POST HARVEST MANAGEMENT -FRESH BOX

It’s a reprieve to both farmers and consumers after introduction of fresh box from Bosch home appliances which will help them in post-harvest management. Mwende a farmer based in Kenya explains how the refrigerator has helped her in storing her veges as she continues to look for market

solar powered fresh box

“Market keeps fluctuating and as you know veges are highly perishable thus they spoil after two days .In the past I have been incurring losses after harvesting my vegetables .When I learnt about the fresh box i now keep my produce fresh as i search for market”. Mwende narrates with broad smiles all over her face.

fresh veges after 8 days

According to Timothy Kathurima, a proud member of Africa farmers club based in Botswana argues that through the desire to increase the income of single mother’s initiative power in Botswana, he supplies high quality tomatoes on credit and through the help of the fresh box they are able to store their tomatoes until the stock lasts.

Mr Noah demonstrating how to use a fresh Box in Botswana

The area is known for high temperature which accelerates food rotting especially for farm produce. In his view Mr. Noah Nasiali who toured farmers in Botswana explains how the Bosch home appliances only uses one and half liters of water daily and can store product for 8 days.

A fresh box in use

If a farmer can keep her veges and fruits for longer, the higher the income and the more the productivity and food security due to multiplication of productivity.

By. PATRICIA M KOMBO

patriciah@africafarmers.org

PLANNING TO GROW POTATOES IN KENYA?

Just like any other business, farming needs adequate planning, critical thinking and proper decision making before venturing. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step and so a farmer should be aware of all requirements necessary for farming ,from seedling selection, favorable ecological conditions, possible diseases, pests and market for the produce.

potato plantation in Kenya

Potatoes do well in areas with rainfall between 850mm and 1200mm, and an altitude between 1500m and 2800 m above sea level. Temperatures are key since potatoes require cold temperatures to allow tubers to increase and multiply. When planting a farmer should consider the season so as to get maximum produce.In selecting potato seeds, use medium seeds because before the roots obtain nutrients from soil they first depend on the seed for food.

Potatoes unlike other crops are mainly grown in hilled rows .potatoes need shallow trenches because they have shallow roots ,this will ensure maximum utilization of nutrients. Spacing should be about 30 cm and after the plants reach about 25 cm cover around stems with soil so as to protect shallow tubes from turning green due to exposure to sunlight. Pests will never lack in any farm. The greatest enemies of potatoes are aphids, wire worm and Flea Beetle. Flee beetle attacks young potato plants and its remedy is ensure crop rotation constantly. Aphids suck juices from leaves and a times they transmit diseases. Wirewoms on the other hand attacks roots and tubers.

medium potatoes tubers ideal for planting

When should you harvest your potatoes? when leaves begin to dry farmer should start harvesting tubers by digging carefully to avoid interfering with them.Strive to harvest when the soil is dry .Post harvest management is crucial thus store your tubers when they are dry to avoid rotting.

by :Patricia Kombo

Possible solutions to Problems faced by farmers when marketing Agricultural produce.

Perishability of fresh agricultural produce is among the largest problems farmers face as they market and sell their produce. Perishable goods like vegetables, dairy products and fruits make farmers fear to venture in farming so as to evade possible losses which may occur during marketing. Farmers in perishable products farming should form a cooperative where they can channel their produce. A Sacco which is well equipped with proper transportation and refrigeration that are fully equipped with systems to circulate air is ideal to offer marketing linkage on behalf of farmers.

Harvested french beans

Value addition is a technique that most farmers are slowly adapting to avoid wastage and add shelf life to perishable products. This includes drying some products like tomatoes, mangoes and some are processing products like fresh milk into products like homemade yogurts so as to add shelf life. Introduction of fresh box from Bosch is slowly improving the standards of farmers and adding time up to 8 days after harvesting vegetables.

sun dried tomatoes -value addition

Establishment of processing plants near areas of production is key prevent produce from going bad and cut transportation costs. Improvement of transport sector to make all roads passable during all weather conditions

low demand of agricultural produce

Changes in demand and supply of farm produceare usually inevitable. Due to unwavering weather patterns farmers need to adopt crop irrigation during dry weather to ensure steady supply of products. Since the law of supply states that as the price of a commodity raises, the quantity offered for sale rises. Farmers should strive to have adequate market knowledge to know purchasing patterns of consumers and what they prefer before planting. Lack of timely and accurate market information affects pricing of products and may create a shortage or surplus thus reduction in pricing.

By: Patricia M. Kombo

patriciah@africafarmers.org

CUTTING COSTS.


Life in the city has become very expensive compared to the days when everyone wanted to have a taste of the city where the sun rises but never sets. We all had the urge to leave the village at all costs for there was a certain pride in saying, “I stay in Nairobi”. It never mattered what part of Nairobi it was, what was key was the noun NAIROBI. Gone are these days.

Today the cost of living has risen to the point that a one thousand-shilling note can only last you for two days. Take for instance a person who has a family and must commute to work. How long do you think the money can last him? A day maybe. Okay two days at maximum. This is the reason behind heavily overloaded vehicles on our roads especially those coming from the countryside. We all must find means to survive, so most people pack whatever they can carry each time they make a visit to the rural areas. Make a point to visit the country bus station and you will get a clear picture of the changing era. Even chickens are not spared the agony of hours’ worth of travel.

There was a time we would beg our father to bring even a half suck of maize from Ushago which he would complain that all he wanted was a comfortable journey. A jacket, bottle of water and a newspaper was all he wanted to have with him. Today? We get a variety of goods each time he travels without even a request from us. Talk of maize, beans, kales, millet, milk even meat we get from the country side.

In short, the increasing cost of living has forced many to source food stuff from their farms back at home. An individual would prefer to bring maize and take to a posho mill which will be cheaper compared to buying flour or get cereals from back home and store. Other than sourcing from the countryside, woman have employed the little space available to plant greens enough to feed the family. This includes container farming. It’s all about wisdom and saving every coin you get. What is the point of leaving your farm bare just to go and buy groceries?

Vegetables in container farming

Therefore, farming is inevitable. Shut it out, run away from it but it will always catch up. If you can grow it, then why buy when you can save that coin?

SOIL TESTING.

Planting is not just putting your seeds or seedlings into the ground. It goes beyond seeing the seed sprout. It all starts from identifying the farm you want to plant in, the type of crop you will invest in and most of all the fertility of the soil. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and as we work towards a continent that can feed itself, we ought to look at factors hindering our goal achievement. Talk of climate change, poor infrastructure, lack of funds, name it all. It’s all in our papers, magazines, blogs and google too has a lot to offer. Soil fertility? yes, the least thought of factor.

Caption 1: A farmer observing soil

Many farmers do not have knowledge of the soils in which they plant in. To them soil is soil. A fertile soil contains the major nutrients a plant requires: Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium just to mention but a few. The only way to find out the fertility of a soil is through soil testing. But, what is soil testing? This is the analysis of a soil sample to determine the nutrient content, the composition and other characteristics. Soil testing is the key to successful farming and should be done at least annually because the soil fertility keeps changing. Lack of soil knowledge is the reason behind the failure of a certain type of crop, yet a different crop does well in the same soil. Every crop has its specific soil in which it grows well. Most plants will grow well in neutral soil, but some prefer acidic or alkaline conditions. Conducting a soil test will help in determining which plants suit your farm. Furthermore, the results guide the farmer in choosing the appropriate fertilizer.

Caption 2:Germinated seed

There are various ways in which you can have your soil tested. A new technology Invented by Ujuzi Kilimo has made it even easier and reliable for farmers to test their soil in just 5 minutes. The Ujuzi Kilimo kit developed by Brian Bosire is a sensor-based soil testing system with a chord that is inserted into the ground. The chord picks qualities such as temperature, the nutrient content and the soil PH.PH is how alkaline or how acidic the soil is. Going back to the secondary education some might have come across a litmus paper especially in chemistry classes. Well guess what? A litmus paper can be used to test the PH of the soil. Taking both the red and blue litmus papers, insert into a container containing a mixture of the soil to be tested with water. The red litmus paper turns blue in the case where the soil is alkaline while the blue turns red where the soil is acidic.

Caption 3: Soil testing kit

With this information, a farmer can get expert advice on what crop will do well in his soil just to avoid a trial and error situation. If you want to be a successful farmer, then you have no option but to GET IT RIGHT FROM THE START.

SMARTPHONE: YOUR FARMING PARTNER.


Technology has come a long way in helping to eradicate hunger. As the world strives to have a planet that feeds its self, we look at how the internet and smartphones are coming in handy. There was a time when phones where affordable to the chosen few and used for catching up with people but now? Things have changed. Phones are now accessible to a larger number and the uses have also increased due to the advancement in technology

People have today shifted from the mentality that farming is not a promising field and have ventured in it. In the next few years we will have more people going towards the agribusiness sector. One of the challenges that farmers have been facing is the existence of middle men commonly known as the brokers.in most cases they work to benefit themselves and in so doing the ordinary farmer ends up at a loss or gaining less than what they ought to. The use of smart phones today has helped in creating a direct link between the farmers and clients. With proper knowledge on how to use the phones, farmers have created Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups where they engage with clients and able to negotiate on prices no matter the distance. This is achieved through taking photos and creation of videos that are sent in the groups and interested clients can contact the farmer directly

Figure 1:A photo of an ailing chicken

What would you do if you ever found yourself stranded with your produce due to lack of clients? The worry of most farmers is whether they will get clients to buy their produce. It can be disappointing to be stranded with goods and not knowing what to do next. In most cases when this happens they end up selling at a throw away price just to have the goods sold. Once again, the smart phones have come to the rescue. Farmers today have clients already on stand by waiting for the harvest season. Advertising your goods through photos and the progress as they grow and mature can attract investors who will want to do business once the season comes. This motivates the farmers to even work harder as they will work diligently to produce more.

Other than the smart phones being used to get markets, they are also used to connect experts with the farmers. The secret to be a successful farmer is simple. Seek advice from experts. People do complain of lack of information and agronomists but to what extent do they take the initiative to seek? Seeking answers from experts and those experienced is key to successful farming and yes at times distance can be a barrier but with existing social media groups, this has been made achievable. One can simply take a picture of a crop that has been affected by a disease and post in the groups. Within no time the post will be doing rounds and comments streaming in. Farmers do not have to go through challenges alone anymore.

Figure 2:An expert using a smartphone

Apps have been developed too that can help farmers solve problems they encounter. An example is the Yara ImageIT an app used to measure nitrogen uptake in a crop and to generate a nitrogen recommendation based on photographs of the crop. All a farmer must do is to take a picture of the leaf and with that the app will the nitrogen uptake. The smartphone is a powerful gadget that many people have not explored its advantages to the fullest. MbeguChoice app helps farmers to identify which crops can be planted in their farms depending on the climate of that region. Crops thrive in specific climates and farmers should be keen if they want to get good yields. With the app they can get the information required to start a successful farming adventure

Figure 3:Checking the nitrogen uptake in spinach

Using a smartphone is not as easy as it sounds. Creating videos and taking photos to be uploaded however requires skills. You need quality photos for effective communication therefore farmers should be trained on mobile journalism. Farmers ought to stay updated in the technological world and make their smartphones a partner in farming. Let us stay advanced as we aim to eradicate hunger #ZEROHUNGER.