Inspired to farm better – agricultural study tour of Kenya
Agricultural Study Tour of Kenya
How best to sum up our latest AgriTour of Kenya? There are the agricultural study tour of Kenya facts: nine farmers from six counties doing over a thousand miles in Kenya crossing the equator eight times visiting seven farm businesses and seeing over a hundred crops growing and for sale. However the aim was not just to notch up numbers. We aimed to unearth facts and inspiration relevant to smarter farming in the UK. And we did.
“Amazing trip, very relevant to British agriculture”
Ruth Girdham, Notts.
“Well organised quality visits and good company”
Anthony Hopkins, S Yorks.
“You learn much by coming to another continent and listening to farmers”
Chris Taylor, Shropshire
“Every day your mind is filled with new perspectives. Fascinating”
Emily Ratledge, Norfolk
A growing workforce
Agri journalist Geoffrey Onditi has a daily audience for his farming programme on national radio of 10 million which is a quarter of the Kenyan population. He gets as many as 3000 texts from listeners during a broadcast. Kenyans are third in the world in the use of Twitter to influence government. He says the population is doubling every 15 years. 1% of Kenyans own 50% of the land. 80% of Kenya is semi arid. Agricultural productivity and careful resource use are key.
Wonders of vermiculture
Commercial vermiculture is proving at great success at RealIPM.
Worm discharge or ‘juice’ has the perfect blend of plant nutrients in a 1:10 mix as a foliar feed or for fertigation through trickle irrigation.
On the equator a worm army weighing a kilo can process a hundred kilos of plant waste into perfect-ready-to-use compost or soil improver in a little over a week. Get up really close and listen carefully and you can hear the worms at work.
Planting 10,000 avocadoes at Ontilili Farm, Nanyuki is not only adding another crop and income to the farm but the trees will attract beneficial pollinator insects to the farm adding to the 29 pollinator species already identified at-work in the field crops.
Connecting with the next generation of farmers
Muramati Primary School has been given classrooms and furniture from the nearby KHE Ontilili Farm together with Waitrose Foundation. We gave them some books and other things. We asked what the older children wanted to be when they grew up. Not one wanted to be a farmer. “Pretty much like school children in UK” adds AgriTour participant and baby leaf grower Chris Abram.
Controlled Traffic Farming
“As soon as you stop beating the hell out of your soil then nature takes over”, says Bryn Llewelyn. He made the radical decision to put away his ploughs and to reduce the traffic on his land on the slopes of Mount Kenya. The resulting improvements in the soil – organic matter up to 4.5% from 1.5% – and yields are dramatic. Bryn’s unflinching enthusiasm for excellence and his deep technical knowledge and drive to innovate was contagious.
Measuring water use
“We measure the inputs used for every stem we producing. Then we ask how can we reduce the amount of water we are using?”
Peter Kamuren, general manager of Ravine Roses believes that constant attention to every detail is essential. Rather than rely on a migrant workforce, the rose business is embedded in the local community. The social sustainability of the business is embedded in their business culture.
Counting on coffee
Four thousand hectares of coffee are managed by Tropical Farm Management Kenya Ltd. The oldest bushes have been producing since 1928. It takes six kilos of coffee fruits or ‘cherries’ to make one kilo of beans which after roasting will give 500g of ready-to-drink ground coffee.
Global consumption of coffee continues to rise by about 2% per year. However coffee bean growers and this Kenyan miller and exporter are vulnerable to huge fluctuations in returns for their efforts, while coffee as a commodity makes high returns for the traders on the futures markets.
Rather than being able to look to adding value or getting better prices, those at the start of the coffee supply line look to misfortunes in other producer regions of the world that will boost the global value of coffee and hence the price paid to them for their beans.
Join the next Green Shoots Agriculture Study Tour
If you want to be considered for the next Green Shoots AgriTour then do get in touch. There’s a world of agricultural inspiration out there.