The smell of cow dung from the adjacent cowshed is faintly palpable from the gate as you enter Miare Farm, a small gem in Kasarani, Nairobi, that is leading the pack in urban agri-business.
From a six-year-old calf given to him by his cousin in 2007, Albert Waweru Miare has gone on to raise his herd to 31 heifers.
After receiving his first gift, Waweru went back for two more calves. This time, he didn’t get them for free. The two agreed that if the calves survived, he would pay for them. Waweru’s determination baffled his cousin.
“He came here and found me milking the cows. I fed them and took good care of them. He told me: ‘I gave you the animals when they were small and now they are big. It’s my happiness to see you grow,’” remembers Waweru of his cousin’s reaction.
“He didn’t believe it when I gave him his money,” said the farmer, who has now turned out to be a role model to small scale urban farmers in Nairobi. Waweru bought the additional calves for Sh40,000.
Today, he says, the value of his 31 heifers is Sh7.8 million, or Sh250,000 each.
Waweru spends Sh390 per day on feeds per cow and an extra Sh30 on vet services. Each cow produces 30 litres of milk daily.
“If a cow gives you 30 litres of milk in a day, at Sh60 per litre, that is Sh1,800. Multiply that by 30 days and you have Sh54,000 per animal and Sh540,000 if you have 10 animals monthly. And even if you give Sh1,000 for labour and feed per cow, you still have money. In addition, the cow and calf have value, and you can sell them for Sh250,000 each. Every year, the animal calves,” explained Waweru. However, he advises farmers to sell heifers to new farmers for quick returns.
“New farmers can get a cow from me and within two or one month start earning from it,” said the dairy farmer.
Last year, he sold two animals from his herd for Sh500,000 and paid for a holiday for his family.
“I took my family to Mombasa for seven days. They enjoyed it and I am comfortable. This is the beauty of it, that you are able to achieve this kind of thing. You benefit from having milk, income and at the end of the year you can sell three animals and go for a trip while you breed others yearly,” said Waweru.
These are some of the comforts the urban farmer is able to enjoy. He adds that he is not into farming for subsistence, but as a business.
Over Sh200,000 monthly
Waweru makes over Sh200,000 monthly from the sale of milk. He additionally earns Sh5,000 daily from his vegetable farm.
“This is where I get money for my daily expenses. At least I can’t miss Sh5,000 per day,” he said.
Waweru has three greenhouses with kales, spinach and amaranth. He also practices open drip irrigation and plants bananas, pawpaw, napier grass and maize.
He sells the produce to nearby schools, hospitals and neighbours.
Nothing in his farm goes to waste. A lorry of composite manure is sold for Sh15,000, and he has several piles.
He also plans to transform his dairy business by breeding 250 animals and selling 20 yearly, as his contribution to the dairy industry as well as to earn returns. “I would like to sell 20 of those animals at least in November or December and go on holiday,” he said.
To upcoming farmers, Waweru advises on being forbearing and passionate. “The most important thing is to have passion for farming and to be tolerant. Farming has its challenges, there is no easy money. You have to invest and wait for returns. But at the end of the day, you will reap benefits,” he said.
While his peers struggle to get started and even contemplate on the best retirement plan, farming for the retired policeman is a lifestyle — a life he has grown to love, with his wife Fatma gladly being part of it. In fact, she is the one that names all the heifers in the shed.
From their names one can easily tell she loves watching soap operas. Elena, Fare, Saida, Victoria and Mitchell are some of the names of the animals at Miare Farm.
The family farm measures one and a quarter acres.