By Jane Kirimi and Paul Gichungu
Frequent drought in semi-arid Laikipia County has been contributing to crop failure, inadequate feeds, decreased production and food insecurity. Overgrazing has also increased land degradation.
In a bid to reduce the 46 percent poverty level in the County, the Agricultural Sector Development Support Program (ASDSP) in partnership with Laikipia County government, CARITAS Nyeri among others undertook to promote hay commercialisation in the dairy value chain.
The initiative involved organizing farmers into 28 groups comprising 1064 farmers, 632 male and 432 females, training them on grass management practices, seed harvesting, storage, marketing and providing them with hay grass seed. ASDSP has also issued the groups with a hay-training manual.
Eighteen (18) farmer groups received 7300 kgs of Rhodes grass seeds. This resulted in establishment of 1800 acres of grass across the county. The farmers have also formed Laikipia Hay Company Ltd to champion Laikipia as a hay county.
|Ann Mwangi at her hay store|
To support the demand for expansion of acreage under Rhodes grass, farmers are harvesting and selling seeds to improve their income. The number of hay producers has also increased from 1,500 to over 5,000 farmers.
Among the group that benefited included the 70 member Tigithi Umoja Hay group.
Mrs. Ann Mwangi, a member of the group planted her Boma Rhodes seeds in April 2015. Last season, her 3-acre land produced 500 bales of hay of which she sold 400 bales valued at Ksh 120,000. She harvested 100 Kg of seeds valued at Ksh 50,000.
“I used to experience frequent crop failure before ASDSP started working with us. The various trainings that they gave us has empowered our group members. We have increased our production and income through the ASDSP program,” said Mrs. Mwangi.
Currently she has 5 acres of land under grass production with an expected yield of 1,000 bales worth Ksh 300,000. She has migrated from nomadic lifestyle to zero grazing method of dairy farming.
She is now planning to increase hey hay acreage in order to feed her five dairy cows and sell the surplus to increase her income.