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LIFE AND DEATH

People die, so many people die. They die every day. Its very painful when we loose our loved ones. Despite the fact that all human beings must die, we still mourn for the lose of our loved ones. It even takes us long to accept the fact that they are gone. We are all left wishing the a second chance can be presented, just a one time moment to see the sunset with them. The other day i attended the funeral of one of my friends mother. The guy is on his mid twenties, his dad is on his fifties. Surprisingly enough i saw this two grown ups crying. They even wanted to be buried with their loved one. It takes so long for us human to accept the Gods plan that human beings must at one time die. Life becomes hard, very hard because no one can replace them. They were very special, they were the best but they leave us clinching to their memories. Some memories which make us cry even more.

Death is five letter word, which i would refer to as the end of life according to the English dictionary. After someone dies life ends. When we see that coffin descending six feet down we assume the end of ever associating with the deceased. Despite the fact that there is life after death we all sing, we sing saying that if its God wish we will meet again. Is there meeting again? Is there life after death? Will we ever reunite with our loved ones. I keep on asking myself these questions but i never get the answers. I am a Christian by birth and by will. By birth meaning that i was born in a Christian family then i choose to be a Christian. Will i ever see Moses? And this guy with all that wit, king Solomon did he ever exist? The other day a friend of mine asked me if there is life after death whats the essence of us dying, why cant we just live forever?

People get sick. Some doctors have the guts to tell us how many days our loved ones will live. others give us hope knowing that there is nothing they can do. Despite seeing the condition of our patients, looking at them but they cant look back, speaking to them but they cant hear us, we never want to let them go. but who takes them? Death is a must but will those people that Jesus will find on earth first die and resurrect. My dad told me to stop asking all these questions and live large. Live large.

 

What they’ll never tell you about farming

Why is it that they are encouraging us to venture into a business they prefer doing after retirement? Why are agricultural stakeholders holding 5-star hotel conferences to discuss same problems year in year out? If farming is a profitable venture, why are their kids not disturbing the soil? I would like to understand what’s sexy about disturbing the soil, dealing with disloyal middlemen and cartels?

Why is it that farm inputs supplier companies don’t have farms yet they know expected output of every product they distribute to farmers? I mean farms not demo farms. Why are the middlemen not farming yet they are quick to trade market information and trends? Why exactly are you encouraging young people to venture into farming and not real estate or other ventures? I wish someone can answer me these questions without being defensive.

You don’t plant a seed today and harvest it tomorrow. An egg does not hatch in the morning and you slaughter a cock in the evening. Farming is a process that requires skills, knowledge and experience like any other career. In fact, we should have a 5 year experience when farming some crops or rearing a particular breed of an animal. We should have requirements like basic agronomical skills

Beware of sales agents who purport themselves as agronomists. Their main objective is to push sales and meet a certain target. They come up with some exaggerated figures on the expected output of their products. Demand for proof of a farmer who has succeeded in the same. These guys don’t even care where you will sell or how you will grow the crops, or should I say, they don’t know. If you insist they’ll be forced to lie to remain relevant. Farm input supplier companies will sometimes create a market demand of a certain crop to push their sales. Don’t fall into that trap, farm what you can sell.

Your farm is your office. A farmer wakes up to scout his farm. He consistently inspects his crops/animals under the scorching sun and heat. Review your farm financial and production records to make informed decision. Scout the market and see what has changed. Learn to price your products based on the cost of production.

If you are lucky enough to have a responsible farm hand, then again you at a risk of loosing a potential employee. Your farm hand will learn, save and decide its time to become a farm owner. That’s bad business for you but its an achievement because you’ve grooved someone to the next level. If your guy is irresponsible, then you might be lucky that he’ll stay but you’ll have to school him daily. Either way, be ready to deal with farm hands, they leave when you need them.

Our universities should as of now be channeling out agronomists/vets who can walk with farmers from planting to the market. Farming does not stop when you harvest. Any farming venture should assume an objective of making profits. Agronomists tend to runaway when your farm has been attacked by pests and diseases. Others will disappear after you’ve harvested. No one wants to be associated with a failed project. Take time and understand your crop/animal. I don’t know if insurance really works for the benefit of the farmer, but you can check it out. There is no harm in trying.

Climate change is already here. What’s happening is our responsibility. Floods, landslides and drought are everywhere. These unforeseen events can sweep away your investment and leave you bankrupt. Climate change can disrupt food availability, reduce access to food, and affect food quality. For example, Projected increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation pattern, changes in extreme weather events, and reduction in water availability may all result in reduced agricultural productivity.

AnziaSokoni! Farm with a buyer in mind. Understand your consumer preferences before planting. Harvesting is not an emergency. There are days you’ll feed your crops to your animals. Just be ready.

Visit a farmer and learn. Google and understand more. Engage an expert to maximize your profits. Do your own research. Farming is an investment and my hope is that your cash-inflows triples your investment capital, or even more. Do you know its cheaper to import eggs from the North-west part of Uganda that buying from the local farmers? The cost of production in this country is high. At this point, “if you know someone who knows someone,” then i advice you do imports rather than farm locally. Oh yes, Importers are paid in advance, farmers are paid after a court order

The government will encourage young people to venture into agriculture, yet they have failed with the Galana Kulalu project. Be on the kook out. some organizations will also preach the same gospel, but they cant operate an acre of onions leave alone selling. Social media will confuse you with beautiful stories and images about farming, its important you research well before venturing into this noble profession.

Ask yourself why its only farmers who complain in the whole agricultural value chain. All the other stakeholders wako tu sawa.

Effective Marketing Strategies for Farm Produce

To be able to sustain an agribusiness, the first essential ingredient is to be able to produce sound, quality, and nutritious food. Whether you are a farmer, a trader, or an agriprenuer, you need to understand what your potential customers want or in other words, create the demand. Most farmers have a limited or no budget when it comes to marketing their farm produce, something they should consider to maximize their profits.

Here are effective marketing strategies for farm produce:

1. Social media marketing; do you know the impact your Facebook or Twitter account has when it comes to online marketing? Over 3.2 billion people use social media worldwide. Consumers are spending on social media; that’s why marketing your farm produce through social media is the most versatile and cost-effective strategies to reach the target audience and improve sales over time.

2. Branding; what exactly is your farm offering? Farmers need a distinct identity- they need a brand. A brand offers instant recognition and identification. Consumers should identify you with a particular brand; {Ezra wa apples, Wendy farm…} Your farm is your office; create business cards with a logo that identifies you and your farm produce.

3. Packaging; if we don’t judge a book by its cover, then what’s the essence of having the cover? Good packaging sets apart other farm produce in a vast sea of options that the consumer has at disposal. To many of us, production stops at harvest. Packaging starts with the primary branding of farm produce and comes with a cost. A cost we can forgo to reach out to more audiences.

4. Hosting farm visits and farm training; you can host farm trainings on the farm to offer startups a unique glimpse of how you do your crops from planting to selling. This aspect can be advertised on social media based on the type of crop and target audience. Farm visits and training help out in branding and offer an avenue to spread the word out.

5. Seasonal and festive offers; do farmers give offers and discounts based on occasion? For example, if you are selling tomatoes, you can offer transport for a certain quantity within a prescribed area. If you have a beautiful branded farm, it’s easier to do offers based on occasions. For instance, a poultry farmer can offer to lower the prices of his chicks during the Christmas season.

6. Partner or associate with other farmers or brands in agriculture; farm input suppliers market their products by only making sure farmers highlight their products in marketing campaigns. Alternatively, farmers should also make chef, value addition enterprises, and direct consumers mention or highlight their farm produce during marketing campaigns. Affiliations always give consumers the confidence to try your farm produce.

There are limitless opportunities to market your farm produce, from online marketing to something as simple as using your friends and family network. The key is to understand your consumer’s behavior, psyche and then keep reinventing your brand with new products.

We are responsible for Climate change

The rain is not falling 😭. Climate change is real. We’ve given out many excuses and now we are running out of time. We’ve ignored the effects of climate change in the past and we will ignore these effects again – sad!

Before mid – 1700’s, human beings relied on wind, water and wind for their energy needs. Industrial revolution has engineered transition to powering our machines with fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gases)

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primary coal, fuel oil or natural gases, formed from remains of dead plants and animals. These fossil fuels, formed many years ago still contain carbon that existed in the organisms when they died. This carbon is the source of energy.

Burning of fossil fuel releases carbon into the atmosphere. The carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas.

Greenhouse gases traps more of the sun’s energy contributing to global warming. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has scaled by 25% in the past 200years meaning that we are responsible for adding alot of carbon dioxide to the air.

Forests are essential for human and animal lives. They are home to millions of species, prevent soil erosion, play a vital role in water cycle by returning water back into the atmosphere, absorb greenhouse gases that fuel global warming, keep soil moist by blocking the sun, produces oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

Trees can help shelter plants and animals from the sun, protects crops from being damaged by strong winds and creates a chilly environment for animals.

Kenyan law prohibits cutting down of trees without a permit, even on private land. For a land owner to be granted a permit, they should prove that there is an urgent need to cut down the tree. However; according to Green Africa Foundation, over 5 million trees are cut down every day for firewood, charcoal and other uses – yes 5million trees daily.

Deforestation is one of the main contributors to climate change. Deforestation comes in many form; wildfire, livestock ranching, Agriculture clean cutting and logging timber.

As we’ve been taught in School, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air as they grow. Throught the process of photosynthesis they convert carbon dioxide into building blocks for their trunks, branches and foliage.

Cutting down of trees without replacing them, reverses the effects of carbon sequestration and releases green house gases. Alternatively, of we planted more trees, they would soak up Carbon dioxide as they grow reducing the amount of Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

It’s time we take responsibility for destroying our environment and take action on climate change.

Agriculture, and the environment

Everyone needs Agriculture. Agriculture feeds our entire population and provides fibre clothes, feeds our livestock and provides bioenergy. Agriculture leads the way and accounts the Lion’s share of employment opportunities especially for women.

Farming and nature influence each other. Farming is important for Kenya’s natural environment. The ecological integrity and the scenic value of landscape makes the rural areas attractive for the establishment of Agribusinesses. Farming has over the centuries contributed to creating and maintaining a unique countryside.

Agriculture has one of the highest potential for reducing carbon emissions and helping vulnerable people adapt to climate change. Agriculture accounts for 17% of GHG (energy required for irrigation, farm machinery and production of fertilizers).

Farming uses about a third of the world’s surface which makes it directly depended on the environment for it’s sustainability. Sunlight, water, nutrients and a diversity of plants and animals all play a fundamental roles in agricultural production and ultimately on global food security.

Farmers can often make good use of their environment through special, locally adapted agricultural systems. These systems dictate the choice of land and water management, crops and livestock and production system. Agricultural systems, both modern and traditional that rely on ecosystem management can sustain the environment.

We can achieve sustainable Agriculture if we maintain healthy soils, reduce water pollution, maintain crop and livestock diversity and by being energy efficient, thereby cutting emissions of carbon dioxide to reduce global warming.

Access rights to natural resources for Agriculture has a significant impact on environmental degradation and hunger amongst the local people. In Kenya, most farmers have no secure tenure over their own land and this, along with farming on marginal lands with poor soils and inadequate rainfall has contributed to environmental degradation. The population in the rurals has also been incorporated in the ‘large scale farms’ to provide poorly paid labour for export Agriculture, a practice that means the landless remain hungry and poor.

The introduction of new technologies in farming such as farm machinery and chemical pesticides can generate new environmental problems which in turn increase food insecurity. Agricultural intensification has been on the lead promoting improved crop varieties and increase the use of pesticides, which is killing wild food resources. In the process, we are loosing Agricultural practices essential for preserving biodiversity.

Lack of market for most traditional crops means that farmers are unable to remain part of agricultural landscape, leading to it’s loss of biodiversity. In order to meet the desires of relatively wealthy urban consumers, farmers have been forced to comply with demands for standardized environmental management regimes ( Such as European Union regulation 2257/94 which stipulates shape, minimum length and diameter for bananas). These demands plus the market prices are pushing farmers away from sustainable environmental practices.

Major investment is needed to improve our knowledge dissemination of environmental role of agriculture, and sharing the learning with different stakeholders.

Why #AnziaSokoni? (Market-driven Farming)

#AnziaSokoni assumes the objective of making profits from farming. Connecting the small holder farmers to the market for food remain a key strategy in alleviating poverty in the rural areas.

Kenyan farmers have been unable to secure profits from the sale of farm produce due to their inability to;

1. Access market information

2. Meet the demands of the market in terms of quality and quantity, and lastly

3. Effectively process and market their produce

Adopting #AnziaSokoni will help a farmer;

1. Minimize the post harvest losses (PHL)

In 2017, Ksh. 150 billion worth of food went to waste, tossed out or left to rot. PHL has an impact on the country’s food security and reduces profits accrued from the sale of farm produce.

Farming with a buyer in mind requires you to have a farming strategy; understand who is your consumer, what quantity and quality they consume and their feeding behavior. In case the market Dynamics change, farmers should have storage facility as they wait for the prices to be favourable.

Small holder farmers can store their produce as a group or adopt value addition strategies. Working together reduces the cost of production and increases the bargaining power.

2. Understand the consumer better.

On December 2017, the Kenyan government announced it’s big four development strategy that has to be implemented over the next five years. Food security is one of the key agendas.

Consumers prefer quality food, the right quantity and consistency. Farmers should conduct consumer satisfaction survey or they can collect and analyse data in order to shed light on the behavior of the consumers.

A good consumer relationship strategy will allow you to listen to your consumer and tell them more about your farm produce.

3. Design market strategy

Creating the most profitable farming plan means understanding what contributes to your bottom line. Access to market information gives a farmer a pretty good idea of the prices they could get in the market.

The best market strategy would be to choose a price from the range of prices you get from the market that integrates with the cost of production.

For maize farmers, you can decide to sell at harvest or store your produce for later sale. Alternatively, you can have an option of selling to different buyers at different market locations.

It’s important to note that the prices offered by the market are beyond individual farmer control, they raise and fall depending on supply and demand.

4. Grow their Agribusiness

#AnziaSokoni isn’t something you do as a one-off when you launch your Agribusiness. Market dynamics keeps on changing meaning that your market research should be a continuous process.

By understanding your competitors, you can put your Agribusiness in a better position to react to any moves they make in the market.

Use #AnziaSokoni to drive business growth and innovation to stay ahead of your competitors.

#AnziaSokoni – Farming with a buyer in mind.

A – Z Apple Farming

Apple is a Hardy deciduous tree.

Common varieties

1. Sharp early – Grows at attitude of 2500 – 3000 m
2. Blenheim Orange – heavy cropper with large green fruits
3. Winter Banana – Very rigorous grower with large attractive fruit, recommended for production and pollination
4. Jonathan – Has good fruits and is recommended as a pollinator
5. Rome beauty – Requires a vigorous rootstock for performance
6. Others are Anna, Bramley’s seedling, king of thomkin county, maayan etc…

Almost all the varieties do well within attitudes of 2500 – 3000m
Apples prefer pH levels of 6.0 – 6.8 on average.

It’s very important you do soil test before starting apples. Consult a soil testing company to understand the nutrients required in your farm.

Propagation

Apple trees are found in Marindas (Molo) and Thika Horticultural Research station
It’s advisable to plant grafted apple tree for high yields of quality fruits.

Grafted plants retain the taste just as the parent plant

Spacing

The recommended space between apple trees is 3m × 3m

Land preparation
Make a pit of 2×2 ft.
Mix manure with top soil and add superphosphate double. Which you have to put back inside the pit. Use the subsoil to retain irrigation water.

Planting
It’s recommended to plant apple tree in August when they are dorminant.

Plant the tree at the centre of the hole and make sure the roots spread naturally. Firm the soil around the tree and water the plant.

Inter-cropping

You can intercrop the apple orchard with low crop like vegetables. I have tried intercropping with potatoes. Was nice.

Intercropping will help offset the long term investment cost of the orchard. Ensure the intercrops are not affected by sprays on apple

Pruning

It’s important to trim your apple plants. Ensure you have a cup – shaped framework of strong main branches.

Manure and fertilizer application
Apply 500gm CAN per tree 3 months after planting. This is to increase at a rate of 125gm each year to maximum of 1.5gm/tree

Add 150gm of double superphosphate/tree in 1st year and increasing at the rate of 150gm double superphosphate/year up to 1.5kg/tree

If manure is available, apply at rate of 1 debe/tree/year. All nutrients materials should be worked lightly with a fork jembe into the soil under the tree canopy.

Management in Dormant period
Dormancy occurs in the months of July and August, spray apples with tar oil in the first half of September to have an early and even breaking of dormancy.

This also kills tichens and insect pests on the trees.

Fruit thinning

Thinning is necessary to ensure good quality fruits, leave 2-3 evenly spaced fruits om each spur, to avoid production of undersized apples due to crowding.

Harvest

When picking fruits handle the fruits carefully. Place fruit gently in a basket or container made of soft material. Bruised or damaged fruit fetch low prices and only have a short shelf-life.

Pests and diseases

1. Woolly Aphids
The leaves are Covered with a white secretion
Control – Spray with Malathion Diazinon, Dimethoate or Formothion
– Clean out old cancers to minimize protection for Alphids

2. Red spider mites
Symptoms – Brown in color
– They affect apple leaves, turn into rusty yellow and lower surface may be silvered
Control – Spray with Dicofol or Binapacyl

3. Apple scab
Attacks leaf and stem

Control – Spray with mancozeb or maneb at 14 day intervals. Start with a pre-blossom spray and continue as long as necessary.

4. Apple mildew
Attacks new shoots

Control – Spray with Dinocap wettable powder and wettable sulphur.

5. Root rot
Symptoms – A layer of white fungal growth under the bark of roots and trunk

Control – Dig out affected plant, remove any leaves, roots and dead wood and leave holes open for at least one year.

Condition.

Have tried to get the correct answer for this question and here is what I have to say.

The most basic aspect in farming is soil testing. Apple do well with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Another most vital aspect is water.

Having said that, apples doing well in Highlands with temperatures averaging 18°c. They do well in places like Kiambu, kitale Nandi etc only mention a few.

However, am doing apple farming Machakos, Kathiani subcounty. I also visited a large scale apple farmer in the same subcounty.

If you ate today, Thank a farmer.

According to FAO Kenya, Agriculture contributes 26% of the GDP, and another 27% of the GDP indirectly through other linkages from other sectors. The sector provides livelihoods for more than 80% of the Kenya population through production of safe, diverse and nutrients dense foods. Farmers play a vital role in feeding this nation.There is a very high probability that you’ve come across the phrase “if you ate today, thank a farmer” or it’s graphic on social media. This simply means, no matter your believes – no matter your profession and preferences – if your daily diet consists of pizza, fries or probably you are a vegetarian, someone had to grow the food that you eat.

Last weekend, my dad and I visited an apple farmer in a village in Machakos county. I was concerned about apple farming, his daily routine and his farming life.

I found out that farmers are incredibly passionate, patient and work hard. He wakes up early in the morning to check out his dairy farm. This farmer has close to 1,000 apple trees, but what surprised me is that he almost knows every tree in his orchard (in terms of variety and it’s production in the last season).

Under the scorching sun and heat, he consistently inspects his crop. He hides his head under the trees to prevent heat strokes at noon. One of his sons, who I can say is following his father’s footsteps, brings him his mid-day meal on his farm. Being a religious man, he sometimes sings a song to break the monotony of the hard work.

At night he enjoys the sight of his grand children having nutritious meal.

All the food that we all consume has it’s origin in the farm. If you depend on mama mboga, the farmers market or the supermarket to purchase your food, the you definitely should be concerned about the sustainability and the success of our farmers. That food doesn’t come from those outlets, it ends up there, there is a process that is centered on the farmer.

While traveling along highways and rural roads, the crops growing and the livestock pasturing is a symbol of the food we consume. Having a conversation with a farmer will end your day with rich knowledge about diverse farming practices in this great nation.

Together we should support regulations which strengthen the importance of our farmers thought giving them a conducive environment to produce nutritious food. We should be focused on bills geared towards ending the cycle of poverty that many Kenyans are facing.

Through farming, our economy is growing creating new jobs everyday. Promoting and strengthening farming in the rurals not only bridges the rural – urban gap but also remains a necessity for achieving growth in Kenya.

What if farmers decided to produce crops for their usage only, what would happen? If you ate today, kindly thank a farmer.