About the Impact Center

This center was was developed to provide ECHO services to help those in East Africa who work with the poor more effectively, especially in the area of ​​agriculture and alternative methods. ECHO East Africa works as a basic training center giving technical assistance to help organizations and community development workers to work more effectively to reduce hunger.


Services

  • Conduct research and development on locally appropriate sustainable agriculture practices
  • Collaborate with, and provide networking opportunities for, development agencies working in East Africa
  • Provide garden displays and demonstrations of agricultural options
  • Provide agricultural resources for study
  • Demonstrate alternative training methods, including creative collaboration and exhibitions
  • The ECHO seed bank provides packaged seeds, as well as seed exchange opportunities and seed conservation education.
  • Training for home gardens (organic gardens, kitchen gardens, gardens, bags and manufacture of peat)
  • Training and visits to fruit tree nurseries
  • Organization of conferences, workshops, forums, exchange visits, and training in best practices
  • Network between farmers and other development partners
  • Conduct agricultural fairs
 

Contact:

Erwin Kinsey

ECHO East Africa Impact Center
P O Box 15205
Arusha Tanzania

eastafrica@echonet.org

 

East Africa Updates

GUEST POST: End Of Hay Baling Season - Lessons Learned 2017-05-02

ECHOcommunity member Anne Munene is a hay farmer, trainer, consultant and blogger in Nanyuki Kenya. This week's post is from her blog "Lukuai Hay Farm" originally posted here: https://lukuaihayfarm.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/end-of-hay-baling-season-lessons-learnt


We are close to the end our baling season and what a time we have had; with challenges that could fill a barn and lessons from sources that we didn’t expect. On a very personal level I have had tremendous support from the Lukuai Farm staff and neighbours, for which I am truly grateful.

In this post I mainly want to address the challenges in hay production especially at a time when there is a new hype that pesa iko kwa hay.  Ok, that if you have some idle land and plant “hay”, this will be better than betting.  You will get rich, and very fast while we are at it, with the best part being that you don’t have to sweat it out, it is easy money.

Aaah, I guess I stood on the wrong side of this mythical generous wind that blows money into hay producers, while still allowing them to live the easy life of lounging about.

Sorry to break the hay riches bubble, but commercial hay production is hard work, with start-up costs which can be draining and like all business ventures it has its risks.

While there are many “consultants” who are giving very rosy financial figures about hay earnings, it is important that prospective hay producers get realistic ground information to enable them to make informed decisions on if they should go into hay production.

Things to consider:

Region / Zone

In business they say location is key, and so it is in hay production – this determines the amount of rain you receive and consequently the species of grass or legume (e.g. Lucern) that you can grow.

Particularly for farms that are in ASALs (Arid and Semi-arid Lands), such as Lukuai Farm, you will not have the luxury of rain like farmers have in the Rift Valley, therefore management decisions must be geared towards keeping your soils fertile coupled with water conservation, so as to get the maximum yield even under low rainfall.

What is the condition of the land you are starting from?

Have you fenced?  You would consider this a rhetoric question especially to those with non-occupied farms: you need to fence, and with a good fence that can keep off small livestock e.g. sheep.

Don’t try to sugarcoat it with the excuse of: “Oh, there are no people around my area.” (Huko ni wapi? )  You need to fence if your intention is to become a commercial hay producer.

Is it virgin land? 

If yes, this is a big advantage because the soil fertility may be high (assuming the land is not eroded), but it can also be a disadvantage if you have to factor in the cost of opening land by uprooting tree stumps etc.  This is expensive, especially if the native bush is of the stubborn acacia family. I should know this as Lukuai Farm was (and part of it still is) inhabited by acacias.  

Picture of Lukuai Farm. On left there is very little growing, on right a healthy hay field.
Lukuai Farm -2011 vs Lukuai Farm – 2016

If land has previously been cultivated, you owe the previous occupiers a big cup of tea as they have saved you a huge expense and gained you valuable time.

Choice of Grass

Rhodes Grass hay remains the favourite species for dairy farmers and many commercial hay producers prefer to grow it because it is easily recognisable as the main hay brand. However, other grasses, e.g. Timothy, Star, Red Oat and Kikuyu Grass, are equally good and with good management can deliver as good returns.

Source of Seeds

A bag of Lukuai farm hay seeds
Lukuai Farm Hay Seeds

This can’t be over emphasized: know the source of your seeds and be careful that you don’t introduce undesirable plant species in your farm by sourcing seeds from unreliable vendors.

Method of planting

Depending on your location and the condition of the land, you could decide to establish a pure stand of grass, e.g. Rhodes Grass, or you could use minimum tillage and over seeding of Rhodes Grass on indigenous grasses.  The latter is especially useful in areas that are rainfall-challenged.

Machinery

Hay baling is 100% machine dependent, and it doesn’t come cheap, whether one outsources baling or uses their own machines.

The quality of hay depends, among other factors, on the stage of its harvesting.  Once the right leave:stem ratio stage has been attained (the early flowering/boot stage), the quality starts to decline with every day that the grass remains uncut.

So if you outsource baling, be on speed dial with your baling contractor.  And if your acreage demands that you be self-sufficient in machinery  – however long it takes – aim to get your own set(s) of baling machines.

Storage

Lukuai Farm Hay Barn

One of the biggest stretch of money-in-the-hay hype is that there are ready buyers, who will buy all your hay straight off the field and you don’t need to store it.  Call them brokers or traders, they will buy your hay (though not always) but because they know you don’t have a barn, you are totally disadvantaged in negotiating the price.

The reality is that hay is perishable, especially when exposed to rain, so if you don’t have a barn, you either sell it at whatever price or keep watching the skies.

Marketing

Why, why would you put effort to produce a crop and make no effort whatsoever in marketing? All too often I meet (or I am contacted by) hay producers, who are seeking help in marketing their hay. The irony is, many of them are waiting for the buyers (dairy farmers) to come to their farms, instead of them going to look for the dairy farmers.

If you are a hay producer and you are not talking directly to your market, hapo kuna shida.   

Consider that hay, whether in your store or as mature grass in the farm, is an inventory and like in any other business, inventories are expensive to hold and have associated risks. Your marketing objective should aim to give you the best price and also reduce the amount of time you hold the hay.


You can contact Anne, and read more of her blog posts on running a successful hay business on her blog: https://lukuaihayfarm.wordpress.com

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About East Africa

Food insecurity has increased significantly in East Africa due to the rapid increase in population, with an increase of 150% by 2050. Over 40% of children in East Africa are malnourished. The largest number of these children are orphaned and living in difficult circumstances. Most of the rural population lives in poverty, relying on a subsistence lifestyle. Some of the reasons for this situation include:

  • A High rate of loss of yield
  • Underdeveloped, weak markets, farmers lack the infrastructure to improve thier value chains
  • Minority farmers and herdsmen in the region, don't have adequate access to agricultural services, continuing education or access to formal training
  • Increased pressure forcing families to cultivate a little land, which results in land degradation and loss of sustainability in food production
  • Drought, especially in arid pastoralist areas.
  • Deforestation
  • Flooding
  • Climate

Where we are located

Drive to the North West 8 km from Arusha to Nairobi, after Ngaramtoni, University of Mount Meru, the camp two Chinese road, and after a huge hit on the left. Turn right at the sign of a large tablet of ECHO green / garden trees specific information and follow the dirt road a distance of 200 meters, passing a concrete wall on the left. Once the wall, turn left through the iron gate (there are small signs here of the garden) and forward through a tree nursery and office ECHO which has marked. If you come to via public transportation, bus riding from town to ngaramtoni; then another bus from ngaramtoni climbed up Radio News Special. Guards and staff will be happy to give you directions to the front door of the ECHO office in East Africa.

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