When he secured a job in Nairobi, Titus Mwema was convinced his future and that of the young family he was raising back in Mweiga, Nyeri county, would be bright. But this was not to be. One morning six years ago, out of the blue, he was handed a retrenchment letter.
“I was hoping I would get a handsome payoff package but unfortunately I didn’t receive even a single coin,” he recalls. With his little savings, he ventured into pig farming after a stint at strawberry farming, on his four-acre piece of land back in Mweiga.
However, Mwema soon realised that pigs were massive feeders and thus needed a fortune to maintain them, he had to search for a viable feeding solution. The search for an answer took him to the Internet world. “I wondered how farmers in arid and semi-arid parts of the world like Australia were feeding their herds of animals.
Out of curiosity, I searched ‘fodder in Australia’ and stumbled onto hydroponic fodder,” says Mwema. He had not expected his search to lead him to a breakthrough and turn his life around.
“The tutorials I got from the Internet used automatic machinery to make the fodder, but I adapted the same using manual means and was very lucky to come up with a commendable end product,” he says of his road to coming up with the feed.
After several months of trials, Mwema was now satisfied he had the skills to handle the technology. “I use barley seeds and a few chemicals, which I put under controlled conditions to come up with the fodder,” he explains.
After the success of his relentless efforts, he decided to make an even bolder move and teach other farmers about hydroponic fodder. The technique was a godsend gift to the farmer as it not only provided a solution for feeding the pigs, but also enabled him to venture into dairy and poultry farming.
In addition, the technique also proved to be a vital source of revenue for the farmer as he charges about Sh1,000 to teach others about the feed, which is not only more nutritious, but also grows fast; about seven days.
He also opened a small shop which stocked the supplies needed for the hydroponic fodder such as barley and some chemicals. “Many farmers seek this technology. I have clientele from as far as Rwanda and Uganda.
They pay me Sh1,000 for the training and demonstration. In a day I receive over five farmers in search for the technique,” notes Mwema. He explains that the money the participants of his trainings pay him also contributes to membership at a hotel and training centre he is building on his farm.
“I want to make my farm a one-stop centre for farmers in search of knowledge and I will invite various lecturers with agricultural knowledge to educate the farmers during weekends on new, trending issues in global agriculture,” he says.
On his shamba, Mwema has five dairy cows, over 200 sheep, over 70 pigs and 200 local chicken. He has also allocated one acre to strawberries and a fishpond, which also doubles as a water reservoir for his napier grass. Mwema notes, “As a farmer, I have learnt that for one to succeed you should diversify.
This mitigates against unforeseen risks involved in the various farming processes.” This, he stresses to all the farmers who visit his farm for training, as diversification is made simpler with a reliable supply of animal feed, thanks to hydroponic fodder.