farmers
farmers

Lush green crops jut out of trays in their hundreds on the dairy goat farm in Kasarani, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

For starters, one may think that the farmer is using some form of magic, but this is hydroponics farming.

The method of farming, which uses no soil but only some little water, has come to the rescue of farmers as a dry spell bites in the east African nation.

Kenya is currently experiencing a dry spell that started in November 2018 and is to last until early next month before it paves way for the long rains season, according to the meteorological department.

The dry spell has seen a decline in fodder production as farmers growing fodder grasses like lucerne and boma rhodes, therefore, have to use irrigation, which is expensive.

Hydroponics has, therefore, become the most appropriate technology for farmers, amid the biting effect of the dry spell. Farmers are growing quality fodder and harvesting in just seven days using the method.

“Initially, I would have had to go in search of pasture like napier from farms some 10 km away in Kiambu for my goats but hydroponics has saved me a great deal,” said Fredrick Kinunge, the owner of the goat farm in Kasarani.

Through hydroponics, the farmer grows barley and wheat in trays. Experts note that hydroponics is the answer to the climate change, which has made the weather erratic.

“Inside the trays we put water mixed with liquid fertilizer and other nutrients for growth of the plants,” he explained the method he adopted two years ago.

To grow barley, he first starts by buying certified seeds and disinfects them using clean water for two hours.

“I, thereafter, drain the water and soak the seeds in another clean water for a day to enhance faster growth,” he said, adding that the trays are 80cm by 40cm in size.

The seeds are, then, spread on the tray evenly, with the farmer ensuring that each has enough space for growth.

“The holes should be evenly spread for proper growth of seeds in the hydroponics units. The trays are thereafter transferred to the unit where germination begins after about a day,” explained Kinunge, adding that the crop is irrigated from day one when they start to sprout to day seven when they are harvested.

Pig farmer Moses Andati, who is based in Kakamega, western Kenya, said on phone that he grows barley for his animals using the method and this has helped him save his costs.

“I give the pigs the barley specifically at the fattening stage. An expert advised me to offer the animals 3kg of hydroponics fodder each and 2 kg of dry feeds. The pigs reach market weight faster,” he said.

Felix Akatch, a livestock specialist at Egerton University noted that besides wheat and barley, one can also farm sorghum and oats for cattle, pigs and poultry.

“Through this method, fodder is produced in a small area, without soil and water and within a short time. The farmer therefore does not suffer effects of dry spell,” he said.

According to him, 8 kg of hydroponics fodder replaces 3 kg of dairy meal but the dairy cow should be offered hay and silage.

Hydroponics fodder is also good for poultry where 100 layers consumer 8 kg of the feeds in addition to 4 kg of layers mash. Enditem

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