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Why is Value-added Farming Important for the future of farmers in Kenya?

Value-added farming

A careful assessment shows that value-added Farming is an important component of sustainable rural development. The future of value-added Farming will depend on the involvement and commitment of farmers and rural residents.  Success is not dependent on any government program.  Although the government  can play an important role, it is only a supplemental role.  The key driver is farmers and rural residents who want to shoulder the responsibility for making it work.

Value-added Farming entails changing a raw agricultural product into something new through packaging, processing, cooling, drying, extracting or any other type of process that differentiates the product from the original raw commodity. Examples of value added agricultural products include yogurt, jam, juice, pumpkin flour, banana flour, crisps, e.t.c. Adding value to agricultural products is a worthwhile endeavor because of the higher returns that come with the investment, the opportunity to open new markets and extend the producer’s marketing season as well as the ability to create new recognition for the farm. Increasingly, value-added products are hitting the local market as producers take advantage of high-demand product niches. This is the key to success in value added Farming—niche markets are where smaller producers can be most successful in creating value and establishing a profitable business.

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Challenges of Value-added farming to Kenyans

Tree tomato Juice (Product of Tamarillo farm in Mweiga Nyeri County)

Value added Farming is not without its challenges to farmers. One of the largest hurdles to overcome is that of food business and safety regulations. For example, if you are interested in taking your tree tomatoes and turning them into a high quality jam that you can sell at the local farmers’ market, you must be a licensed. These regulation challenges make it difficult to get started in the value added business, but with a solid business plan in place, producers can be successful in overcoming obstacles to their food business dream.

Another example of a significant challenge for starting a value-added business is putting together your recipes or formulations for the product you are developing. For instance, making soap requires time and effort in finding the right recipe for high-quality soap. You will also want to research the market potential for your product in order to define your customer profile, so that you are not wasting your time in formulating a product that will not sell.

Starting a value-added agricultural business is an exciting opportunity for the small farmer interested in diversifying and exploring new markets, but starting small and finding your niche is key to your long-term success. Evaluate the risks associated with the business and have a solid plan in place to keep you on the right track.

Market opportunities exist for the creation of viable value-added businesses.  The question facing us is whether farmers and rural residents have the skills and commitment to take advantage of good opportunities and build them into viable businesses.  Oxfarm Ag is designed to help you identify and assess these opportunities and build successful businesses especially in the tree fruit business.

One successful farmer and entrepreneur that we have partnered with is Tamarillo farm in Mweiga Nyeri. The company makes jam, juice and chilli sauce from tree tomato fruits. You too can make it, just dream and follow your dreams.

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Have you ever heard of the amazing Stinging Nettle?

Stinging Nettle

You may have by now seen this plant that when touched with bare hands irritates and can cause rushes. To some communities in Kenya, it is a curse but to those who know it, its a blessing as its a source of food and other many benefits. The Agikuyu for instance have for so long been using stinging nettle leaves in cooking their favorite dish (Mukimo). Apart from that, Stinging nettle (Hatha/Thabai), as they call it is used to cure several diseases.

The stinging nettle is a herbaceous flowering plant which is a subspecies of, and belongs to the Urtica genus. The stinging nettle is a small plant and it rarely grows past five feet in height, but is has a huge variety of health benefits. The stinging nettle plant has stinging hairs called trichomes on their leaves and stems, which, when touched by humans, injects chemicals such as histamine into the human body, thus giving it the name ‘stinging nettle’. It is also due to this very reason that this plant also has colloquial names such as burn nettle, burn weed and burn hazel.

Nutritional Value of Stinging Nettle

While the name ‘stinging nettle’ often makes it seem like it cannot be consumed, that is not true. This plant actually offers great nutritional value. A single cup of blanched stinging nettles comprises of 37 calories, and 0.1 grams of fat. It has no sodium, fat, cholesterol, or sugar in it, but it provides a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein. One cup of stinging nettle contains 2.4 grams of protein and 6.6 grams of carbohydrates. Stinging nettles also have minerals such as potassium, iron and silica.

Nutritional facts Per 100 Grams

42 Calories

0.1 g Total Fat

4 mg Sodium

334 mg Potassium

7 g Total Carbohydrate

2.7 g Protein

Vitamins and Minerals

40 % Vitamin A

0.48 Calcium

8 % Iron

5 % Vitamin B-6

40 % Magnesium

What are the Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle?

Helps in detoxification

The stinging nettle has a huge variety of nutrients in it, thus making it an ideal natural detoxifier. It helps cleanse the body of all toxins. It is a diuretic substance, which means that it can not only cleanse toxins from the body, but it can also ensure that any toxins that are being neutralized in the body are eliminated from the body as quickly as possible. Stinging nettles also help stimulate the lymphatic system, thus helping the body to get rid of excess toxins from the kidneys.

Aids in pregnancy

The stinging nettle has often been recommended to women who undergo extremely painful labour. The stinging nettle acts as a coagulant, thus helping prevent excessive bleeding. Additionally, stinging nettle has been proven very effective in helping to stimulate the production of milk in the body of a woman, thus making lactation easier for the mother as well as for the infants.

Hass Avocado Farming Training (Open Day) in Tetu Sub county Nyeri

Improves blood circulation

Stinging nettle has a high content of iron and vitamin C, thus making it ideal for helping stimulate production and growth of red blood cells, which consequently improves blood circulation in the body. The presence of Vitamin C helps increase uptake of iron by the body, and since iron is an essential compound present in hemoglobin, blood circulation is drastically improved. Also, with the increase in RBC count, healing of wounds speed up, and the body receives oxygenation essential for boosting overall energy levels.

Helps improve feminine health

Stinging nettle has often been shown to alleviate painful menstrual symptoms such as cramping and bloating. It also helps decrease premenstrual symptoms. Stinging nettle helps decrease blood flow during menstruation due to its capabilities as an astringent. It is also administered to women undergoing menopause, as it acts as a restorative, and thus smooths the transition process, so the shift in hormones is not as drastic as it otherwise would have been.

Improves kidney and gallbladder health

Stinging nettle is essentially a diuretic, and has nephritic qualities, which means that it can easily break down stones in the gall bladder and the kidneys. This ensures that pain is reduced as much as possible. In case the stones have to be surgically removed, stinging nettle is often used to reduce pain and inflammation. Since it is a diuretic, stinging nettle helps prevent bladder infections and retention of excess fluid in the body.

Has anti-inflammatory properties

Stinging nettle is a rubefacient substance, and a stimulant, which is why it acts as an effective agent against inflammatory conditions such as muscle pain or arthritis. Research has proven that stinging nettle helps effectively treat conditions such as gout. It also helps alleviate muscle pain, and reduces symptoms of arthritis.

Treats respiratory conditions

Stinging nettle helps in the treatment of quite a large number of respiratory conditions such as asthma, hay fever, and other seasonal allergies. If used in combination with certain other extracts, stinging nettle can help in the reduction of allergic reactions in patients suffering from various kinds of allergies.

Keeps the heart healthy

With regular consumption, stinging nettle can successfully lower systolic blood pressure, thus making sure the heart remains healthy and fit for a longer period of time. A decrease in systolic blood pressure means that there is a lesser amount of stress and tension on the cardiovascular system.

Improves health of the prostate

As men age, problems related to prostate enlargement and other diseases of the prostate become widespread. Stinging nettle can help prevent prostate growth due to its chemical composition. In case the disease has set in and cannot be prevented anymore, even in such cases, stinging nettle can reverse the condition effectively, thus treating any and all prostate problems.

Improves gastrointestinal health

Supplements made from the stinging nettle extract are often taken to help reduce nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. Stinging nettle can also help soothe hemorrhoids and ulcers.

Useful for skin care

Stinging nettle has been proven to effectively treat and reduce the appearance of acne. It can also prevent bacterial infections. Due to the fact that it has antioxidant properties, stinging nettle can help speed healing of wounds as well as reduce the appearance of blemishes and scars. It also promotes anti-aging by helping reduce wrinkles and age spots.

Uses of Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is a health-boosting herb that has a variety of amines, flavonoids, lignans, minerals, and vitamins A, B2, C and K. It has been used for hundreds of years as an effective treatment for muscle and joint pains, and for the treatment of diseases such as gout and arthritis. Certain extracts of the stinging nettle have been found to be very effective in treating conditions such as diarrhea, edema, and other prostate and urinary disorders. It is often used directly on the hair as an effective treatment against dandruff, as well as to add shine to the hair. The stinging nettle can also be used as a herbal remedy in the treatment of hay fever, as this plant possesses the ability to reduce production of histamine in the body.

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Side-Effects & Allergies of Stinging Nettle

The stinging nettle does not generally have any side effects if taken in doses directed by the doctor. It is very important to administer caution while handling the plant, because touching it bare handed can cause allergic rashes and reactions.

Cultivation of Stinging Nettle

The stinging nettle has its origins in the cold regions of Asia and Northern Europe. Today, however, this plant grows all over the world. The stinging nettle need soil rich in nitrogen for its growth, and can mostly be found in areas that are not very well tended to, such as gardens, lawns and other areas such as construction sites. This plant can also be found in areas with moderate forest coverage, as well as open meadows. Stinging Nettle just grow wildly !

CAUTION:  Stinging nettles should be planted away in obscure corners where innocent visitors are not likely to be stung, Always watch children to make sure they stay in the safe zone.

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How can farmers In Kenya Increase Their Profit Margin?

Tomato Farmers in Kenya

Farming is not just farming but a business as well. We have realized that increasing profit margin from farming uses similar strategies as other industries across the country. Farmers look to maximize labor, reduce spending and maximize revenue so the business can retain as much profit as possible. Short of simply raising prices, there are a number of strategies farmers can employ to increase profit margin without sacrificing the quality of products brought to the market.

Selling to Local Businesses

Selling to local community markets and grocery stores can help a farmer decrease transportation costs for products and increase profit margin. A farmer selling farm produce to local grocery stores and markets doesn’t have to hire transportation to reach delivery destinations that are far, which cuts down on fuel costs and strain on delivery equipment. A farmer also reduces payroll by having shorter delivery routes for drivers. Local grocery stores prize produce from local growers because of the increasing number of consumers looking to reduce carbon footprint through the purchase of locally grown products.

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Investing in Alternative Energy

Investing in alternative energy solutions, including solar power, can allow a farmer to reduce energy costs and increase profit. Solar power can provide a cheaper form of energy to power farm equipment than conventionally generated electricity.

Crop Rotation Habits

Proper crop rotation strategies can help reduce a farmer’s fertilizer costs, enrich the soil, and increase take-home earnings. For example, planting beans when maize isn’t in season increases nitrogen content in the soil. These strategies can also help kill off harmful insects and retard the growth of harmful bacteria. Integrated Pest Management,  can help a farmer operating on a small or large scale to bring a greater percentage of produce and other food products to market. The increased yield, combined with healthier soil, allows a farmer to retain a greater percentage of his revenue as profit.

Improving Farm Equipment

Purchasing more efficient farm equipment, including tractors, harvesters and grain separators, can help reduce a farmer’s equipment costs in the long run and lead to increased profits. A farmer incurs increased costs up front to purchase more energy-efficient equipment, but the savings the farmer receives in reduced fuel and maintenance costs over time can outpace those up-front expenditures. Purchasing new capital assets expected to earn income for the farm also allows a farmer to recoup these expenditures over a number of years through depreciation. This ensures the farmer has eligible tax deductions over the useful lives of these items.

Farmers Should Boost irrigation

With the growing effects of climate change on weather patterns, more irrigation will be needed. Average yields in irrigated farms are 90% higher than those of nearby rain-fed farms.

Increase the use of fertilizers

As soil fertility deteriorates, fertilizer use must increase. Kenyan National in collaboration with local governments need to ensure the right type of fertilizers are available at the right price, and at the right times. Fertilizer education lessens the environmental impact and an analysis of such training programs in Kenya found they boosted average incomes by 61%.

Improve market access, regulations, and governance

Improving rural infrastructure such as roads is crucial to raising productivity through reductions in shipping costs and the loss of perishable produce. Meanwhile, providing better incentives to farmers, including reductions in food subsidies, could raise agricultural output by nearly 5%.

Make better use of information technology

Information technology can support better crop, fertilizer and pesticide selection. It also improves land and water management, provides access to weather information, and connects farmers to sources of credit. Simply giving farmers information about crop prices in different markets has increased their bargaining power.

 

For more information, keep visiting our website.

 

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Are you eating your way to death? Here are fruits that Prevent Cancer

The saying that we are what we eat is so very true. Recognizing and adopting healthy and balanced eating patterns and foods is one of the first steps to ensuring you maintain good health. The other is eating foods that you know can help prevent cancer and fight your risks of getting other diseases.

In Kenya, Cancer is quickly becoming one of the worst burden, where around 60 people die daily and nearly 30,000 cases of cancer are diagonized daily.

Cancer is caused by many factors. However, research has shown that making sure you include certain foods regularly in your diet can go a long way towards preventing from developing. The naturally occurring chemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibers in many different foods can help your body fight the growth of cancer cells. Below are several fruits and other foods that can help you prevent this menace.

Tomato

You can eat tomatoes in salads, make soup, sauces and many other dishes. Stay well away from eating the stems and leaves, but the flesh is also a moderate source of Vitamin C. Some studies suggest lycopene, an oxidant in tomatoes, has anticancer properties

Strawberries

Good news for summer strawberry lovers, strawberries contain the phytochemicals that are considered to have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also a great sauce of Vitamin C and manganese

Apples Helps Prevent Cancer

For the best benefits of the anti-cancer phytochemicals in apples, eat their peel (but not their seeds). Apples also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are good sources of Vitamin C and fibe

Pumpkin and Water-melons

The carotenoids in various types of pumpkin and squash include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. All good antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Pumpkins and watermelons are also high in Vitamins A and C.

Onions

The humble onion is thought to have many anti-cancer compounds. These include organosulfur compounds, quercetin and anthocyanins thought to lower the risk of many types of cancer. Different varieties such as spring onions, shallots, brown/yellow and red onions have different strengths

Lemons

Lemons and other citrus fruits contain the phytochemicals d-limonene and terpenes, thought to help halt the growth of cancer cells. Juice them and use the peel for added nutritional benefits. They are also rich in Vitamin C

Pineapples

The Bromelain enzyme found in pineapples, for instance, is capable of breaking up the protective layer in tumors. It is found in the stem and fruit of pineapples. It can also promote DNA repair and normal growth of cells. Hence, apart from its cancer-killing properties, it makes normal cells healthier and stronger

Grapes

Grapes prevent cancerClinical cancer research has also shown evidence that grape seed extract can kill three-fourths of leukemia cells by triggering a protein called JNK, which encourages apoptosis in cancer cells. The antioxidant Resveratrol, found in grape seeds, can also influence natural death of cancer cells in the:

  • Lungs
  • Bowel
  • Skin
  • Breast
  • Stomach
  • Prostate.

Grape seed extract and Resveratrol, in fact, have been incorporated in many health supplements because of their therapeutic properties.

Bananas

Some compounds in bananas have been found to be effective in preventing further production of leukemia and liver cancer cells. High consumption of bananas was also linked to a decrease in the risk of:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Oral cancer.

They are also rich in potassium, which is good for the muscles and heart

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Pomegranate

Pomegranate is rich in tannins and flavonoids, both antioxidants which have drawn attention for their healing properties. Preliminary research suggests pomegranate extract can help prevent cancer and the growth of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer

Kiwi fruit prevent cancer

Kiwi is well-known for its high vitamin C content, boasting even more than oranges. It is also a powerful antioxidant, as Vitamin C prevents free radical damage. Kiwi consists of flavonoids and carotenoids that protect DNA from the damage or oxidative stress that is cancer. Being packed with vitamins, kiwi is a strong immune booster. It proves its effectiveness in healing different cancers like:

  • Liver cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer

Kiwi extracts prevent cancer cell proliferation, and its active photochemical, catechin, helps in the prevention of cancer and reduces the toxicity of anti-cancer agents.

The question Kenyans will ask is where they can buy the fruits. We all know how some fruits such as pomegranate, grapes, kiwi, strawberry and apples are expensive. Don’t worry, you can have all these fruits in your backyard. Contact us today and we will make this happen.

 

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Think Big and Diversify into Macadamia and Hass avocado Farming: DP Ruto

Ruto Talks about Diversification

Maize farmers in the North Rift have been lamenting over maize prices which has never been stable. Last year the National Cereals and Produce Board bought maize from farmers at Ksh 3600. However, this year the cabinet has recommended Ksh 2300. This has caused uproar in the north lift as Mp’s Alfred Keter and his counterparts Joshua Kuttuny and Silas Tiren have been in the forefront in condemning the prices. Regarding this issue, DP Ruto has hit back at the politicians who according to him, thinks too small and are opposed to calls of diversification to other types of crops other than maize.

DP RUTO ON DIVERSIFICATION

“I heard some people say the other day that they are not interested in diversification because you cannot put avocados in a store or you cannot feed avocados on initiates,” he said.

“People are producing for markets to export while others are thinking of how to produce to go and put in a store. That is how low some people think in our country.”

In a scathing attack on the DP, the rebel Jubilee legislators alleged the DP has bought a 500-acre piece of land in Congo and that he was positioning himself as the principal maize supplier by discouraging the region from maize farming.

“You can’t be telling us to diversify in avocados, plant macadamia but you are not telling us what happened to maize,” Keter said.

The MPs did not, however, back their allegations with any evidence.

They claimed Ruto was behind the prices which they termed too low.

“We want to tell the DP that we know the problems and cartels frustrating farmers are directly linked to him and his office and that is why we want all leaders probed,” Keter said.

But Ruto says that the government has signed many export treaties and it is time the region stopped overdependence on subsistence maize production.

“The President was in China for the China Expo and the primary thing he went to do is ensure we open the Chinese market to Kenyan exports,” Ruto said.

He said the answer to achieving double-digit growth of the GDP and manufacturing growth of up to 15 per cent lies in the country’s export strategy.

The Dp said the government is keen on increasing potato production five-fold and expanding rice production by 300 per cent.

Ruto said the government is focused on diversification to achieve the Big Four Agenda.

He said the MPs need to be encouraged to see the bigger picture and the economic potential that diversified farming will bring the region and the country at large.

He said Kenya can now access the Chinese export market through exports.

“We now have signed the phytosanitary agreement that will now make it possible for Kenyans to export macadamia, avocados, horticulture, tea, coffee and pyrethrum to the Chinese market,” Ruto said.

He urged counties to exploit the rising export market space by repositioning their production strategies to feed the export market.

“That will be the turning point for our economic fortunes as a country,” Ruto said.

Reasons Why Hass Avocado is Preferred over other Varieties

So, what are the advantages of diversification?

If diversification into hass avocado and macadamia is done, you’re likely to grasp a range of benefits which you don’t often find in a traditional farm:

  • Increased revenue – by taking on new activities you and your family are likely to enjoy an increased farm income and a better quality of life.
  • Adaptability – branching out encourages you to be willing to change and look out for other opportunities. By adding a new activity you will learn what works for you and your farm and be better able to make further changes in the future and respond to new opportunities as they arise.
  • Security – by moving into new activities farms can provide you and your family members with a long term future and greater stability. By branching out you will increase the number of sources of revenue for your farm ensuring that you are less susceptible to any one income source letting you down.
  • Tradition – diversifying can provide you and your family with a means of carrying on your farming tradition. While the focus of diversifying may be on increasing income and securing a future it can provide the means of subsidising and continuing the traditional activities that are valued and enjoyed.
  • Develop new skills – running a new venture will provide the opportunity to increase your skills and expand your network of business contacts. From management to marketing and finance to customer service diversifying will develop your business flair.

Being realistic in your budgeting is critical as a common pitfall is to over estimate income and to under estimate the costs of running the business.

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Let us not over-rely on just one type of crop. We urge farmers to start thinking about the future and outside the box. If you are a coffee farmer, why don’t you inter-crop with macadamia, there is no harm in so doing. If you are a tea farmer, plant hass avocados at the edges of your farm.

The other farmers such as maize farmers, I urge you to have a section where you can plant other crops and fruits. Most successful farmers are those who have done diversification.

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Thinking Of Farming Business? Think Mushroom Farming

As you might have noticed, we have been organizing mushroom farming training tours now and then. This has been inspired by the changing eating patterns of Kenyans and the need for more agribusiness ideas.

As young agriprenuers, we can firmly tell you that mushroom farming is the best agribusiness to think of especially if you are young and with inadequate farming space.

The fungi crop has numerous nutritional and medicinal benefits,  the demand for mushrooms is huge unexplored and unexploited, and the market offers unprecedented access to wealth and financial freedom. The Capital and daily expenditure are also affordable compared to other conventional crops.

Mushrooms contain more protein than fish or chicken, all Vitamins except A and D. Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus Zinc and Iron. They also contain a number of medicinal benefits, including lowering high blood pressure/hypertension, strengthening of weak bones, teeth and nails due to their high content in calcium. Mushrooms also heal impotency, improve cerebral development in children between the ages of 0 and 3, boost immunity, detoxify the body therefore preventing terminal diseases like colon cancer and improve fertility.

Nevertheless, it is the financial benefits of growing mushrooms that are breathtaking. For instance, a kilo of Oyster Mushrooms cost Ksh 800. In a small room of 5 meters by 5 meters, a small scale farmer can easily harvest a produce of 10 kilos of mushrooms weekly, which adds up to Ksh8,000 and Ksh32,000 monthly. Very few crops can fetch you this much.

In the same house of 5 by 5 meters, production can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. Therefore, bringing in an income of Ksh64,000, Ksh96,000 and Ksh128,000 respectively. From what is known by many mushrooms continuously sprout for a period of 3 months from the time the harvesting begins.

However, the most productive months are the first two. Unlike conventional crops, mushrooms are planted in fresh pasteurized organic substances known as substrate. These can be one or a combination of the following, Sugar Cane baggasse, Maize Stovers cut in minute pieces, Wheat Straw, Ground Nut Shells, crushed Maize cobs, Rice Husks and Molasses.

The pasteurization of these substances is carried out through boiling of steaming the substrate. Pasteurization eliminates all harmful organisms that deter mushroom production, while maintaining the nutritional content. After the substrate cools down, it is then mixed with mushroom seed called Spawn in a process called inoculation.

The planted substrate is then packed in several transparent polythene bags after holes are created in them. The polythene bags are then hung up in the mushroom house. A month and a half after the planting process, mushrooms begin sprouting.

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Where Does One Get Mushroom Market In Kenya?

When on thinks of farming, what comes of our minds, is where will I get market for my produce?

Traditionally, hotels offer a simple market that constantly demand mushrooms. For a first-time supplier, hotels often demand packaged samples of the product. After the first impression, they then require the signing of an agreement that bounds the client to reliably supply them with their required amount of mushrooms.

The number of hotels that demand mushrooms are staggering, 800 beach hotels along the coast of Kenya, hotels in all the major cities and towns. Several Pizza outlets around the country and several restaurants and hospitals.

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Then there are the unlimited individual customers in the social media that offer a consistent and reliable clientele. The beauty of the social media is simple, a supplier can repeatedly post pictures of the packaged mushroom product on the most popular farmers groups in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and What’s app. Together with the Nutritional and Medicinal benefits and the contacts.

Keep checking for our next training on how to go about mushroom farming in Kenya. We always say that farmers come first, we lead while others follow.

 

 

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How to earn a living from Watermelon farming in Kenya

Watermelon farming is taking shape in Kenya as the fruit is being embraced by most Kenyans. In almost every town, you will find some fruit vendors with watermelons. Don’t ask yourself why, they are fetching good prices. Imagine a piece of watermelon selling at Ksh 20, how many pieces does a big watermelon have? To answer your question, a single melon can have as many pieces as 20, selling @Ksh 20 this will amount to Ksh 400.

At farm gate, a farmer can get good returns for as high as Ksh 100. What matters is how you handle the watermelons when harvesting and while transporting to the market. If not properly handled, spoilt watermelons will indeed reduce your income. The cost of production is estimated at Sh100,000 per acre.

Watermelon is planted directly from seeds. Although other people prefer planting them on nursery then transferring the later. It all comes to your own decision.

What are the common Varieties of Watermelons Grown in Kenya

There are several varieties that are suitable in Kenya. They include:

  1. Sukari F1 Hybrid- this averages 7kgs per fruit and is very popular due to its size and sweetness.
  2. Early scarlet F1.
  3. Sugar baby, who fruits average 3-4kgs and crops mature early 62-80days.
  4. Charleston grey variety fruits that average 9kg and is late maturing 85-110 days. It is also the best drought resistant variety.
  5. Pato F1 it’s as sweet as Sukari F1.
  6. Sweet beauty- which it takes 80 days of maturity and has red-flesh.
  7. Golden midget which takes 70days to mature. Bears petite, yellow skinned with pink flesh.

Irrigation

Watermelon requires lots of water and nutrients. Thus a farmer must have a stable source of water and the soil should be rich of nutrients. If not,  a farmer should add organic fertilizer.

Sunlight

While Watermelon requires a lot of water it also needs a lot of sun. It is good to note that watermelons do not cope well with extreme weather conditions. Humid and foggy conditions are the best weather conditions for fungal diseases and this will wipe out all the watermelon in no time. Thus, temperatures of about 20c-25c are the best to grow and ripen watermelons.

PLANTING WATERMELON

Start the water melon seeds in the ground, right where they are supposed to grow. Though some people do transplant them,  it is better to know that they may not adapt well at first after the transplant hence others may die or take time to recover. In order to get it right, put manure to the ground before planting and plough well to make sure they mix well with the soil. Watermelons grow well in soils with alkaline PH.  It is therefore advisable to add lime to the soil so as to maintain the alkaline PH. This should be done at an interval of 3 years.

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Spacing

Spacing of watermelon generally is 1.5m from row to row and 1m from plant to plant.  Watermelon can grow best in hot dry areas under irrigation and rain-fed in marginal areas. Watermelon can also perform well in higher areas during hot season under irrigation. When under irrigation develop a good systematic watering system since fruits become stressed when the pattern changes and this affect the fruit development and spray program.

Remember that watermelons germinate in 7 days and the first fruits are seen from day 30.  It’s believed boron helps the plants to produce sweet fruits.

Taking care of watermelons

  1. Mulching with black plastics will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth, and keep developing fruits clean.
  2. Watering is very important from planting until fruit begins to form. While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
  3. Keep the soil always moist but not waterlogged. Water at the vine base in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves and avoid overhead watering. Reduce watering once the fruits are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melons.
  4. If you choose to fertilize make sure it delivers more nitrogen than phosphorous and potassium. However after flowering begins use a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
  5. Pruning isn’t necessary, but vine productivity may be improved if you do not allow lateral vines to grow and stick to the main vine. When the plant is young, just cut off the end buds as they form before they become vines. You can also pinch off some blossoms to focus the energy on fewer melons .
  6. Vines produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the males appear. Do not be concerned if the male flowers fall off. The female flowers, (which have a swollen bulb at the base) will stay on the vine and bear a fruit.
  7. Blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to the bees.
  8. As fruit is ripening, prevent rotting by gently lifting it and putting some cardboard or straw between the fruit and the soil.

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Weeding

It’s important to weed the land by removing weeds that compete for water and nutrients with the plant. This can be done the third or the second week after germination using herbicides or jembes.

Pest And Diseases Control.

The major and common diseases of watermelon are the leaf spot, dumping off, powdery mildew and blight. It can also be attacked by Beetles, mites, leaf miners and thrips.

Dumping off is a fungal disease that causes the seed to rot before they germinate.

Spider mites are serious pests of watermelons especially during hot, dry weather and they feed on the plant sap and can defoliate vines in a few weeks. Leaf miners cause injuries to leaves resulting to destruction of leaf tissue.

Thrips are insects which invade flowers and feed on plant juice, they are visible to the naked eye.

Always use recommended fungicides, insecticides and herbicides and this are available in local agrovets.  Always read the labels and follow instructions. This will not only help to protect your plant, but will also protect your health and environment. Apply chemicals using appropriate equipment at the recommended application rate. The labels should provide information on recommended use, ingredients, mode of action, and formulation of the product.

Harvesting

Watermelon’s maturity depends on the variety. As stated above, some species vary from the  other but all fall under a maturity period of 80-100 days. In order to see if the fruit is ready for market turn the fruit around to see if the fruit is having a yellow patch on the side on which its lying on the ground with. If it is difficult to pass your finger nail in the watermelon, it’s well ready for harvest and you can even confirm by cutting one to see if it has matured.  They are ready for harvest if matured. You can also thump it. If the watermelon sounds hollow, its ripe. You can also check on the tendrils. If it’s green, wait. If it’s half dead the watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe.

Farming only requires passion and patience. You can do it!

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Cotton Farming: Why President Uhuru Wants Kenya to grow GMO Cotton

cotton

President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked technocrats to look at the possibility of Kenyans growing genetically modified BT cotton.

If Implemented, Kenya will become the first in East Africa to grow GMOs in open fields, and fourth in Africa after South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan.

The launch for commercialization is expected in January 2019, while farmers are likely to plant their first BT cotton seeds in March.

The development follows the recent approval for national performance trials for BT cotton by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Already, the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) has planted the first BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in open fields for environmental testing in Kibos, Kisumu in the west of the country.

“We expect that in the next seven months we shall have sufficient data from the field trials for scrutiny by the various government agencies including Nema,” said the director of Horticulture Research Institute at Kalro Dr Charles Waturu.

The president instructed the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Trade, Industry and Cooperatives to come up with a quick mechanism for the revival of cotton production, including the possibility of farming BT cotton as part of measures to restore the dwindling sector.

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Agriculture Task Force to Look Into Cotton Farming

At the same time Uhuru directed that a second taskforce be constituted to address woes facing maize farmers and find a lasting solution to the issue.

The taskforce will be led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.

President Kenyatta made the announcement during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega town.

This directive comes in the wake of protests by maize farmers who have not been paid for deliveries to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The board, which manages the strategic reserves of the staple food, ran out of cash it was allocated because it paid brokers who supplied it with cheap maize from Uganda at the expense of Kenyan farmers.

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The disillusioned farmers are still holding on to about 500,000 bags of last season’s crop estimated to be worth Sh1.6 billion while NCPB owes them Sh3.5 billion for maize it purchased from them for the strategic reserve.

While speaking in Kakamega, President Kenyatta warned that stern action would be taken against NCPB officials who engage in corrupt practices involving cartels.

He also warned that stern action would be taken against corrupt officials who authorised the payments to brokers, leaving farmers in unnecessary suffering after toiling to earn a livelihood from the cash crop.

 

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7 Things To Consider Before Leasing Land for Farming

In Kenya, land is becoming scarce and one of the aspiring farmer’s greatest nightmare is accessing farming land at an affordable price. The prices have hiked and what young and new farmers are doing is scooping up land and renting it. Renting land minimizes risk and it’s the most affordable way of participating in food security and sustainability. However before getting yourself in this business of farming rented farm, here are some things you should consider.

Discover Your Market

Even those farmers who have their own land, its necessary to identify your market -that is , your very first potential customers. You need to first locate the markets where you will sell your products. These could be farmers markets, direct customer targets such as farm-to-table restaurants and independent groceries, or people traveling through the area where you hope to farm. Then search an ever-widening radius around that central market location until you find suitable land at the price you can afford. Before you start to farm, figure out where to rent

Land around Semi and Urban areas

Land in towns and cities seem to be scarce, however it is readily available. There these 50*100 plots in towns and with intensive farming techniques, this can be enough land to turn a modest profit with small crops that make the most efficient use of small spaces.

However, there is this land that is on the outskirts of suburbs before reaching cities and towns, semi-urban spaces are big enough with small acreage to hold an entire hobby farm. For beginners, less land can be more manageable than a rural farm. A semi-urban area might boast some city-like development, but land is available in larger tracts. Semi-urban sites can give your farm a rural feel, while retaining proximity to customers.

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Facts about Rural farming

In Kenya where white collar job is adored and few young people into farming, you will find that many current landowners and farmers are at retirement age and many find their children living in cities without the desire to return to farming. It’s in your best interest as a farmer to have your land used and to not see it fall into disrepair. Therefore, as an aspiring farmer you can always rent/lease land in rural areas.

A lot of Networking

A deceased farmer’s land might be held by a trust and left vacant by family members who have no interest in ever farming it. In Kenya, most ancestral land can’t be sold but only inherited and one can lease. This kind of farms that’s potentially available for long-term rent is often not advertised. The best tool for finding it is networking.

Ask for Help

One trait that most people don’t have is asking for help. Ask all of your friends and family for some land you can start with. The key is to get something started as soon as you can. Getting started on your own lawn or on borrowed land makes your business visible; creating opportunity to make your land needs known.

Online Marketing

The world has changed and only time will tell where it will take us. Even if you farm for fun,  your hobby farm basically doesn’t exist if it doesn’t have an online presence, especially if you’re planning to farm in the rural areas. Tell your story and share your food philosophy with a simple website or social media, to share the birth and evolution of your farm to gain support and excitement for your business. Use the results to gather market data and apply it to growing your business.

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Lease For Long

This will definitely be driven by a number of factors. Short-term leases or rentals are certainly an option, if it’s your only option. Short-term leases and rentals are least desirable for both the lessor and the lessee. Both offer flexibility but neither offers stability. Decades-long leases are common in rural areas, and they usually include scheduled intervals for revisiting the contract. A lease should be agreeable and beneficial to both farmer and landowner. Maintaining a respectful relationship should lend itself to revisiting the contract as issues arise.

If you are an aspiring farmer, we can help you get some land in the outcasts of major towns in Kenya and if you have land that you would like to lease contact us.

At Oxfarm Ag, farming is our passion and our business!

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Hass Avocado Market Expands As Kenya Signs New Deal with China

hass avocado deal

Trade CS Peter Munya with Chinese government officials while signing the formal Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreements./ COURTESY: STAR

Hass avocado is one of the biggest fruit in the market and soon or later it will be the biggest. Its demand is growing tremendously.

In the new developments experienced in the month of November 2018, Kenya will now export hass avocado, French beans, mangoes, peanuts, and hides and skins to China.

This happened after a week of delicate negotiations of formal sanitary and phytosanitary between Kenya and China that saw the agreements being signed between Kenya and China for Kenya‘s Agriculture produce to enter the Chinese market.

Apart from hass avocados, other products that were approved are legumes, vegetables and fruits, herbs, meat, bixa, macademia nuts, gum Arabica, myrrh and Asian vegetables like chilli and karela.

The government through state house chief of staff said Kenya and China have also formally launched their technical working group to commence negotiations on the expansion of trade opportunities and review of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Earlier when President Uhuru Kenyatta had expressed concern about the trade imbalance when he visited China for bilateral talks in early November 2018.

President Uhuru Kenyatta asked China to give preferential treatment to goods from Africa as it continues opening up its vast market to the rest of the world.

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He made the call when he delivered a keynote address at the inaugural China International Import Expo held in Shanghai. Uhuru called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to enact measures to proactively raise the volume of goods coming from the African continent to China. On another meeting before, Kenyatta said China can start by reducing tariffs on specific goods so that more traders from countries including Kenya can access the vast Chinese market of 1.4 billion people.

While acknowledging China’s leading role in the Kenyan economy as a trading partner, the President called for increased Chinese investments in the country.

He noted that China now ranks as the number one trading partner with Kenya accounting for 17.2% of Kenya’s total trade with the World.

Now, if you are a farmer in Kenya willing to grow hass avocado and you are worried there might be no enough market, well stop worrying as the government and major stakeholders are doing all they can to ensure your product gets to the market and fetches the best prices. The ball is in your hand, as a farmer, however, we are here for you!