By Jared Oundo
With the increased unemployment crisis in our country, the youth are starting businesses to sustain their livelihoods. One of the most profitable ventures is in agriculture, most importantly the production of hay.
With the effects of climate change biting in most parts of the country, hay is steadily becoming one of the most important fodder crop in Kenya; Boma Rhodes grass being the commonly grown variety. Hay production as a farming activity has been picking pace mostly in the semi-arid areas of Kenya like Narok and Laikipia. It requires little water or rainfall, minimal management work and maturity is in less than four months.
Globally, hay farming dates back to the 1700’s when mechanization of agriculture was not discovered. It was a dreaded chore since all work was done by hands in the pioneer years. A sickle or scythe was used to hand cut it and later raked with a wooden rake or fork.
Over the years, equipment used in hay production have evolved from the simple hand sickle to the modern equipment that can be attached to a tractor to achieve more in a short span of time.
Before planting, the land is ploughed with a Chisel plough to allow for percolation of water in land preparation. Harrowing should be done once or twice to attain the required fineness depending on the condition of the soil. Grass seeds are broadcasted in the farming land. Sowing should be done before the onset of short or long rains; January – February and August – September respectively to prevent weeds from overtaking germinating seeds. Drilling is preferred to ensure seeds are buried and distributed uniformly and others are not left on the surface to die.
A Mower is used to cut the grass. Hay rakes drawn or attached to a tractor gather and roll the partially dry hay into windrow allowing the underside of the hay to dry.
Alternatively, a drum cutter can be used. It organizes the hay into lines for easy baling. A Baler functions by compressing the cut and raked crop into compact bales that are easy to handle, transport and store.
TingA offers mechanization solutions for all hay production activities, among them training workshops that equip farmers with the skills needed to better production.
Why Hay Farming?
• Productivity – Hay making has been praised for high yields.
• Profitable – It is advisable to have more land under hay to get more profits. A bale of hay averages Ksh 300. Many youth have ventured into hay farming because of the profits and unemployment
• Hay has high levels of crude protein and digestible nutrients good for digestive system of cattle.
TingA is a project of Quipbank Trust Limited that employs the use of modern day technology channels to allow farmers access farming mechanization. One of these being it’s online based platforms that enable farmers to register and order for services as groups or individuals using hand gadgets such as mobile phones, tablet or computers. This accessibility enables even small scale farmers to enjoy farming equipment on short term leases.
TingA Community Model Concept works by allowing farmers to register for mechanization services as groups through already established units such as NGOs, Chama, SACCO, Co-operative Societies, or Churches.
(The writer is the Lead Consultant at Jubilant Stewards of Africa)