Tools and inputs which will improve your farming

Friday March 17 2017
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Prof Willis Owino from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology displays bread made from sorghum in the institution. PHOTO | LEOPOLD OBI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Bread made from sorghum flour

At the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Juja, on the outskirts of Nairobi, there is a small room reserved for baking loaves and cakes.

The bakery, where the loaves made from a sweet sorghum variety and wheat, is the brain child of Prof Willis Owino, a researcher and the manager JKUAT Food Technology Centre.

Prof Owino says the aim of the project, began in 2010, was to establish more uses of sorghum to enhance consumption.

To arrive with the best, the scientist tested over 40 sorghum varieties before settling on the white sorghum from Brazil.

According to him, sorghum is a healthy food as research shows it prevents the growth of cancer cells, diabetes and helps in managing cholesterol in the body.


“The bread incorporates 15 per cent sorghum, which cuts use of wheat. The aim is not to replace wheat but to reduce usage. Sorghum on its own cannot make good bread.”

Even though beer industry has created market for sorghum, many farmers are still left out because brewers’ take about 16,000 metric tonnes annually as compared to 170,000 metric tonnes produced.

“As we encourage farmers to grow sorghum, we must ask ourselves where they will find the market for their produce. Besides being a food security crop, sorghum can be used in manufacturing livestock feeds and ethanol,” Prof Owino points out.

The bakery produces 150 to 250 loaves daily, which they sell at Sh42. The sorghum is mainly sourced from university’s farm and from one contracted farmer in Maseno.

– Leopold Obi


Machine tills, plants, weeds, harvests and transports produce

Any farmer will confess that tilling, planting, weeding crops and harvesting are labourious exercises.

But that should no longer be the case as the Nakuru-based Kenya Industrial Training Institute (KITI) has come up with the Ultra Power Machine that does all the tasks.

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Brian Busienei, a technician at the Kenya Industrial Training Institute, Nakuru showcases the Ultra Power Machine which can perform several farm tasks. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We built the machine to ease farmers’ burden from planting to harvesting,” says Brian Busienei, a lead technician in the project and a former student of the institution.

All a farmer needs to do to use the diesel-driven machine is to affix various implements on it.

The machine consumes up to two litres of fuel per acre when ploughing or weeding, while for transportation of farm produce, it all depends on the distance to be covered and the weight of the produce.

“The machine has three gear levers and the user’s task when ploughing is to control it using the handle bars, a task which is much simpler than it may look,” says Busienei.

To use the machine for transport, the farmer simply dislodges the plough from the implement, then attaches a trailer which preferably should be bought alongside the machine, for compatibility, then drives as one would, a rickshaw or motorcycle.

- Brian Okinda


Machine threshes, winnows grains

Sorghum threshing is mainly done manually across the country by beating the heads with sticks on bare ground, on spreads or with panicles contained in bags.

Manual threshing is a slow process with an output of about 15-40kg/day per person and results in losses due to spillage, incomplete removal of grains from heads, damage to grains and contamination with sand/soil and stones.

Egerton University, however, has sought to make work easier by developing a portable sorghum thresher that threshes, polishes and winnows the grain at once.

Once the dry sorghum heads are fed into the machine, the grain is produced clean, ready for the market. Thus, it needs no further processing.

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Egerton University has developed a portable sorghum thresher that threshes, polishes and winnows the grain at once. PHOTO | MICHAEL ORIEDO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

While developing the machine, a team of engineers led by Dr Njue Musa worked with farmers in Meru, Thraka Nthi, Kitui and Machakos counties.

The machine, which also threshes green grams, has a capacity of 300 to 400kg of threshed sorghum per hour which is equivalent to work done by 10 people in a day.

The machine has transformed sorghum threshing, which was traditionally seen as an activity for women. With the introduction of the machine, men and the youth have joined the women.

The machine comes equipped with a simple clutch for ease of starting. Women and the youth can easily crank the engine using the clutch mechanism.

The gadget wheels are slightly off set from the centre of gravity and therefore it’s easy to lift and move the machine around, the wheelbarrow way.

– Michael Oriedo


Use of acacia makes meat processing easy in the drylands

Cattle keepers in dryland areas now have an innovative technology for meat processing developed at the Egerton University.

The technology involves the utilisation of beef and Gum Arabic (Acacia senegal var kerensis), readily available in the drylands.

According to Prof Symon Mahungu and Mr Johnson Mwove, the innovation harnesses the water-binding capacity of Gum Arabic, a natural product that is approved by the Codex Alimentarius and the World Health Organisation for use in foods.

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Developed at Egerton University, this technology involves the utilisation of beef and Gum Arabic readily available in the drylands, for for meat processing. PHOTO | COURTESY

The technology was prototyped at the Castle Meat Products, Njoro, courtesy of Jamal Emmerich, the proprietor of the Castle Meats Factory.

The end result is a juicy meat product with high sensory attributes.

The extended meat product is prepared by marinating the raw meat with a curing solution containing the Gum Arabic.

The final product provides the consumer with soluble fibre and is always more than the initial raw beef.

An entrepreneur starting with 75kg of raw beef will end with a final product weighing 100kg.

– Michael Oriedo


Grading farm produce is simple

Lore Dida, an Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering graduate from the University of Eldoret, has come up with a simple machine used in grading farm produce.

The manually operated spiral grader can be used to grade onions, oranges, Irish potatoes, mangoes and tomatoes according to their sizes, hence it becomes easier for the farmer to determine prices.

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James Ochuka from the University of Eldoret demonstrates how the Manually Operated Spiral Grader works. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

On one end of the machine there is a compartment where the produce is placed regardless of the size.

The produce then goes through a spiral structure, with openings of varied dimensions increasing as the produce moves towards the end of the machine.

The produce drops into different collecting containers placed underneath, based on their sizes. “Using the machine, one person does the work that would otherwise require a number of people,” she says, noting the machine works with produce that is round or oval shaped.

– Brian Okinda


Hyacinth makes good animal feeds, manure

Jackson Oyugi is Nairobi biotechnology student, is using the troublesome water hyacinth to make livestock feeds and manure.

The invasive weed has reduced fish population and economic activities in Lake Victoria, with many calling for its eradication.

Oyugi, however, has found value in it.

He harvests the weed, dries it and grinds to make a cake used in industrial manufacture of animal feeds.

Ground water hyacinth, according to him, is rich in proteins, vitamins and energy among other nutrients, and can be mixed with other components to formulate nutritious livestock feeds.

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Elvis Ouma and Jackson Oyugi, both from the University of Nairobi display some of the products that Oyugi manufactures from water hyacinth that has colonised L Victoria. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The feeds benefits include increasing milk production by up to 15 per cent, boosting egg production in poultry, increasing carcass weight of both poultry and beef livestock as it cuts down cost of production.

Oyugi further uses the weed to make manure.

– Brian Okinda

Getting livestock feeds easy with app

Getting livestock feeds is increasingly becoming a difficult task for farmers, especially due to ongoing drought.

But University of Nairobi student Elvis Ouma have moved to ease farmers’ pain, albeit in different ways.

Ouma, a post graduate student in agribusiness at the university, has developed the M-Fodder app through which farmers can use to access fodder.

Both producers and buyers have to register their mobile phone numbers, and other details that include type of feed they are selling or wish to buy.

The app then keeps the details and whenever a registered farmer needs feeds, it sends a message with the details of what they require.

The app then links the farmer to the supplier, with Ouma and his team ensuring it is delivered.

With a current usage of about 2,000 farmers in Bomet and Githunguri, the system saves the farmer time and resources in acquiring feeds.

– Brian Okinda


Grain drying and storage all combined into one

George Onyinge of Maseno University’s School of Physical and Biological Sciences has come up with a solar dryer cum granary, helping to keep pests and aflatoxin at bay.

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George Onyinge from Maseno University explains how his innovative solar powered dryer-cum-granary works. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The gadget is made of wood, iron sheets, polythene paper and is painted black.

The sides of the granary/dryer are made of wood or plywood, which is painted black on the outside to absorb as heat as possible.

The iron sheets make up the roof of the structure, while the polythene paper lines the outside of the walls, acting as a buffer to reduce heat loss.

On a sunny day, the roof and the black walls will absorb the heat which will remain in circulation inside the granary drying the grains further stored in chambers inside.

“The structure works well as long as there is sunshine, is cost effective as it saves on the tasks of taking the grains in and out of the granary to dry it and is cheap to construct,” says Onyinge.

– Brian Okinda