Heavy steel gates of various colours line up both sides of Kahawa West-Kiambu Road on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Driving along the road, one is carried away by the serene environment that is a blend of urban and country living.
Any discerning person would want to live in such a quiet neighbourhood, away from the clutter in some parts of Nairobi.
It is in this suburb that Seeds of Gold team meets Joyce Nyingi at her home, about a kilometre from Kamiti Maximum Prison.
A black steel gate ushers us into her 50 by 200 feet compound. In it stands her three-bedroom bungalow. But that is not all.
The mother of five keeps 15 Friesian dairy cows and a bull, 350 broilers, 50 kienyeji layers, five dairy goats and some ducks.
The agribusiness has earned her many admirers. Most wonder how the former clerk farms on such a small piece of land.
Nyingi has constructed a one storey pen that hosts her cows, goats, chickens and ducks.
The cowshed takes the entire ground floor while the chicken, goats and ducks occupy the upper floor.
“I went for the storey structure because of the size of my land. I was passionate about farming but I did not have money to buy a bigger piece of land. This, however, did not stop me.” The farmer used iron sheets, wire mesh, wood and cement to construct the structure that measures about 27 by 40 feet.
“I hired an experienced carpenter who constructed the entire structure that cost me Sh130,000, including labour and materials,” says Joyce, adding the artisan does repairs, extensions and other maintenance works.
She keeps both the cows and goats under zero-grazing. “The pen has enough space that allows them to exercise. There is also a milking shed for the cows.”
Every morning, Nyingi thoroughly cleans her cowshed with water and detergent to maintain cleanliness as well as minimise chances of her cows being infected with diseases such as mastitis.
The farmer says she keeps the bull to serve some of the cows. “I do not allow the bull to mate with its mother or sister. I, thus, use artificial insemination where I get Friesian semen from Central Artificial Insemination Station in lower Kabete, Nairobi.”
She used to feed her cows on napier grass that she obtained from farms in Kiambu. But after attending farmers’ field days, she has been improving on feeds.
“I now feed them on maize germ, which I make by grinding and mixing dry maize and maize cobs. I also give them hay and napier grass.”
She has planted maize at a neighbouring farm from which she will start making silage after picking the knowledge from a fellow farmer.
“I learned about making silage from a farm in Mukurwe-ini. I am ready to start in about a month’s time when my maize crop will be ready.”
For 13 years, the farmer worked as a clerk at Mboi-Kamiti Land-Buying Company earning Sh32,000.
She lost her job in 2008 and tried getting employed in vain. It is then that she went into farming.
She started with one Friesian cow as she was not convinced that agribusiness would earn her enough money.
Then she soon noticed that there was a ready market for milk in the neighbourhood. She gradually increased her herd to the current 15. She says she still has space for four more cows as her shed can host up to 20 animals.
She milks six cows getting at least 80 litres a day. The farmer delivers the produce to Ndumberi Dairy Cooperative Society selling a litre at between Sh30 and Sh37 earning Sh90,000 a month.
She is yet to start earning from the goats that she feeds sweet potato vines as well as hay.
Away from the animals, Nyingi keeps an average of 350 broilers at any time making Sh52,000 every three months. She sells the birds to hotel operators and traders in Nairobi at between Sh400 and Sh800 each.
She also has a small vegetable garden where she grows spinach, sukuma wiki (collard green) and capsicum that she sells to neighbours earning Sh500 daily.
While she uses waste from her animals to grow vegetables, the bulk goes to generate biogas that she uses for cooking and lighting her home saving up to Sh5,000 a month in electricity bills.
The biogas is located at a section of the farm and is called Blu Frame and comprises of two plastic tanks, an inlet and an outlet.
However, farming on a small plot comes with different challenges.
“I keep the goats in a storey house which means when I want to let them out, I must carry them physically from the structure, but this is a small price to pay. Then one must maintain high standard of hygiene to avoid diseases.”
HOW TO UTILISE SPACE
Geoffrey Kahuho of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management, Kenya says a small piece of land should never be a hindrance to urban dwellers who want to farm.
“What farmers need to know is how to arrange the structures to fully utilise space. Building storey structures helps to maximise land use.”
According to him, people who own small pieces of land but use every inch of them are more likely to earn more from agribusiness than those who own huge chunks of land.
Pauline Mbondo, Chief Officer In-Charge of Agriculture and Livestock in Machakos County, says urban dwellers have taken a backseat waiting to be fed by rural residents yet they can generate food and wealth from their tiny parcels of land.
However, she advises that one should ensure their animals are comfortable in the sheds they construct to keep diseases at bay and make them more productive.
“The best way to farm in urban areas is to concentrate on what one is passionate about. If it is livestock, keep cows or chicken. This will help you plan your farm better but there is no harm in diversifying to earn more.”
She advises farmers keeping goats in urban areas to give them space to exercise as they are generally playful. “Livestock, like humans need some movements for physical fitness.”