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From veges to eggs, here’s the perfect dream farm

Dream Farm’s main operation is poultry farming, where Jane Mwaniki keeps 4,000 layers, which produce an average of 2,000 eggs a day

BY FAITH NASHIPAE

Tucked in the plains of Kipeto in Keekonyokie Ward is Dream Farm, where Jane Mwaniki practises modern mixed farming and is currently encouraging locals to embrace it as a way of improving on food security.

“You see, when you have a small kitchen garden and with the availability of water, your family will eat healthy and you do not have to travel long distances to the market in search of vegetables,” she explains. “In fact, you might find yourself supplying vegetables to the market if you do it on a larger scale.”

In her farm, Jane, whose local name is Naisula, has planted different varieties of vegetables — including cabbages, spinach, sukuma wiki, kunde and onions — which she sells both locally and in Nairobi. However, the vegetable part is just the subsidiary. Dream Farm’s main operation is poultry farming; she keeps 4,000 layers, which produce an average of 120 trays of eggs a day. She also keeps a number of ducks and geese.

“I started serious poultry farming three years ago,” she explains. “Before that, I used to keep about 100 to 200 at my home in Nairobi.” It is not by mere happenstance that she chose to keep poultry; she says that since she was a little girl growing up in Karatina in Nyeri County, birds have been close to her heart.

Rearing of caged chicken, she explains, is not as labour intensive as one would imagine. “Once the cages are cleaned, workers only need to add feeds twice in a day,” says Jane. At Dream Farm, the chickens are housed in two main structures, each measuring about 50 feet in length. The birds are accommodated in storied cages rising up to above six feet. The cages are then compartmentalised, with three birds occupying a single unit.

Huge water consumption

Once they lay, the egg automatically slides down to the front of the cage, for ease of picking by the farm workers. For their water needs, Dream Farm has an automated drip system, with overhead taps, where the birds peck to drink the water. This system, Jane explains, saves on water as there is no wastage. Still, with that system, there is no danger of the water being contaminated as the birds drink straight from the sprinklers.

Despite saving water through this technology, the birds at Dream Farm consume 1,000 litres of water in a day! “You cannot rear chicken if you do not have sufficient supply of water,” she says, adding that her farm is fully equipped with a borehole. She also shares the water with her neighbours.

Jane acquires her birds as day-old chicks and rears them to maturity. The weather in Kajiado, she says, is ideal for the birds. There are no incidents of disease outbreaks. “Apart from vaccines and the boosters we give once in a month, the chicken are good to go,” she says.

The birds produce about 100 kilogrammes of manure per day, which she uses in growing her vegetables. “Nothing goes to waste here and we do not use commercial fertiliser; the manure we get from the chicken is more than sufficient for our needs,” she says, adding that she sells the surplus to farmers.

Jane also plants herbs like mint in between her crops as a pest-control mechanism. “Mint emits a strong scent, which keeps away pests like aphids. Kunde acts as a nitrogen fixer that breaks down and refreshes the soil,” she explains.

Farm visits for students

Her major challenge in the poultry-keeping venture has to do with chicken feed, which she says has become quite expensive. “Maize is a major component in chicken feed and its price has increased dramatically in the past four months. This obviously has a negative effect on the profit margins,” she explains.

She is also worried about the unchecked importation of eggs into the country, which she says drives the prices down and lowers demand. That is however not among her immediate problems as she has a regular market for her eggs both locally and in Nairobi.

The target of Dream Farm is to keep 10,000 birds at any one time.

She is currently in consultation with the administration of a local school to arrange regular farm visits for students so that they can replicate, in their homes, what they learn at Dream farm. “This would go a long way in ensuring food security and reducing overdependence on livestock, which is the economic mainstay for locals,” she says.

Before she ventured fulltime into poultry keeping, Jane, who is a human resource practitioner, worked as a consultant with Fintrac Inc, associated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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