Data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries shows that the agricultural sector which is the backbone of Kenya`s economy, contributing approximately 33 percent of her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 per cent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors. It employs more than 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the rural population.
However, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years as smallholder farmers and agricultural enterprises continue to face challenges growing their businesses and improving the quality and quantity of agricultural goods due to climate change and high skyrocketing prices of farm inputs.
However, sub division of land into smaller and smaller portions especially for commercial development over time has also led to scarcity of enough space to practice agriculture in the country hence, the need for more innovative ways to grow food and feed the population.
Consequently, farmers have been forced to come up with creative and innovative ways to maximise the potential of the available limited land space and those who have moved into this direction have successfully been able to make a fortune out of it.
One such farmer is Joyce Wakiira who has defied all the odds and successfully put up a thriving agribusiness by practicing mixed farming on less than a quarter of an acre piece of land christened Charis Farm located at Nyondia along Kinangop road on the outskirts of Naivasha town.
Charis farm’s is one of the pioneers in the field of ornamental bird rearing in the country and as Wakiira narrates, the farm boasts of different species that add up to over 300 birds adding that one of the major advantages of ornamental bird rearing is that they have a short maturity period similar to that of chicken.
However, she notes that ornamental birds fetch a higher prices in the market compared to chicken which ranges from Sh 15,000 to Sh 300,000 per bird as compared to Sh1,500 per chicken head thus giving the farmer maximum return on investment.
Ornamental bird farming is a new phenomenon in the country and not only for their beauty but they are also able to guarantee the farmer good returns from the sale of the birds and their products like eggs.
The birds lay eggs that are different from the common normal chicken and the colour of their shells range from black to blue with such an egg going for a whooping Sh 300 per egg as compared to a chicken egg that is sold at a maximum of Sh 20 per egg.
As more and more farmers turn to ornamental bird farming, Wakiira says that the disease resistant nature of the birds makes them easier to keep as they also consume less feed bearing in mind the prevailing high cost of poultry feeds in the country.
At Charis farm, it’s not only the sight and sweet tunes of the beautiful birds that welcome you but also the bleating sounds of goats reared for milk and meat. As our host Wakiira says, the over 100 goats at her farm are easy to manage as they require a lesser space and consume less feed compared to cattle.
One goat according to our host goes for Sh25, 000 as the farm strives to breed the highest quality available in the market which are later sold to potential clients who are interested in engaging in goat farming. Goat milk, which also sells at better prices than cow milk and is on high demand motivated Wakiira to venture into goat farming.
Experts also say goat milk is more digestible, and contains significantly more protein per serving compared to standard cow milk, soy milk, or nut milk.
Wakiira adds that aside from goat farming, she has been able to utilise her plot to do fish farming which has enhanced her income. Her fish pond has over 3,000 fish and advises any farmer planning to venture into fish farming not to be worried about space and the high cost of putting up a huge pond but use the available space through proper planning to accommodate the maximum number of fingerlings.
Wakiira who is an award winning farmer who was feted in the just concluded 2022 Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya Trade fair this month for the farm`s exemplary performance in the sector has also adopted organic urban smart farming.
Organic urban smart farming is a form of agriculture aimed at producing fresh food in urban settings using fewer resources, such as land, water and is free from chemicals for healthier and safer population.
At Charis farm, vegetable growing is carried out in sacks that are able to hold more crops in a smaller space within the compound also referred to as multi-storey gardens. The produce is used for domestic consumption as well as for farm feeding the livestock on the farm which helps reduce the cost of operations.
As a diversification strategy, our host has taken it upon herself to train farmers who visit the farm drawn from different parts of the country and are eager to venture into this type of farming with the majority inclined towards ornamental bird and goat farming.
But just like any other success stories, Wakiira has had her fair share of challenges which she encounters on a daily basis in her farming journey. She cites the high cost of livestock feeds as a major challenge in her trade.
This, if not addressed she says will affect her income and in the long term edge her out of the trade due to the ballooning cost of operations.
She also called for a proper legal framework that will be favourable to farmers that will make it easier for them to import different varieties of ornamental birds from other countries in order to encourage tourism which seems to be on the rise and thus contributing to a higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the country.
By Mabel Keya – Shikuku