertile. For example when we have harvested our maize crops, we plant napier grass on that area and this enabled the farm to recover the lost nutrients and thus the high yields that we get,” stated Leah.
Leah who is the chairlady of Kamai stated that AYODEF had played a key role in ensuring that the farmers in Gambogi benefit from the latest farming methods and this has improved their livelihoods a lot.
“AYODEF has strengthened the various groups under it and the skills we have learnt that range from effective record keeping that helps us monitor the profit and loss graphs ensures that we know how our faming is faring on and measures that we need to take to ensure that we make the necessary changes in order to gain maximally from our practice,” she stated.
This family has 2 grade cows which have brought nothing but joy to them. This is especially when they have given birth as they are able to sell milk which has high returns as the milk is high in quality compared to milk from the traditional breeds.
1 litre of milk goes for Shillings 60 per litre. Considering that the cows each giving approximately 16 litres of milk every day, that means they get over 30 litres of milk daily, and this means Shillings 1800; if both cows give birth at around the same period. In a month this is Shillings 54,000 returns just from the 2 grade cows.
“We get up to 16 litres of milk from one cow every day. Considering that we have to feed the calf, we put aside 2 litres for the calf and thus remain with 14 litres which we sell at Shillings 60 per litre. When we have both of them producing milk at the same time, we get over 30 litres of milk every day and this means approximately Shillings 2,000 every day,” stated Aaron.
These farmers sell the milk to the members of the community and sometimes even distribute to schools when need arises.
They are happy with the decision they made to save and buy grade cows as their returns are higher than the local breeds that many farmers currently keep.
“A 6 month old female calf can earn a farmer up to Shillings 20,000. A male one is less priced and one could go for Shillings 10,000. The market is there and we normally don’t struggle to get buyers for the calves. A cow gives birth once a year and depending on how well it is fed, one can get a calf each year,” added Aaron.
In their farm, they also make returns from kales. They stated that they have been able to get a tender to supply to a local school and that has earned them more money. They had planted onions and tomatoes for supply but the tender was given to someone else. Now they only plant them for their own consumption.
“We are lucky to have been able to continue supplying the kales to Banga secondary school for a long time as we continue to enjoy cordial relationships with them. We plant kales on a ¼ piece of land. We plant new seedlings after every three months in order to get better yields. We also ensure that we continue doing proper crop rotation. We do not depend on rain- fed agriculture because sometimes the dry periods may be longer than anticipated. We therefore irrigate our farm,” stated Leah.
On average, they harvest up to 65 kilogrammes of kales every month and this earns them approximately Shillings 18,000. After working out the expenses, the profits could be approximately Shillings 15,000.The kales are harvested 3 times a week.
They tell me that they prefer to use natural manure which is friendly to the soils, cost-effective and less harmful to humans.
Procedure for making organic manure.
One is required to prepare a place for preparing the organic manure by digging a medium sized pit preferably near the cow shed so that the animals’ remains move directly to the pit from the shed.
One can also take the plant remains and especially the maize sticks after harvesting. Ensure that they are dry before adding them in the pit. One can also be able to take other leaves like the coffee or tea leaves that are also effective in making the organic manure. They should be dry before being filled in the pit.
How to make organic manure
After the preparation is done, add some ash, pour on top of the dried up plant remains which is also in contact with the cow dung. Take a black polythene bag and cover the pit.
One should also ensure that there is water in the mixture and after 21 days, open it up, turn it upside down and ensure that it is evenly mixed. Close the pit again to ensure that all the nutrients are not lost in the air.
After every 21 days, it is recommended that one opens up the pit to mix the contents. In three months time the organic manure is ready for use. One can have many pits so that they can have manure all year round.
They say they have thought about the bio-gas process, but currently their funds cannot allow them to have one.
Mr. Boge tells me that farming has enabled him to lead a very comfortable life “it had always been my dream to take my child to a private boarding school. When I started farming, I was able to take my last born to a private boarding school and she performed exceptionally well and was admitted to one of the best secondary schools in Western province. She is now in form 3,” stated Boge.
They have 2 employees on a temporary basis that come to work every day. They say they have no complaints at all and are looking to improving their farming even more.
Boge says that he has been able to teach over 147 groups some of the best farming practices and how to earn a living from farming effectively.
He remembers the tissue-culture bananas that are still in his farm courtesy of AYODEF which distributed to the farmers when he was just starting serious farming fresh from employment. The fact that they are rarely attacked by pests makes them some of the best crops to plant all year round.
In the 21/2 acre piece of land, only 1.5 is fully theirs and this is where they do all the farming. The other acre belongs to their son.
The Boge’s say that despite having some of the smallest farms in Western Kenya, that did not hamper them from gaining maximum benefits from good agricultural practice and people should not underestimate small farms. Food security is tenable in Kenya, they insist.
Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.