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Feedback: Guide to starting a crop farm

Wednesday October 17 2018

A farmer attends to her tomato crops in a farm in Nyeri, in this past photo.

A farmer attends to her tomato crops in a farm in Nyeri, in this past photo. Careful planning of layout and production are very important when starting out on crop farming. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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I recently saved enough money to drill a borehole on my father's nine acres. I have been passionate about farming for several years now but I missed this critical resource, water.

I need some advice probably from a qualified farm manager on how to organise my farm and crops to grow with the climate in my area.

Michael Mbogori

You have not told us the location of your farm, therefore, we cannot know which crops can do well in your area.

However, careful planning of layout and production are very important in farming. In planning a vegetable farm, the following have to be considered:


(a) Crops: Decide on which vegetable crops to grow. This will depend on the demands of the available market and climate. Study the market carefully and adjust production accordingly.

(b) System: Decide on which system you are going to use, that is, open field or greenhouse

(c) Layout: After deciding on the range of crops to be grown and the systems, the layout of the land must be planned.

Care is needed since if a bad layout is carried out initially, it will be costly to change. Remember roads, irrigation pipelines or buildings are involved, thus if sited wrongly, such items will be difficult and expensive to re-site.

(d) Cropping plan: Work out the rotation plan to be followed and details of the cropping plan. This should be done early enough.

(e) Land preparation: The cost of clearing and preparing land must be considered.

(f) Labour needs: It is important to plan, especially when manual labour is needed.

(g) Fencing and windbreaks: If fencing or wind breaking is needed, decide on the type and material to be used as well as the placement.

(h) Compost area: Decide on the location of the compost area and whether you will need a compost heap or pit. A compost heap/pit is necessary to provide a place for the disposal of organic debris and also it serves as a source of organic matter for use on the farm. It is generally located close to the nursery, in an area which is unsuitable for crop production.

(i) Nursery siting: Lightly shaded areas are preferred or you may construct a lath house. Preferably, nursery area should be at most 2 per cent of total area. You will also need to decide on the type of nursery to use: seedbed or containerised. If seedbed, decide if raised, flat or sunken.

(j) Irrigation and distribution method: Decide whether irrigation will be needed. If yes, decide on the system to be used and the water source.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.



My name is Sharon Akanyana and I am writing from Rwanda. Please advise on starting a small jam making business based on these questions; what are the basic manual machinery to start with and where can I get them from?

For a start-up manual processing plant, you need a hand refractometer, jacketed stainless steel kettle or vats (small gas fired kettles), a holding tank, fillers and cappers.

Please contact Promaco East Africa Limited on +250788739434, email: [email protected] The holding tank should have a mechanical agitator and be easy to clean.

In one with a jacket, jam can either be heated or cooled as unfinished product, put into the tank and held at the proper temperature.

If left in the kettles (unjacketed kettles), the jam might be overcooked. To save on power, the jam can flow by gravity to the filler. The jars can be capped manual by hand or by power.

Ruth Imbahale,
Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology,
Egerton University.


Solwodi Ladies Sports Association (Solasa) was registered in 2010 as an organisation reaching out to the disadvantaged women and girls in Kenya.

We are based in Eldoret Town, Uasin Gishu County. We want to get involved in the production of Irish potatoes, beans, peas and other vegetables. We hope to get guidance on the crops.

Filberts Oluoch,
Technical Adviser, programmes and administration

Given the wide varieties of crops you intend to deal with, please visit the Egerton University’s Division of Research and Extension office.

You will get training on growing the crops and the various value addition techniques that would be of benefit to the group.

You will also be connected to successful working groups that engage in the same.

Ruth Imbahale,
Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology,
Egerton University.



I am Abdulrahman Kiula from Likoni, Mombasa. I would like to know where I can get a dairy goat.


Dairy goat farming is an important enterprise particularly for farmers with small land. A goat’s milk is also considered more easily digestible, as fat globules in the produce are smaller than those in cow milk.

The calcium content is higher in goat’s milk and iron contents are lower. Goat milk is also richer in most vitamins. The common breeds of dairy goats in Kenya even though foreign are Toggenburg, Saanen, British Alpine, and German Alpine.

These goats survive in different climatic conditions. Kindly contact the dairy goats association in your area for quality animals.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



I’m keeping catfish and I have a challenge in marketing. Kindly advise on marketing or any viable value addition available.


Catfish is one of the aquaculture species that grows well in Kenya. It has a faster growth rate, has low bone content, grows in wide climatic zones and is cheap to feed.

Farmers are, therefore, advised to grow catfish either as monoculture or polyculture with other fish species. One of the main challenges facing catfish is market especially when selling it as whole flesh since the public has not been sensitised well enough.

I, therefore, recommend value addition. Value added products target wide market needs and those that can be made include fillets, fish fingers, fish balls, samosas and sausages, among others.

You can visit Kenya Marine Research Institute, Kisumu to know more on marketing through value addition. For more information, contact 0716921364 or write to [email protected]

Alex Akidiva,
Department of Biological Sciences — Aquaculture Farm,
Egerton University.



I would like to get a qualified agronomist. I have a nine-acre farm in Malindi, where I grow mangoes. I would like to develop the enterprise into a commercial business, so guide me on how to get an agronomist.

Nisreen Shk Juzer

An agronomist will help you to maintain your orchard by offering various expert skills namely pruning, fertilisation procedures and planting of ground cover crops like beans.

In Malindi, you have Pwani University and Kalro Kilifi where you can get agronomists and horticulturalists. Call 0721205576 for an expert from Pwani University.

Peter Caleb Otieno,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.