by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- At his home in
Athi River, south of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, farmer Herman
Kimeu keeps 300 improved Kienyeji breed chickens.
the birds, the farmer gets fertilized eggs that he sells at 20
Kenyan shillings (0.18 U.S. dollars) each and further hatches
some into chicks in an artificial incubator.
While selling of eggs is a good money-maker for him, his
biggest business is the sale of the Kienyeji chicks that go from
1 dollar to 5 dollars depending on the age.
Kimeu sells a day-old chick at a dollar while a four-month
goes for 5 dollars. Demand for the birds has risen tremendously
in the east African nation as farmers seek climate-resilient
The birds are not only fast-maturing but are also resistant
to diseases and feed less, giving Kenyan farmers brisk business.
Moreover, they produce as much eggs as hybrid birds and have
tender meat loved by consumers.
"I don’t regret starting to rear the Kienyeji birds after
ditching the layers hybrids.
"They have more profit because they are rarely disturbed by
diseases and their eggs are fertilized enabling me to sell them
at higher price than the unfertilized ones," said Kimeu.
The farmer hatches 300 eggs after every 21 days, with most of
the chicks bought on order way before he hatches them.
"Right now I am processing two orders that I hope to complete
by mid next month," he said.
Kenya is experiencing rapid change in climate, where
temperatures are oscillating from one extreme to another as
rains become scarce thanks to climate change.
The situation has led to increase in poultry diseases, mainly
coccidiosis and Newcastle, both that kill birds in days if not
treated, according to experts.
"The Kienyeji birds are resistant to some of these diseases,
which are one of the things that have them popular," said
Bernard Kariuki, a farmer in Kiambu County who also hatches and
sells Kuroiler birds, another improved breed.
Before selling the chicks, he vaccinates them against various
diseases including Newcastle, Marek’s disease and fowl typhoid.
Besides the Kienyeji and Kuroiler birds, Kenyan farmers are
also going for Kuchi and Kenbrow, other improved breeds.
The Kienyeji chicken has solved the challenge of low
production, slow maturity and diseases, according to Fred Odour,
a poultry specialist at agro consultancy Growth Point.
He noted that unlike the traditional or hybrid breeds, the
improved breeds perform better than the two in terms of growth
rate, attaining 3 kg at five months for the cocks.
The cocks go for between 10 dollars and 15 dollars depending
on the size, premium prices as compared to broilers, which fetch
an average of 5 dollars, and are prone to diseases.
"The hens lay between 220 eggs to 280 eggs per year, which is
much higher than the traditional breeds but slightly lower than
"But if you do the math, the climate-smart birds are the
best," he said.
According to Kenya Poultry Farmers Association, there are
over 32 million chickens in the East African nation, of which 6
million are commercial hybrids.
offer Kenyan poultry keepers business
by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The beautiful and silver-colored machine in a
room at a corner in Calvin Githae’s house in Kitengela, south of
Kenya’s capital Nairobi, resembles a small refrigerator.
But it is until Githae opens it that one realizes what it is
an incubator he uses to hatch chicks for sale.
On the machine’s four shelves, Githae has neatly lined up
some 250 fertilized eggs for hatching.
The made-in-China gadget, which he bought from a dealer in
Nairobi, has enabled him to venture into chicks selling
"Its capacity is 300 eggs but I hardly put in all those eggs.
"I hatch between 200 and 250 eggs at a go," said the farmer
in a recent interview.
He sells the chicks from 100 Kenyan shillings (0.96 U.S.
dollars) to 4.6 dollars, with day-olds going for the lowest
price and four-months-old the highest, earning in a good month
over 400 dollars from the business.
Initially, the farmer kept layers for eggs or broilers for
meat but acquisition of the Chinese-made incubator has enabled
him to expand into the chicks’ business, selling Kienyeji and
Kuroiler birds, which are improved chicken breeds.
"I shopped around for various incubators and came across the
ones made in China.
"There were several others, for instance, those made in
Britain but they were sold on order," he said.
Before buying the gadgets sourced from China, Githae had two
options, that is either to import directly from the Asian nation
or buy locally.
"I settled on the later because the seller offered a one-year
warranty, the price was affordable and there was after-sale
service and training," he said, noting he bought the incubator
at 576 dollars.
A survey in Nairobi showed dealers are selling the gadgets
from the smallest capacity of 48 eggs that go for 200 dollars to
larger ones of 2,000 eggs at 1,500 dollars.
Engoho Kuku Farmer, one of the distributors of the
Chinese-made incubators, sells them across the east African
According to the firm, which has a branch in Nairobi and
Bungoma in western Kenya, the incubators are automatic, thus
making it easier for farmers to control temperature, humidity
and turn eggs.
The firm guarantees farmers a 98 percent hatch rate and a
warranty of one-year, an indication of confidence in the
gadgets, with an official saying they have had a relationship
with the Chinese firm supplying them the gadgets from 2013.
"I have used the Chinese-made incubator and so far, so good,"
said farmer Bernard Kariuki.
He has a 500-egg capacity gadget that he uses to hatch chicks
and sell as demand for improved chicken breeds that are hardy,
fast-maturing and disease-resistant surges in Kenya amid climate
Fred Odour, a poultry specialist at agro consultancy Growth
Point, noted that the Chinese-made incubators have dominated the
market due to affordability and they are readily available.
"But a good incubator must be complemented by good quality
"The eggs must be fertilized and be not more than 10-days-old
to increase hatchability rate," he said.
Kenyans adopt small
gardening technologies as land sizes shrink
by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Oasis, sunken, conical and terrace
gardens are some of the latest farming technologies sweeping
across Kenya as land sizes shrink amid unreliable rains.
The technologies, among others, are helping the east African
nation’s residents to grow food amid constrained spaces,
especially in urban areas.
Kenya has experienced a rapid development of real estate in
the past years, with concrete buildings taking over spaces where
crops once flourished.
In suburbs bordering the capital Nairobi, land that was
initially used for farming is now teaming with high-rise
buildings hosting thousands of people as the regions are
converted into the city’s bedrooms.
Kenyans, therefore, have no choice but to adapt to changing
times to farm amid rapid rise in population that has doubled
demand for food.
At the back of his three-bedroom bungalow in Katani, south of
Nairobi, Moses Korir has made a sunken garden where he grows two
vegetable varieties, namely spinach and collard greens,
popularly known in Kenya as sukuma wiki.
To make the garden, the banker dug a two-feet deep and 3m by
2m pit, mixed part of the soil he excavated with manure and
returned it there. He then planted 15 sukuma wiki and 10 spinach
plants inside the sunken garden.
"I, thereafter, dug a trench from the laundry area to the
garden ensuring that we recycle the water that we use to wash
"It is the best thing that I have ever done in a long time
because the crops flourished," he said in a recent interview.
Using the technology, Korir’s family of four and tens of
others in towns in Kenya, have not only been assured of quality
vegetables but has also saved money.
"At the height of a dry spell in February to April, we had no
challenges getting vegetables," said Korir, who lives on a 50ft
by 80ft land.
Unlike sunken or oasis gardens where crops are grown on the
ground, for conical and terrace gardens, families grow crops off
the ground, thus even those living in apartments can farm.
For conical gardens, one uses used motor vehicle tyres where
they place the soil, a thing that enables urban families to
utilize the rubber tyres that are normally disposed of
haphazardly in estates when they wear out.
On the other hand, for terrace gardens, one can also use old
tyres or plastic containers, which are cut into half.
In all the gardens, the soil where the crops are grown is
mixed with manure, making the farmers use the technologies to
produce purely organic food.
"People in urban areas have used the old tyres and plastic
containers to grow mainly flowers for many years but with food
becoming scarce, using them to grow crops makes sense because
one ends up with food and at the same time beautify their
homes," said Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro
The gardens, according to her, offer solutions to urban food
insecurity as well as protect the environment because things
like old tyres, iron sheets, gunny bags and plastic containers
She noted that the gardens come with many benefits, including
the minimal use of water.
"The fact that one recycles water from the bathroom, kitchen
or laundry area to grow crops makes them so economical," she
Besides vegetables, families can also grow in the gardens
fruits like strawberries, onions and tomatoes.
Kenyan small scale farmers
find gateway to export market
by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Moses Irungu, a pigeon pea farmer in Nyandarua, northwestern
Kenyan, recently harvested and sold his produce to the export
It is the third time the farmer is selling the produce that
ends up in the European Union and he is ecstatic about it.
"It seemed a distant dream for a small farmer like myself
with three-quarter of an acre to export my produce at the
beginning but this is now reality.
"I am living it," he said on Wednesday.
Irungu is a member of a cooperative society in the county and
it is through the outfit that him and dozens of other farmers
sell their produce to the export market.
The cooperatives have become the gateway through which
smallholder farmers in the east African nation are accessing the
The farmers are forming the outfits depending on the crops
they grow and their needs.
They then use them to plan how to grow export crops, approach
exporters, access extension services and aggregate their produce
"These cooperatives have helped us a lot. Even people with
quarter acres are now able to export their produce like garden
peas, which they struggled to find local market for," said
There are dozens of cooperative societies in the county and
others, with most of them serving exporters of different crops.
Some grow French beans, others pigeon peas, snow peas, garden
peas, potatoes or chick peas depending on market needs as
advised by the exporters.
As a group, members of the societies ensure each one of them
adheres to set rules so that their entire produce, which is
normally bulked as one, does not get rejected.
"In this case, farmers act as prefects to each other so that
one person does not spoil the marker.
"This has made work easier for the exporters unlike if they
were dealing with individual farmers," said Beatrice Macharia of
Growth Point, an agro-consultancy.
Once they harvest, the farmers sort the produce according to
sizes and quality before handing it to the exporter who stores
it in cold storage facilities before exporting.
"Through this system, traceability has become easier because
it is at two levels - by the cooperative members and by the
exporter who deals with several outfits," said Macharia.
VegPro, Everfresh Produce Ltd, Jade Fresh Limited, Greenblade
Growers Ltd and Reap Horticultural Exporters are some of the
exporting companies in Kenya, with the firms dealing with
cooperative societies as well as groups.
Tugumo Group in western Kenya grows French beans for the
export market, with the youths’ leader Joshua Etyang’ noting
they were contracted to farm the crop for export on the virtue
that they were in the outfit.
According to VegPro, it works with over 1,700 smallholder
farmers in different parts of Kenya who grow in groups, with
each farming French beans or pigeon peas on as little as 0.2
Collins Muthuri, a farmer in Meru, who grows chicken peas for
export, notes that through cooperatives, it become easier for
farmers to understand the stringent export conditions and adhere
"Through cooperatives, the buyer can extend to us loans that
we use for production or get loans from financial institutions
because we have the numbers," said Muthuri, noting a kilo of
garden peas goes for an average of 100 Kenyan shillings (96 U.S.
cents) and sugar snap and snow peas for a dollar.
According to Fresh Produce Exporters Association, in 2018,
Kenya exported 3034 million kilos of flowers, vegetables and
fruits, with the last comprising of 26 percent and 8 percent of
value of exports respectively.
The total value of exports during the period stood at 1.5
Simple solar drying
technology helps Kenyan farmers conserve produce
by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
For many years, Kenyan farmers have
been drying their produce that include maize, beans and cassavas
using the sun.
The crops would be spread on polythene sheet and dried openly
under the sun.
This method, however, came with many challenges that included
contamination and loss of grains to birds.
The outmoded drying method is currently being replaced by
simple home-made solar drying technology that is not only
effective in ensuring that produce has low moisture content but
it also extends its shelf-life.
The solar dryers are made using ordinary timber and poles and
covered with a black polythene liner, making it look like a
Inside the dryer, one then makes shelves preferably from
small-holed wire mesh where the produce is placed for drying.
"The black liner helps to attract the heat from the sun
enabling the produce to dry faster, in about two to four days
but maximum a week if the intensity of the sun is little
especially when it rains," Vincent Kinyua, a farmer in Nyeri
County, said Tuesday.
On the other hand, a wire-mesh is used as shelf to ensure
that heat penetrates the produce well and from the different
directions to allow thorough drying.
The dryers have helped farmers across the east African nation
to conserve their produce and add value to it.
Away from maize, beans, sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes,
the farmers are using the structures to dry fruits like bananas,
pineapples and pumpkins, mushrooms, fish and traditional
"It’s close to two years since I started using the solar
dryer after learning about the technology from a non-state
"It has enabled me process bananas that I grow into flour,"
said Kinyua, noting before drying the bananas, they are peeled
and chopped into smaller pieces.
Thanks to the solar dryer, the farmer now has his own flour
brand that he sells in churches, field days and local markets at
60 Kenyan shillings (0.58 U.S. dollars) a kilo.
Benson Aparo, who grows mushrooms and uses a simple dryer to
dry them, noted that the technology has helped him extend the
shelf-life of his produce.
"Once I harvest the mushroom, I dry them in my solar dryer
which gives me time to sell for a longer period," he said.
Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro consultancy, noted
that solar drying is a cost-effective and greener way of drying
"Unlike electricity or firewood, solar drying comes with very
little costs since one depends on the sun," she noted, adding
that the fact that the produce is put in the greenhouse-like
structures ensures that they are free from contamination.
"This is what the small farmer needs in Kenya to curb
post-harvest losses and make more cash," she said, adding that
the fact that one makes the dryer using materials readily
available on the farm makes the technology suitable.
According to Macharia, a good solar dryer should have an air
inlet, drying chamber fitted and a chimney.
"The inlet allows air to flow through the structure but most
farmers don’t consider it perhaps because theirs are simple
"Wire mesh is recommended for use because it allows free flow
of hot air which hastens the drying of farm produce," she said.
e-extension services reach more farmers
by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenyan government has turned to mobile
agriculture extension services to reach more farmers as
producers in the east African nation grapple with a myriad of
challenges like erratic rainfall amid climate change.
Lack of government extension services in many parts of the
country has over the years been blamed for poor production in
both livestock and crops sectors.
The e-extension services have been the domain of the private
sector, with many institutions monetizing them.
The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture,
Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, is, however, now keen to
fill the extension gap using a free SMS-based service introduced
Through the service, farmers are learning how to eradicate
climate change-related pests like armyworms and diseases like
lethal necrosis, the crops to grow in each season and prices of
The free service is turning out to be a game changer as
thousands of farmers’ access e-extension services in real time.
"Do you have maize in the field right now?
"Send the word check and the ministry will help you scout
your crop for fall armyworms," the ministry says in one of the
"If you find fall armyworms, pick and drown them in soap
"Crush all egg masses.
"Mix ash, sand and pepper and apply to the tunnel," the
ministry advises in another message to farmers send on Friday as
it advocates for organic methods of fighting the pest.
As Kenyan farmers prepare to start harvesting their maize
from late this month, the ministry is already sending out to
farmers’ messages with various crops that they can plant in the
"This season you can plant pigeon peas, sweet potatoes, maize
or beans," it says in an SMS.
Hamadi Boga, principal secretary for agricultural research at
Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and
Irrigation, in a recent interview noted that the SMS service
leverages on use of mobile phones to reach farmers across the
east African nation with correct agricultural messages.
Farmer John Otiato, who is based in Busia County, western
Kenya, is among those who are ecstatic about the e-extension
service that he accesses on his feature phone for free.
"This time round I did not buy chemicals to spray on my maize
crop that was attacked by armyworms.
"I followed the ministry’s organic way of eliminating the
pest and it worked," said Otiato on Friday, capturing sentiments
of tens of farmers.
A recent study by the University of Nairobi’s agriculture
faculty shows that farmers using e-extension services in Kenya
are interested in both livestock and crop production advise
almost in equal measure.
Topping the list of information sought is on plant
production, marketing, animal production, farm equipment and
Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro consultancy, notes
that the use of e-extension services helps to avail agricultural
information to nearly the entire population of farmers in the
country faster and reliably.
"The fact that most farmers in Kenya now have mobile phones
is an opportunity to provide mobile-based extension services
that address the day-to-day issues they face.
"The good thing is that farmers can also take photos of their
crops or animals and send to specific numbers and get advice,"
Macharia noted that with the e-extension services, Kenya’s
agriculture ministry can survey what farmers are growing and
know their problems from questions asked.
According to Gabriel Rugalema, Food and Agriculture
Organization representative to Kenya, Kenya has been lagging
behind in use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
to offer extension services to farmers.
Use of ICT, he notes, helps sustain communication with
farmers and they get instant and reliable support, besides using
an array of apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter.
Kenya has close to 50 million mobile phone subscribers,
according to the Communications Authority of Kenya, and with
most of the citizens engaging in smallholder farming, use of the
e-extension services is coming in handy.