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From hobby to thriving farming agri-business

Friday July 8 2016

Tom and Naisiadet Kitai display tomatoes they grow in their greenhouse.

Naisiadet Kitai and the farm's manager, Isaac Mudavadi display tomatoes they grow in a greenhouse in Chui Farm, Kakamega. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ELIZABETH OJINA
By ELIZABETH OJINA
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A cloud of dust threatens to envelope us as we navigate the earth road that leads to Chui Villa Farm, a few kilometres from Kakamega town.

Famous for its poultry, dairy and tomato farming ventures, Chui Villa is a top destination for many.

Owners Tom Kitai, 52, and his wife, Naisiadet, 48, welcome us warmly when we arrive on the six-acre farm that hosts dairy cows, chickens, different livestock fodders, cowsheds, a greenhouse and two homesteads.

In the chicken coop, are 1,500 Kuroiler, Rainbow roaster and Kari Kienyeji chicks at different stages of growth. In the cowshed are six cows, three heifers and the rest that are milked. And there is a 15 by 8 metre greenhouse.

With the help of nine workers, the Kitais have been able to turn what was initially a hobby into a booming business.

“My husband wanted chicken but I was interested in milk. We further realised that there was shortage of both in the village. We then decided to rear chickens and cows,” says Naisiadet.

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So they took some money from their fleet management business and started farming.

They started with 100 Kari Kienyeji chicks bought from the Kakamega station at Sh100 each, built poultry structures and bought feeds to last six months, all that cost them Sh200,000. 

But as fate would have it, coccidiosis struck and they were left with only 25 birds. 

“We were really frustrated, each day we would lose three to four chicks. The 25 birds matured and started laying eggs. In a week we would collect about five crates,” says Kitai.

The couple later bought a 50-egg capacity incubator for Sh20,000 in December 2015 to hatch their eggs.

“The hatchery failed due to frequent power blackouts. We finally settled on buying and selling chicks at different stages,” says Naisiadet.

The chicks are given mixed feeds till they are three weeks when they are sold.

MAKE THEIR OWN FEED

The farm now sells from Sh150 to Sh190 three-week-old chicks. Day-old chicks and two months old go for Sh90 and Sh380 respectively. 

“Most farmers prefer three-week old chicks to the one-day-old ones because they are vaccinated and easy to manage. Many farmers love the Kuroiler and Rainbow rooster breeds because they mature fast and grow bigger,” says the couple, noting they sell the chicks to farmers to as far as Bomet, Narok, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Garissa.

Every week, they purchase 200 Kari kienyeji, 200 Kuroiler and 200 Rainbow rooster chicks. They source for Kari Kienyeji from Kakamega and Kuroiler and Rainbow Rooster from Uganda when they are a day old.

They would have preferred to hatch their own eggs but constant power outages have discouraged them.

The chicks are vaccinated against Gumboro disease at day 10, Newcastle disease at day 20 and 30 and are kept in electricity brooder to keep them warm.

To cut the cost of production, the farmers make their own feed using maize germ, sunflower, fish meal and supplement with it collard green and earthworms which are grown in the farm. The chicks are fed three times in a day.

Amos Amenya, an agronomist at the Lake Basin Development Authority, says coccidiosis is caused by protozoa parasites that attack the intestines.

“Use anticoccidal drugs mixed in the feeds and avoid overcrowding of the birds. Should coccidiosis breakout start the treatment immediately and isolate the affected bird,” says Amenya.

Isaac Mudavadi feeds their cows in their farm in Kakamega.

Isaac Mudavadi, Chui Farm's manager feeds the cows in the farm in Kakamega. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In the zero-grazing unit, they have three cows, Friesian and Ayrshire crossed with Fleckvieh bought from Limuru in October last year at Sh200,000 each and a pure Ayrshire breed bought from Eldoret at Sh80,000.  

In a day, the three dairy cows produce 78 litres of milk which they supply to Jaminda Dairy and sell to local residents at Sh55 per litre.

EMPOWER WOMEN AND YOUTH

The cows are fed on hay as well as concentrates. In a month, they buy 13 bags of 70kg dairy meal at Sh2,800 each. The farm also makes silage for their cattle. During the dry seasons, they make barley using the hydroponics method. 

“We give them dairy meal while milking. We feed them twice in a day on napier grass, sweet potato vines and hay. We have gone to great lengths to make sure we have enough fodder for cattle. About three acres of land is on maize, Maasai grass, napier, desmodium and Boma rhodes,” says Kitai.

The farmer sprays and deworms the animals twice in a month.

“We also have a vet who comes often to check on them. The cows are washed and sprayed against ticks every Friday. At times we alternate the pesticides because some ticks get resistant to pesticides,” says Isaac Ndodi, the farm manager.

The tomato greenhouse was put up in February last year. In the first season, the couple transplanted 600 seedlings of Anna F1 tomato variety into the greenhouse in March 2015. 

“We expected to harvest three tonnes of tomatoes. Bacterial wilt, however, affected 150 tomato plants when they started producing fruits and we harvested 2.2 tonnes. In the second season of planting, we lost three quarters of the plant population. We now sterilise the soil. We did not know that putting it outside would expose it to wilt,” says Naisiadet, adding that they consulted Bukura Institute of Science and Technology, who helped them treat the soil by steaming.

In the third season this February, they planted 600 Samantha F1 tomato variety in February and started harvesting in May two crates selling at Sh80 per kilo. They sell tomatoes to Bukura Institute and at local markets.

The couple are already thinking about venturing into fish farming and expanding their poultry business and have already purchased a 1520-egg capacity incubator.

They are looking for ways in which they can use their business to empower women and youth groups in the area.