By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya has experienced unreliable rains in the
last few years, but while this has affected food production, it
has brought new opportunities in the livestock sector.
The low rains have
turned out to be a huge blessing to those keen on producing
fodder for livestock, in particular dairy animals.
Farmers in semi-arid
areas have taken the chance to produce fodder grasses on large
scale, which they grow and sell to dairy farmers in other parts
of the country at a premium fee.
currently being grown for commercial purposes include Boma
Rhodes, Lucerne, Guatemala and Kikuyu.
George Mwathe, a
farmer in the dry Makueni, is among those currently growing
fodder for sale.
“I was pushed into
fodder growing because of persistent low rainfall that made
farming of any other crop like maize, beans and even green grams
difficult in this area. Fodder growing provided me with better
opportunity,” Mwathe said on Friday.
On his four acres,
the farmer grows Boma Rhodes and Lucerne for baling and sale to
farmers in milk production regions.
“The rain is enough
to grow the grasses to maturity because they do not need much
water,” he said.
He was taught the
art of growing grass and its benefits at a farmers’ training
organized by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research
Organization, a government agency.
“Later, myself and
other farmers were given 10 kg of four varieties of fodder seeds
that include Boma Rhodes and Lucerne. I also got African Foxtail
but I dropped it since it did not do very well,” he said.
Besides the grass,
he also harvests seeds for sale to others.
“I normally harvest
seeds and grass twice or thrice a year and earn at least 2,000
U.S. dollars from the venture. With these grasses, I have beaten
the dry spell and I am able to educate my children,” he says.
includes waiting for the grass to over-mature and produce seeds,
which he waits they dry.
Miles away in the
arid part of Tharaka Nithi County, Cornelius Kathangi is another
farmer who is growing Boma Rhodes grass and at the same time
offering baling services to tens of farmers engaged in the
“Tharaka Nithi is
largely semi-arid, making it difficult for any crops to grow
well but with fodder, business is good,” said Kathangi, who
sells his produce to farmers mainly in Meru and Kirinyaga.
He grows the fodder
on seven acres and for baling he owns a mower, a baler, a rake,
a tracker and a forage harvester. To bale Boma Rhodes, he
charges at between 0.5 dollars and 0.9 dollars depending on the
Besides farmers like
Kathangi, there are also people who are only doing baling while
not engaged in fodder farming.
John Gature, who
harvests the grass and bales for farmers using machines, said he
processes at least 50,000 bales during the December-February
He charges between
0.5 and 0.80 dollar to harvest a bale of grass, which goes from
3.5 dollars to 5 dollars, depending on the season.
With dairy farming
of goats and cows increasing in Kenya, fodder production has a
bright future especially as rains become erratic.
Bernard Moina, an
agricultural extension officer in western Kenya, noted that
fodder farming has created a niche in agribusiness in arid
He notes that from
an acre of pasture, a farmer can get up to 3,000 dollars per
year when the season is good.
“But what gives most
farmers money are seeds as they can go from between 5 dollars to
10 dollars per kilo,” he said, noting the business is awakening
farmers in arid areas.