People Daily

Visual challenge is no challenge for this farmer

Wangari Njuguna @PeopleDailyKe

Anthony King’ori emerged the best farmer in the category of the people with disabilities in agriculture during this year’s National Farmers Awards . King’ori, who is visually impaired, took the first position in Physically Challenged Persons in Agriculture 2017 category after trouncing 26 other contestants from various counties nominated to compete for the top prize in this special category.

The second prize went to Kimwa Farm (Francis Kimani) of Laikipia county while Alice Mukami of Murang’a county was third. The 53-year-old farmer— trading as Anwa Farm — from Kanyange village in Othaya Nyeri county practises mixed farming, which he says has been a major source of in come for his family.

On the 1.8-acre piece of land, he has kept dairy cows, planted coffee bushes, tissue culture banana and has horticulture garden. The farm is located barely a kilometre from Othaya town. King’ori, who was once an agriculture teacher at Equator High School in Thika town, bought it about five years ago.

He says he has deep-rooted passion for farming following the footsteps of his father who was also a renowned farmer. “When I was a small boy, I used to plant cabbages, which I would later sell and get pocket money for my upkeep while in school,” he says. The farmer was not born blind; he lost his sight in 2011, but this did not dampen his spirit to do what he likes best.

The blind farmer with one of his cows. Photo/WANGARI NJUGUNA

Coffee farming forms the strongest pillar of his enterprise and he has been getting good returns out of it.

He has 400 coffee trees. Putting the best farming practices has helped him get the best out of the coffee crop as one coffee tree produces at least 12kg .

“I want the production to get to 20kg per tree. People have a perception that coffee no longer pays, but given the right quality and quantity of inputs, one is assured of getting clean money,” he says.

Though he cannot see, King’ori, who has employed two farm hands, plays a supervisory role in everything done in the farm to ensure all goes well.

He is keen on the coffee crop when it comes to pruning, which he says is vital in determining the production. He usually touches the branches to tell if they have been pruned properly. On dairy farming, he started off with three cows, which he had embryo transfers done on them. Their calves are months old waiting to mature.

“I had embryo transfer done on the three cows to get the right breed for higher milk production,” he says. The three cows give him at least 20 litres each and he sells the milk in nearby milk bars after he withdrew from a local farmers’ cooperative following a decline in price from Sh42 to Sh35 per litre. The milk trader gives him Sh40 per litre.

“I am aiming for not less than 200 litres of milk per day,” he says. To ensure ample supply of fodder for the animals throughout the year, King’ori has a silage storage with a capacity of 12 tonnes. He has also installed a biogas digester and the power generated is used for cooking in the house.

Unlike other farmers who cut green bananas and take them directly to the market, King’ori ripens his bananas after which he supplies to the neighbouring schools, as the returns are higher. “If you take green bananas bunches to the market, the much you can get is Sh300 but when they are ripe it can fetch four times more,” he explains.

To King’ori, this is a lucrative business venture that he cannot afford to let go. And when he does not have enough bananas at his farm, he sources from the neighbourhood. The agribiz has, however, not been without challenges, especially horticulture.

He says fluctuating market prices at times leads to high losses to farmers. The cost of farm inputs is also high and this subsequently increases the cost of production. Despite running a successful farm, King’ori did not expect to win the top award at the national level. “It came as a surprise.

Even when the assessors came to my farm, I told them not to set any special conditions for me. I told them just take it the way it was,” said King’ori. However, the award has given him motivation to advance his farming to a higher level so as to retain the trophy in future.

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