MARKUP Supporting The Herbs Value Chain
On a sunny Friday afternoon, farms along the Nakuru-Njoro road are a beehive of activities with farmers preparing their pieces of land in anticipation for the planting season.
Taking a right turn at Piave, you will have to drive for about three kilometers on a corrugated road to get to Trilly farm.
At the entrance, is a modern, cosy gate which one would imagine leads to an equally cosy home, maybe owned by a local politician or senior servant?
The fact that one can spot the roof of a gazebo within the compound, even convinces a visitor more that this is an entrance to a home where some guests are addressed from outside, or family and friends often enjoy barbeque.
But it is not only the gazebo and the gate that ushers you in, there is the nice aroma of different herbs, which whets your appetite for some spiced meal.
We meet Lydia Mwariri, the farm owner and director. Today, she is on one of her weekday’s farm visit, her special focus being to inspect thyme and chives herbs.
“I am relatively new in herbs farming, and I am paying key attention to these crops as I am planning on expanding not only acreage, but also the types of herbs I farm,” says Lydia
She has thyme planted on a three-quarter acre piece of her vast seven-acre farm. Lydia says she harvests between 450-600 kilograms monthly which she sells to an exporting company at Sh250 per kilogram.
Next is a shade-net covered farm house filled with chives herb. In this particular greenhouse, she has hanged blue and yellow pheromone traps, to catch thrips and white flies.
From an almost one acre of this crop, Lydia says she has already harvested 440 kilograms for the first time, and sold at Sh260 per kilogram to the same exporting company.
Being a newbie in herbs farming, Lydia says she is hoping to be trained on herbs farming under Market Access Upgrade Program, a new project funded by European Union.
“I heard about this project through an exporting agent, and I hope to be among its beneficiaries so that I can sharpen my herbs farming skills, and know if there are authorized pesticides,” she says, adding that for now, she relies on organic liquid manure and pheromone traps.
From the herbs section, she takes us to a greenhouse, in which she has planted tomatoes. The tomatoes are grown in polyethene bags, like those used for planting seedlings.
“The soil is first treated, mixed with organic manure, then seedlings are planted,” explains Vincent Omkiti, the farm manager, who is also an Agriculture and Livestock production expert.
Besides, the plants are placed on mulching paper to ensure totally no contact of the plant and soil.
The mulching paper also helps in suppressing weeds thus reducing on cost and time of labour.
Tomatoes are mainly supplied to supermarkets in Nakuru town at Sh80 per kilogram. For this particular crop, she has so far harvested twice with a total of 172 kilograms.
This venture is faced my mainly the challenge of sourcing the planting papers, whose price has also shot from Sh2-Sh10 per piece amid use ban by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
You will need to take a short walk to realize that there is more than meets the eye in this farm.
Lydia shows her pig farm, in which she currently have a drift of 86 pigs.
“I slaughter pigs after every four months and sell to a butchery in Nakuru town for Sh260 per kilogram,” says Lydia, adding that one pig usually weigh about 41 kilograms.
However, she would like to start breeding and have a drift of 300 pigs in the near future.
Next is a chicken farm, where she rears kenbro 1,500 chicken. She sells each piece at the weight of between 3-4.5 kilograms for Sh800, her main market being butcheries and individual consumers in Nakuru and Nairobi.
Initially, she says, she used to keep layers, as she had a ready market for eggs, which has since been affected by influx of supply from Uganda.
Her dream for poultry is to start producing chicks for sale as from one-day of age.
“If the cost of an egg is Sh12, yet a one-day old chick goes for Sh100, then I think this will be a lucrative venture,” she says
Finally, we land at a far corner of this farm, where Lucy has kept dairy cows in a zero grazing unit.
“This was where my farming journey started, with just four dairy cows back in the year 2014,” says Lydia.
Her passion, she adds, was driven while working at a hotel as an accountant. She was in charge of supplies and would often struggle to secure milk supplies.
“I invested Sh250,000 in keeping the initial four Freshian dairy cows,” she says, adding that the herd has gradually increased to the current 24.
It was the fact that she was getting manure from the livestock that she decided to expand to crop farming.
Lydia currently milks 12 cows and gets an average of 400 liters monthly, which she sells to a processor in Nakuru, having left the hotel industry.
According to experts, professionals can use farming to bridge the gap of food demand at their social and work places.
Jeff Kahuho, a Programs manager at Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya, says farmers should utilise their pieces of land maximally by engaging in different ventures.
“This way, farmers are able to satisfy different markets and spread risks,” says Kahuho.
Besides, he adds, some of the ventures are dependent on others. Crops, for example, are dependent on livestock for manure supply.