What you need to know:
- Tucked in Nyandarua County, Tumaini Farm, which is run by the National Youth Service, hosts a modern potato propagation unit as well as huge maize, dairy and horticultural farms, all of which employ some of the best farming practices
- The farm attracts farmers from across the country and beyond, who visit for lessons. Some also visit for inputs like seedlings or seeds.
- The animals, which have an identification number, are washed thoroughly with a soft cloth with alkaline detergents to ensure they are clean and pests are kept at bay.
- The farm uses drip irrigation to maintain a steady supply of water to the plants. They sell the harvest to hotels in Nakuru.
Dressed in jungle-green attire and black boots, the National Youth Service (NYS) men and women stand out on the farm named Tumaini in Nyandarua County.
Some are scouting for pests on a tomato farm, others are in the broccoli section harvesting the crop, in the chicken coop vaccinating birds and in the dairy shed milking the cows.
The 625-acre farm, located 800 metres off the Dundori-Ol-Kalou Road in Nyandarua and owned by the NYS, is as busy as a beehive as the servicemen and women who manage it ensure everything goes right.
The farm attracts farmers from across the country and beyond, who visit for lessons. Some also visit for inputs like seedlings or seeds.
At the potato seed production unit, run in partnership with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organisation (Kalro), the crops are grown using aeroponics technology.
“This is an unexploited technology and we deployed it to meet the increasing demand for potato seeds,” says Kennedy Nyakang’o, a senior assistant director and commanding officer of the unit.
Total mixed ration
Propagation of the Shangi and Dutch Robjin potato seeds is done in a misty environment inside greenhouses in special wooden boxes, says Martha Wairimu, a servicewoman.
“Suspended tubers are sprayed with mist, which contains nutrients,” explains Wairimu, adding they are also sprayed against early and late blight, as well as pests like aphids and flies.
The plants produce mini-tubers some 30-45 days later and harvesting begins at two-and-a-half months, with a single plantlet producing about 60-70 mini-tubers per season. The certified seed potatoes go for Sh5,000 per 50kg bag.
Away from the potato farm, some 20 pedigree Friesian cows while time away at a shed. The cows are fed a total mixed ration made from hay, grass, lucerne, minerals, molasses, silage and vitamins.
“We constantly monitor the weight of the cattle, water and feed them from 6.30am to 10am. During the day they graze on natural pasture up to 3pm,” says Daniel Kuria, the livestock officer.
The animals, which have an identification number, are washed thoroughly with a soft cloth with alkaline detergents to ensure they are clean and pests are kept at bay.
The average milk production per cow is between 15 and 30 litres. “We get about 400 litres of milk daily and sell a litre at Sh40,” says Kuria, adding they only sell those with fertility issues through a public auction.
Uses drip irrigation
They keep 1,000 Kari improved Kienyeji chicks sourced from Karlo, Naivasha. The poultry project is the latest addition.
For goats and sheep, besides grazing in the field, they are fed hay, shrubs, silage, wheat and grains and supplement with energy, protein, minerals and essential vitamins for fertility and growth.
They are also vaccinated against common diseases including goat pox and sheep pox.
Tomatoes and broccoli are grown inside greenhouses, while avocados and cabbages in the open field.
“We grow arcadia broccoli variety, which is in high demand and matures faster; in 50-60 days,” explains Ruth Muthoni.
“We transplant the seedlings into the greenhouse when they are four to six weeks old and plant them on a raised bed at 5cm depth. They are then planted 30 to 50cm apart and in between space rows of 60 to 90cm,” adds Faith Mbai, who works at the greenhouse.
The farm uses drip irrigation to maintain a steady supply of water to the plants. They sell the harvest to hotels in Nakuru.
Focus on value addition
A kilo of broccoli goes for Sh140, tomatoes Sh120 and cabbages Sh60.
"We grow most of our crops organically using farm manure," says Nyakang'o.
At least 30 acres is under wheat, 80 under maize, potatoes 20, cabbages 10 and trees occupy several acres.
The 1,800 servicemen and women aged 20-22 are trained on basic agriculture practices. “Interns from public universities who are attached at the farm by the government supplement the workforce.
"Tumaini has good weather conditions and soils for farming, thus, we can farm any crop. The youth will leave this place with wealth of knowledge,” he says, noting they get visitors from as far as the Netherlands as well as local universities and dignitaries.
Prof George Owuor, an agriculture economist at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management, Egerton University, says instead of selling most produce raw, the farm should focus on value addition, processing fruits and milk before sell for more cash and to transfer skills to many people.
1. Some 10,000 tilapia are kept under greenhouse, which retains heat because the area is cold.
2. They are fed with starter mash, about 100g each in the morning and evening.
3. As they grow, they are fed fish meal, fish pellets and fish finisher.
4. The water in the pond is replenished twice a day to increase oxygen circulation the pond.
5. The fingerlings were received on August 30 and in December they will harvest their first batch.