On one part of the well-kept homestead in Kirika, Nyandarua County, sits a heap of animal manure and on the other are cowsheds.

Next to the animal sheds are chicken houses made of iron sheets and timber and pigsties.

And as one ventures deeper inside the compound, the spectacle that is Rose Kagondu’s two-acre home, which is also her farm, becomes clear.

The former secondary school secretary keeps chickens, pigs, goats, two donkeys and 20 dairy cows in a venture she estimates is currently worth over Sh10 million.

“I have been farming for 13 years now. I quit my job in 2004 to fully concentrate on farming after investing about Sh40,000, the bulk which went to buying a cow. I can’t compare my achievements as a farmer with the 15 years I worked as a secretary,” says Rose, 56, noting her homestead sits on half-acre and she uses the rest for farming.

Of her 20 Friesian cows, four are lactating, seven are calves, three are in-calf and six heifers.

She milks 100 litres per day and sells raw milk at between Sh40 and Sh60.

“My high milker offers me 45 litres while the other between 15 and 20 litres,” she says, adding she sells a litre of yoghurt at Sh120.

To make yoghurt, she starts by adding four table spoons of sugar to a litre of fresh milk and then boiling it.

Appropriate food colours and flavours are added before boiling the milk once again. The milk is then cooled to 450C. This can be measured using a thermometer which is available in many agrovet shops at Sh100.

She makes silage from napier grass, dry maize stalks and hay that she grows from leased farms.

“We do the first feeding after the morning milking session, which is between 5:30am to 7am. Apart from the early morning milking, the rest of the milking is done at different hours depending on individual cow production capacity. Some animals are milked at 1pm and others at 3pm, where thereafter each cow gets its second share of feeding.”

Since she could not afford pedigree animals, Rose who started with a single dairy cow has been improving her stock through artificial insemination with the hope of ending up with pedigree animals.

She is now in the third stage, one more remaining to achieve her desired breed.

On her pig farm, she keeps five mature animals and 25 piglets.

“Pigs are my latest addition. I would like to grow the brood first before I start selling them,” she says.

On the crops farm, she plants a variety of vegetables, including spinach, potatoes, oranges and tree tomatoes.

“The crops sit on various portions of an acre I grow them,” she says, noting the tree tomatoes earn her Sh8,000 every two weeks while oranges an average of Sh20,000, with the produce being sold in markets in the region.

Being a dry area, she has heavily invested in water harvesting tanks.

But still, a prolonged dry spell early this year saw her water pan dry up, resulting into the withering of her vegetables.
Her chicken brood comprises of 3,000 layers and 500 Kienyeji birds.

From the layers she supplies eggs to Nairobi markets at Sh280 to Sh300 where she has a weekly order to deliver on Mondays.

“My aim is to replace the layers slowly with Kienyeji birds because the latter offer more returns and are hardy. Currently I sell locally their eggs at Sh15 each.”

From the proceeds of her farming ventures, Rose has bought a pickup truck for farm transport and some ten acres, four of them in Meru where she plans to venture into tissue culture banana farming.

“I recently bought the vehicle but was previously using donkeys to transport animal feeds. They are cheap because they do not require fuel. I started with a wheelbarrow, then to a bicycle, then the donkeys and now a pickup,” she quipped.

DEDICATION AND RIGHT TRAINING

Her other farms host fodder and maize, with the farmer harvesting an average of 150 90kg bags of the cereal in a year.
Kagondu says she choose mixed farming in Kenya because she did not want to put her eggs in one basket.

“With this kind of farming, each activity complements the other, since I get manure from cows and chicken and use it to plant the various crops including maize. I don’t use inorganic fertilisers on my farm at all, which has helped me cut production costs,” says Kagondu who has two workers and attends farmers’ field days and other trainings for lessons.

Farming is a lucrative business, no woman should introduce herself as a house wife so long as they have a small plot where they can practice farming,” the mother of four offers.

Nyandarua agricultural officer Samuel Maina says with dedication and the right training, a farmer can start small and build an empire in about a decade.

“An acre is good for producing enough feeds for one cow. With proper management and husbandry, the cow will deliver a calf each year, translating to 10 cows in 10 years,” he explains, adding it calls for proper planning, as from the calves, a farmer can own about 25 cows in the same period.

Seeds of Gold

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