Sunday, 30 October 2011

Guinea Fowls Rearing

Guinea fowls is native to Africa and has  been domesticated in the united states of America and other countries all over the world for food, as pets and as a hobby .Guinea fowls are beautiful birds which come in a variety of colors such as white, grey, pearl grey, lavender and violet. Therefore guinea fowl rearing is innovative and unique non traditional farm enterprise, which can be adopted by the youth in Africa as an agro-tourism activity, bringing visitors to the farm for increased income. However in some African countries like Kenya, guinea fowl keeping is controlled by the wildlife act, and one has to obtain a permit from Kenya wildlife services before starting to rear the bird.

Rearing guinea fowls is very easy as they are able to live with local hens and share the poultry house. Guinea fowls should be purchased as young chicks so that they can get used to their environment in order to get tamed like hens. Guinea fowls can be very noisy when upset particularly when enemies like rats or hawks are in the vicinity, and are a good as early warning system.

Feeding: Guinea fowls are cheap to keep as they eat a lot of grass and other greenery particularly when kept outdoors. They also eat layers pellets used to feed hens which can be mixed with corn for a special treat.Young chicks which are called keets are fed on chick crumbs for the first six weeks, and then growers pellets from 6-20 weeks.

Laying eggs: One guinea fowl will lay 70-100 eggs per year. They are not fussy about where they lay their eggs and it can be in the open ground or in the bush.

Brooding: The easiest way is to use a broody bird to lie on the eggs as it will keep the chicks warm, teach them how to scratch for food and warn them of any danger. Otherwise if an incubator is used the humidity should be kept low, as a change of weather and high humidity can destroy a whole batch of eggs.

Once birds are well grown decide which ones to keep and sell the rest, and you may keep several hens and one cock in a flock. They are quite tame but occasionally will fly up a tree or a roof when disturbed at dusk. You can leave them overnight as they are quite safe off the ground.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Agro-tourism for agriculture development

Agri-tourism can be defined as any economic activity that takes place on a farm or a ranch for the purpose of enjoyment of the public, education, promotion of agricultural products and experiences or services which generate extra farm income. Agri-tourism takes place when farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists open farm gates to tourists. Agri-tourism therefore includes any agricultural operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or a ranch and it’s a good form of on-farm diversification which can help African small holder farmers and ranchers to improve their incomes and economic viability. 

Agri-tourism can be achieved by replacing or supplementing traditional farm operations with innovative on-farm / on-ranch alternative enterprises which can take various forms such as production of food, fiber, new or unique crops, livestock, or value addition to traditional agricultural products. The farm can also produce fun, recreation, nature-based, or educational products. They can operate on traditional farm practices or use alternative methods, such as organic systems. They can be resource intensive or low input investments. They can operate seasonally or throughout the year with a common theme of improving the farm income.

Agri-tourism is widespread in America and other developed countries where activities include picking fruits and vegetables, tasting honey, learning about wine and cheese making, participation in farm activities,  cooking classes, eating a meal , making overnight stays, riding horses  and farm produce stands. Visiting a farm, a ranch or winery offers unique experience. Agri-tourism is growing fast in the western countries as People are in search of new experiences and escape from the stress of traffic jams, office cubicles, while Parents want their children to have farm learning experience so as to know how food is grown, and that milk in reality comes from a cow and not from a carton! Families enjoy a drive to the country and spending time together.

Agri-tourism is a subset of a larger industry called rural tourism that includes resorts, agricultural tours, and other leisure and hospitality businesses that attract visitors to the rural areas and it is born out of the demand for the country way of life. One of the major considerations to make while entering into agri-tourism business is liability. In general, if you decide to impose a charge for any activity or services or goods purchased or consumed on your land, rented or leased, you are liable for any injury of visitors that may occur; therefore consult with your attorney and insurance company, to determine the amount of liability and insurance policy required to develop a risk management plan.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How to Grow the Carrot

The carrot is a popular vegetable in many countries in the world, which is eaten cooked or raw in salads. The Carrot is one of the best sauces of beta carotene a precursor to vitamin A. Carrots have a good market in the main towns, canaries and dehydration factories by arrangement, while surplus carrots can be used for feeding livestock.
The carrot performs best in cool to warm climate as in high altitude areas over 1000m above sea level. The carrot roots are sensitive to very high temperatures which result to production of pale short fibrous roots. The carrot roots attain optimal color when air temperature is between 15-21º C. The carrot can however be grown in medium and low elevations during the coolest months. The Carrot grows best in deep sandy loam soils with ph ranging from 5.5- 6.8.
Carrot, tomatoes,cabbage salad

Nantes- This is a variety of medium length of about 15 cm with uniform diameter and blunt tip.
Chantenay- This is a short variety about 13 cm with large shoulders, and a large distinct core.  
Oxheart- The carrot variety is usually grown for livestock feed
Thorough field preparation is critical for better shaped and marketable carrots, as the seeds are small and usually planted direct into the field. The land should be ploughed and harrowed to a fine tilth. Prepare raised beds 20cm high, 1m wide and 0.3 m apart. Pulverize the soil and incorporate fully decomposed manure at a rate of 3-5 tons/ha and a complete fertilizer at a rate of 200kgs /ha one week before planting carrots. Carrots Seeds rate is 6-7 kg per hectare and Sowing is done thinly along furrows which are 30cm apart and covered with about 2 cm of fine soil. Germination of carrots seeds takes about 2 weeks, and then 1st weeding is done at the time of thinning the carrots, 4 weeks after sowing carrots seeds .2nd weeding and hilling is done 45 days after the 1st weeding.  

Thinning of carrots is done to provide space to growing roots and it starts 4 weeks after planting, at a spacing of 5 cm between the plants, then 200kg/ha of side dressing fertilizer is applied, and hilling up is done immediately to cover the fertilizer.
Carrots require a lot of moisture during the first 30 days after sowing. Water every 5-7 days or as required. Irregular watering of carrots causes cracking and forking of the roots. Mulch the beds after planting to minimize weeds growth and water loss. After germination remove the mulch and put them between the rows.

Pest and disease control in the carrots involves control of insects and fungal diseases.
The aphids: spray hot pepper extract at a rate of 100g macerated hot pepper in 16 liters of water. If need be spray the carrots with recommended insecticides at the recommended rates.
The Powdery mildew: spray sulfur based fungicides at the recommended rates.
The Bacterial soft rot: Avoid injury to the roots during harvesting and remove infected roots.

10-15 tons/acre depending on management

Monday, 24 October 2011

Natural Resource Management in Kenya

A natural resource is anything which occurs naturally in the earth and can be used by human beings. This resources are not man made but are gathered from the earth, and some examples are water, air, land, crude oil, natural vegetation, wild animals, hydro-electric energy, solar energy, soil, wind energy minerals and coal.
Natural resources can be classified into
  1. Renewable natural resources: Renewable natural resources can be replaced or replenished in nature at a rate higher or equal to the rate of their use. Renewable natural resources can further be divided into: Living renewable natural resources ( include animals, plants and forests) and Non living renewable resources (such as water, air, wind, sun, solar power, wind power, and biomass fuels).Read-
  1. Non renewable resources:Non renewable resources are used up faster than they are replaced in nature as they exist in fixed amounts or take too long to regenerate. Most fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas are non renewable natural resources and their use is unsustainable because they are formed in billions of years. Non renewable resources are the primary source of power generated in the world due to their high energy content and affordability. Conservation of non renewable resources is therefore essential to avoid depletion and promote sustainability. When natural resources are scarce, people’s quality of life goes down and competition and fights over the resources create conflicts, which undermine peace and stability.
Natural resource management is a process of managing natural resources in a systematic way in order to meet goals of producers, direct users’  and the community, which may include food security, poverty alleviation, profitability, environmental conservation and welfare of future generations. Natural resource management is important for sustainable development and it forms the basis for land management, environmental conservation and natural resource preservation. Natural resource management focuses on technical and scientific understanding of resources and their life supporting capacity, and it includes biodiversity conservation, land use planning, water management and ensuring sustainability of industries such as agriculture, tourism, and forestry. Natural resources management considers that people’s livelihoods are dependent on productivity of their landscapes. Human action and stewardship plays a critical role in maintaining health and productivity of the landscapes. In addition to managing natural systems, natural resource management involves management of stakeholders and their policies, interests, politics, economic implication and geographical boundaries; satisfying all of them is not an easy task and conflicting situations are common.
Environmental management is similar to natural resource management and is a purposeful activity, with the goal of maintaining and improving the state of environmental resources affected by human activities. Environmental resources refer to natural systems that produce goods and services of potential benefit to people. Environmental management therefore focuses on interaction between humans and environmental resources, with an aim of ensuring protection of ecosystems for use by current and future generations.Read-


Saturday, 22 October 2011

How to Write a farming business Plan

A farming business plan refers to a written document describing the business goals and the strategies for achieving them, financial background and projected profit and loss statement. It may also contain background information about the farming business and the team working to reach the goals. These working tools can help the farming business owners plan for the future and request for credits.  Below are simple steps to guide youth entrepreneurs in making farming business plans.
1) Introduction: what is the product of your farming business? What human problems will be addressed by the farming business? Who are your customers?

2) Basic information or background information: This includes the name and the address of the business, name of the business owner, workers and their qualification.

3) Describe the product: Give details of raw materials, the production process, quality control checks, packaging and special features of your product.

4) Describe the market: who are your customers? Where are they? How big is the market both in size and value? Is the demand growing or falling? Who are the competitors and what will they do if you start production? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What is the value of the market in a year? What is your market share?

5) Describe the selling plan: How will you distribute and sell your products? What promotion method will you use? What are your competitors doing? What will be the product cost? Why do you think your method will be successful?

6) Describe the premises/equipments needed: where will the farming business be located and why? What sort of building will you use? Does it meet health and hygiene standards? What services and equipments do you need and how much do they cost? (Include storage and distribution).
Premises for food processing should be rat/insect proof, fitted with ceiling, easy to clean and spacious to allow walking with ease. The building should have a supply of clean water in addition to power and fuel supply where needed, waste disposal system, enough space for production processes, storage of raw materials, packaging materials and finished products. In addition the equipment should be the correct size for the intended scale of production and regular maintenance and cleaning schedule should be designed and followed.

7) Describe the finance needed: how much money will you need to start and operate the farming business for one year? How much money do you have and how much loan do you need?
Start-up capital is the total cost involved in buying or renovating a building, buying equipments, registering the farming business, training workers, buying packaging and initial raw materials. Operating cost includes variable and fixed costs which should be calculated in advance using an assumed scale of production from the share of market demand.

8) Describe your future plans: what are your objectives in running the farming business? How will you achieve them? What do you expect to happen over the next three to five years? (Include cash flow forecast)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Tilapia Fish Farming

Tilapia is a popular food fish which is among the easiest and most profitable fish to farm. Tilapia farming requires low input and the fish is tolerant to a wide range of environmental factors, in addition to breeding easily and growing fast.

Site selection
Tilapia pond should be situated in a place where water is accessible throughout the year.The pond should be well exposed to sunlight which favours growth and multiplication of small aquatic plants like  algae which tilapia feeds on. The pond should not flood during the rainy season.

Systems of fish farming
Extensive system: This is where the fish feeds on aquatic plants, and periodic application of fertilizer is done to promote growth of natural food.
Semi-intensive system: The fish feeds on tilapia feed in addition to natural food.
Intensive systems: The fish solely feeds on tilapia feeds.
Pond preparation
Earthen ponds are commonly used and the size is determined by the number of fish to be to be raised. Pond sizes range from 100 m2-10,000 m2 with a depth varying from 1.0-1.5 m. Continuous flow of water through the pond should be maintained. To avoid escape of fish, ponds that are connected to canals or outside waterways should be fenced with fine mesh, and water inlets and outlets should be screened.
Pond fertilization
Dry out the pond bottom until it cracks, then refill with fresh water and fertilize the pond one week before stocking. Allow water depth of 6 centimeters then apply livestock or compost manure on the pond bottom at the rate of 1 kilo per 10 square meters. In absence of manure use ½ kg urea and ½ kg 15-15-15 fertilizers per 100 square meters of water surface.
Sourcing for fingerlings
Get the 1st supply of fingerlings [young fish] from a trustworthy pond owner. If fingerlings are unavailable get 20-30 pairs of breeders to introduce in a breeding pond measuring 3.5x7.0m (10 x 20ft) meters.
Stocking the pond
Drain the pond thoroughly and clean it of weeds and unwanted fish that may be present.
A stocking rate of 5-6 fingerlings per square meter of water surface area is a good guideline.
 Stock the pond when water temperatures are low, early in the morning or in the evening.
Mix the pond water in the fish container and gradually put the fish into the pond to avoid stress.
Care and maintenance
Feed fingerlings with tilapia feeds daily, the same portion of the pond in the morning and in the afternoon, at 5% of total bodyweight of the fish in the pond. Suspend sacks of manure at every corner of the pond to maintain growth of natural fish food and maintain a water depth of 1-1.5 meters. After the third week of stocking gradually reduce fingerlings to maintain 6 fingerlings per square meter.

Introduce floating vegetation like water lilies to shade the fish from hot weather. Avoid covering the pod totally as this would interfere with natural fish food production. Clear the pond dykes of weeds and patch leakages and seepages with mud. Check the inlets and outlets occasionally to prevent entry of other fish species and avoid loss of stock. Keep mud fish out of tilapia pond as it is a predator of tilapia fingerlings. Place stones on top of the dykes for easily flooding areas to prevent water overflow, which may lead to loss of fish. Plant trees on the dykes and within water sources to control soil erosion, and maintain the water flow respectively.
Tilapias are harvested when they reach the weight of 150-300 grams at the age of 4-6 months, by the use of dip or lift net. Lower the net down to the bottom of the pod, and sprinkle a small amount of feed on the water above the net. Lift the net as fast as possible to prevent escape of the fish. After harvesting, stock the pond again.Read

Monday, 17 October 2011

Success Story of Kenyan Youth in Agriculture and ICT

75% of Kenyan population directly depends on small scale farming for their livelihood in the rural areas. The farming individuals are commonly elderly people between the ages of 45-65 years.However Geoffrey Mwamba has defied the common thinking of most Kenyans about agriculture. At the age of 27 years he is a proud owner of small scale tomato Farming business which he has named ever blazing farm, on 0.1ha or 1/4 acre of land. The farm is in Kiganjo Division,  Kiamwangi location, Ngenda sublocation, Gatundu District, Kiambu County in central Kenya region.             

Geoffrey mwamba practices agriculture with a difference employing youthful energy, enthusiasm and Knowledge attained from an Agricultural Training institution and business studies, to develop his agriculture business. Mwamba markets his tomatoes in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya and its environs, and the demand for his produce is so overwhelming that he recently started recruiting collaborators to grow tomatoes and capsicums for him.Mwamba extensively uses his mobile phone to send information to his customers and receive orders for his farming produce which greatly contributes to the expansion of his farming business. He also orders unique seeds which are not available in the local stores through the internet giving him comparative advantage in the bussiness.Geoffrey mwamba has no regrets and earns a decent living with  current gross earning amounting over KSH 120,000 per month from his tomato farming business. Mwamba attributes his success to determination, commitment, hard work, availability of a shallow well which belongs to his grandfather, encouragement and support from his parents and siblings.
On interviewing this youth in agriculture, he revealed big plans ahead to own additional land in order to expand his farming business, a mansion in a premium area of Nairobi City, the best car and the best family. His life goals are well written down in black and white and nothing will stop him from achieving them. He’s a role model and a mentor to youth in agriculture. Therefore there is no doubt youth can find rewarding employment in agriculture activities as evidenced by Geoffrey mwamba’s case.Read-

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Challenges And Issues Faced By African Youth In Agriculture

The ambitions of the youth in agriculture are more often than not triggered and molded by role models. Farmers in Africa are mostly elderly people between the ages of 55-70 years, who lack enthusiasm as they engage in traditional subsistence cultivation, which gives poor returns. For this reason, this economic activity has not been embraced by the young generation who perceive it as an occupation for the old, illiterate, poor rural people, having seen their parents in rags, majority of whom are involved in agriculture. The misconception has led to rural urban migration among the youth in search of greener pastures. Consequently formal employment opportunities are scarce due to population explosion in the urban centers. Desperation has resulted particularly among the youth leading to indulgence in drugs and substance abuse, crime and violence, while the ravaging aids scourge has not spared them.
Current generation of farmers
Millions of youth and their families in Africa are facing starvation, unemployment and languishing in poverty today. The solution to Africa’s persistent poverty especially in the rural areas lies in commercialization of small scale agriculture to ensure profitability of and involvement of the youth in agriculture value chain activities. This calls for rapid transformation of the agriculture sector for self reliance, food and nutritional security and poverty reduction. In view this, youth training on various aspects of farming business, from production, value addition, and marketing should be a priority of African governments and development agents .Youth in agriculture policies should be created and integrated with other policies on youth matters such as education, training and investment as most young people do not own land which is a primary requirement in farming business. This will ignite the interest of the youth and empower them to play a greater role in the advancement of agriculture as it becomes, knowledge based and economically rewarding.

Nonetheless young people in the African continent face numerous challenges as they try to venture into farming business. Existing finance institutions are biased against agriculture particularly the small-scale young farmers due to their harsh requirements and high interests’ rates. Therefore there is a great need for young farmer friendly farm credit facilities. Furthermore farming business in Africa needs to diversify into high value crops, increase farm productivity, and ensure effective agricultural technical services for enhanced adoption of modern farming business technologies. This will improve returns of farming business impacting positively livelihoods of the rural communities. Information technology is essential to facilitate agriculture marketing and farming business information sourcing. Unfortunately, most African governments have not yet given adequate attention to providing their citizens with access to information, especially those in the rural areas where 70–80% of the population lives.

Information technology initiatives should therefore be made to strengthen the grass roots people, with special emphasis on the youth in farming business particularly in places without public libraries or other information resources.
There is urgent need to invest in young people and develop the skills necessary for Africa to become a world leader in farming business. I have a dream of a young person walking into a bank to make a farming business argument, using a cash-flow analysis to demonstrate profitability of his farm enterprises. This way traditional subsistence agriculture will get transformed into farming business improving the capacity of the agriculture sector to attract, absorb and retain young people as farming business activities become economically rewarding.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Banana value addition: A business Opportunity for Rural Youth

Bananas are a major source of food and income for small farmers in East African Highlands and their ripe fruit is popular in many parts of the world. They can be made into a wide range of products for value addition and increased income. The ripe fruit can be used to make beer and wine in East Africa, puree which is important as infant food; while plantain flour can be mixed with wheat flour at a ratio of 1:1 for use in baking. The fibers can be processed into ropes, sacks, table mats, and handbags. The peels can be processed to make paper, while the pseudo stem has great value as organic matter and can be chopped and left in the field to improve soil fertility. Here below are recipes you can use to start a business. This is a great opportunity for you!

Banana milk shake

1 1/2 cup milk
2 sliced bananas. 

2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



Combine all ingredients in an electric blender; blend until smooth then serve. The milk shake is ideal for serving in a hotel or at home.

Banana jam
  • 1kg (or 6 medium sized) peeled and sliced fruits
  • 5tablespoons lemon juice
  • 750g caster sugar
  • 1/2cup water

  • Bring to boil bananas & lemon juice, simmer until soft stirring occasionally
  •  Add sugar in small amounts stirring until dissolved
  •  Bring to boil skimming any froth from top
  • Cook rapidly on a high heat for 45 minutes to 1hour stirring occasionally until setting point is reached.
  • To check readiness, Place 1 teaspoon of jam onto a cold plate, once cooled push with a finger; if jam wrinkles setting point has been reached.
  •  Pour the jam into hot sterilized jars and seal
  •  Cool the jam
  •  Label and market

 Banana chips Requirements:

2 kg. Unripe Cavendish variety 
1 cups sugar
5 cups water
1Litre cooking oil for deep frying

2 teaspoon citric acid


Peel the bananas and slice thinly (about 1 mm).
Mix the citric acid in two cups of water, Soak bananas in the citric acid to prevent darkening, and drain.

Mix the sugar and hot water (ratio 1:3) until sugar is fully dissolved.
Mix the slices in sugar syrup for five minutes, and then dry in the sun for 2 days

Fry the sliced bananas in oil until golden brown. Lift from oil.Cool in a tray lined with grease absorbent   paper.
Pack in polyethylene bags ready for sale.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

How ICT Is Improving Youth Opportunities in Rural Kenya

Today, ICT is one of the major building blocks of society. Most of the technological development happening today can be attributed to ICT. Unfortunately, the penetration of ICT in rural Kenya still hasn’t reached its optimum.  The good news, however, is that ICT skills are now part of the Kenyan secondary school curriculum. This means that a significant number of high school graduates in rural Kenya have basic IT skills.

The Kenya Institute of Education (KIE), first introduced computers in rural schools as part of the digital learning program.  The program which was meant to solve the problem of high teacher student ratios was well received in rural areas. This was probably because the rural schools were more affected by teachers shortages when compared to urban schools.

Despite the introduction of computers in Kenyan high schools, the dream of owning a personal computer is still out of reach for many rural youth. In order to gain access to the internet, rural youth in Kenya have to either visit a cyber café/internet café or use a mobile phone. Using a mobile phone to access the internet is not only cheaper but also more reliable since all you need to access the internet is a network enabled phone and a signal.

One of the most notable benefits of ICT in rural Kenya, especially where the youth are concerned, is the access to information. Whether it is accessing information on colleges or universities or looking for a job, rural Kenyan youth today, literally have this information at their fingertips. This has not only made their quest for higher education and employment cheaper but also less time consuming.

Secondly, ICT and in particular the internet has made it possible for rural Kenyan youth to interact and network with their peers. This opens up a lot of opportunities for them since they are able to access real time information.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Energy saving stoves for climate change reduction in Kenya

Wood , charcoal and Paraffin ( paraffin is fossil fuel) cookers are commonly used for domestic purposes in rural and urban areas of Kenya. Approximately 90 percent of the countries rural population use firewood for cooking on traditional open fire cookers. Inefficient charcoal and paraffin cookers are commonly used in the urban areas. Firewood wood and charcoal fuels don't com bust completely when burned inefficiency. Consequently toxic gases harmful to people and the environment are produced by inefficient firewood and charcoal cookers.The Gases produced by these cookers include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. On a personal level the traditional stoves are unhealthy and labor-consuming. On a global level the cookers produce large amounts of green house gases. These toxic gases from such inefficient stoves destroy the ozone layer.The work of the ozone layer is to reduce the strength of the radiation or sun rays reaching the earth. Due to ozone layer destruction, the sun rays reach the earth with great strength causing excess increase of temperatures, excess evaporation from water bodies , excess transpiration or loss of water from plants and trees. The resulting moisture escapes into the space and after condensation falls as heavy destructive rains. The high temperatures have adverse effects on natural vegetation, agricultural production and human health.
Improved stoves in use
Lack of energy saving stoves is a major cause of mass tree felling across Africa, where every year incredible hectarages of trees are cleared to produce firewood and charcoal. The challenge therefore lies in introduction of energy saving stoves to replace traditional energy inefficient cookers,which are used by the rural and urban households in Kenya. The energy saving stoves will reduce the emission of harmful gases and minimize deforestation. This calls for a simple, affordable and locally produced energy saving stoves to ensure speedy adoption. The fuel saving technology will play a great role in preservation of vegetation and biodiversity in Africa. The energy efficient cookers are approximately 50% more efficient than an open fire. Reforestation is also necessary on a continuous basis in order to create sustainable sources of firewood.

 In addition to the saving on greenhouse gases emissions, energy efficient stoves economize on firewood, saves money , time used for fetching fire wood as well as improves family health.Therefore traditional open fire cookers are a health hazard. Due to incomplete combustion they  release tiny particles of matter into the air, which are so small that they are breathed in by people and animals. When inhaled, they get stuck in the respiratory tract, causing acute respiratory infection, increased hospital admissions for asthma and heart diseases.These  are some of the leading causes of illness in Kenya and Africa. Energy saving stoves is the way forward for developing countries in the fight against climate change in addition to saving on medical bills. Link-

Friday, 7 October 2011

Reforestation for Environmental Conservation in Africa

In the era of climate change and global warming, rampant deforestation and environmental pollution, where many don't care about the environmental conservation, this famous daughter of Africa, Professor Wangari Mathai devoted her entire life to saving the environment by encouraging reforestation and afforestation. She’s gone physically but she left a legacy which will live on.
Mass deforestation across Africa is common, where every year hundreds of millions of trees are cleared to produce timber, firewood, charcoal and forests products for household and industrial use. This has largely contributed to environmental degradation, climate change and reduction of agricultural production. Reforestation is therefore, mandatory for sustainable supply of forest products, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity preservation. The government of Kenya has made it a policy to achieve 10% forest cover. Farm forestry and agro-forestry are being promoted by extension officers from department of forest services and ministry of agriculture. This calls for reforestation at the rate of 25 plants per acre.
Farm Forestry or agro-forestry
Tree nursery establishment is the most important activity in preparation for reforestation. A nursery is a place where young plants are raised from under special care, in preparation for reforestation. A tree nursery is an ideal business venture for the youth in Africa, as people who want to plant trees find nursery establishment for individuals cumbersome and uneconomical resulting in poor adoption reforestation.
A nursery should be near a permanent water supply as plants need to be watered continuously. The soil should be fertile, deep and well drained while the site should be slightly sloppy to avoid standing water. The plants should be well protected from destruction by wind and animals. The site should be easy to access by foot or by vehicle. Collect seeds from healthy, good quality and high yielding mature plants .To test for viability place them in a container with water and the viable seeds will sink while the non-viable seeds will float then. Sort and remove broken, insect damaged seeds and dry them. Some hard seeds need treatment before sowing to ensure germination. Below are some of the seed treatment methods which can be used.
  1. Soaking-soak the seed in hot water and leave them to cool in the water for 24 hours. Leucaenia leucocephala . Caliandra callothysus, acacia menisci and wattle are examples of seeds which can be treated this way, However seeds with softer coats can be soaked in cold water for 24 hours.
  2. Burning- burning is an alternative method. Cover seeds with a thin layer of soil and a layer of dry grass on top. Set the grass on fire and let it burn which makes the seeds ready for planting.
  3. Mechanical breaking-seeds are treated by breaking their hard coat to speed up germination e.g. croton megalocarpus seeds.
NB: Small light seeds do not need treatment before sowing e.g. grevillea Robusta.
Tree Nursery bed preparation
Clear the nursery site, dig to remove weeds and make soil fine .The nursery bed dimensions should be 1 meter wide, 15cm raised and any required length. Support the sides of the nursery bed with logs of wood, timber or tree branches. Add manure or fertilizer and sand to the soil before sowing. Note; in dry areas sunken beds are recommended in order to conserve moisture.
There are three main methods of sowing seeds in the nursery in preparation for reforestation.
  1.     Broadcasting
  2.     Sowing in drills 
  3.     Sowing in holes
The seeds should be planted at a depth not more than twice its diameter. The bed should then be mulched and watered twice daily, morning and evening, during the dry season. After germination the mulch is removed and a shade is made over the bed. After the plants have produced the first two true leaves, they may be transferred to poly tubes where they can be cared for until they are ready for transplanting.

The plants may also be left to grow in the nursery bed until they are ready for transplanting. Root pruning should be done every 2 months while the plants are still in the nursery. The nursery bed should be kept free of weed plants, and the shade over the nursery bed should be removed 2 weeks before transplanting, in order to harden the plants for field conditions.
Trees are best planted at the beginning of long rains season, having prepared the planting holes in advance.
·        Place the plants in the hole, and then remove the polythene tube without twisting the roots
·        Firm up the soil around and water the plants
·        Protect the plants from damage
·        Weeding should be done to avoid competition for plants nutrients

Pruning is done at various stages as it has the following advantages:-
1)      Encourages plants vertical growth suitable for production of timber and posts
2)      Reduces knots on the plants for production of good quality timber
3)      Encourages branching for shade trees
4)      Reduces the harvesting height for fruit trees

Harvesting stage of trees is determined by their intended purpose, for example plants for timber are allowed longer growing period than plants for firewood.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Choice of Farm Enterprises in Agribusiness

High Value crops in Kenya

Choice of farm enterprises from among several possible alternatives in agribusiness is critical. Production resources are scarce and they must be used for maximum profit which is the main theme of agribusiness.  Gross margin analysis is the best management tool to use for enterprise selection, as it indicates whether an entity will cover its cost of production, and only the relevant costs are considered. Therefore the Gross Margin of a farm enterprise is the difference between gross income and the variable costs directly associated with the enterprise. Gross income is calculated by multiplying total yields by the current market price while, Variable cost refers to expenses which can be allocated to a specific enterprise; and they change with alteration of scale. For instance an extra hectare of crop will increase the expenditure on seeds, fertilizer and machinery. Similarly, an increase in the number of sheep in a herd will increase the expenditure on drenching, shearing, and animal feeds. Gross margins do not consider fixed and overhead costs. Fixed costs are expenses which are not affected by a change in the scale of operation. Examples are expenses of vehicle registration which are incurred regardless of whether you plant an extra hectare of crop on the farm or not.

FIXED COSTS/ Overheads
CAPITAL COSTS  e.g. finance cost, depreciation
PROFIT (pre-tax)

In addition, there are other farm costs which cannot easily be charged to a particular commodity because they are spread across all activities on the farm and they are called Overheads. Examples are accountancy fees, vehicle ownership expenditure, electricity charges. Gross margins do not calculate profit but indicates potential profitable enterprises; they are used for comparing relative costs and returns for similar farm activities e.g. wheat vs. barley, predicting the performance of potential alternative farm enterprises, planning farm enterprise mix, and estimating impacts of changes in expected yields, prices and costs.

KALE'S Gross Margin analysis/acre/season
Price/unit- KSH
 Value- KSH
Total yields/output
Gross income

Variable costs

DAP fertilizer
CAN fertilizer
Nursery establishment
& management
Fertilizer application
Manure purchase
Manure application
Total variable cost

Gross Margin

Gross margins are most often calculated per production unit e.g. one hectare/acre, one dairy cow or per unit of output e.g. one bag of kales, one kilogram of milk or the whole farm assessment. Gross Margins are most useful when expressed in terms of the most limiting resource, consequently when capital is the most limiting resource, express as gross margin per KSH invested; and when land is the most limiting resource express it per hectare of land. The enterprise with the highest returns to the most limiting resource is preferred. Farm records and accounts are crucial in determining and tracking expenses and returns from various enterprises.