In Summary
  • And he is not your ordinary farmer. Chemirmir is a graduate of Collins County College in Texas, US, where he studied computer science. He lived in the US for five years before returning to Kenya in 2009 after the bank he was working for shut down.
  • Churchill Kitavi, an agronomist from Kenya Seed, says farmers need to understand the climate of their areas to be able to select the right seeds for hay production.
  • The only time he was tempted to try maize farming was in 2012, and it was a big mistake. He planted 40 acres, only for his crop to be destroyed by the Lethal Necrosis Disease.

A drive around Barina village in Rongai sub-county, Nakuru, leaves one in near shock.

The rains disappeared this season as soon as they started, thus, many farmers are at risk of losing their maize and bean crops for the second year in a row.

On one piece of land, though, the story is different. Over 20 people can be seen working on the farm that is full of Boma Rhodes grass.
Noah Chemirmir, 36, is among them, and one would mistake him for any other worker harvesting the grass.

Chemirmir, however, is the farmer behind the farm named Sochon, which sits on 530 acres, 250 of which he has put under seed production while on the rest he grows the Boma Rhodes grass for making hay.

He is contracted by Kenya Seed Company to grow Boma Rhodes seeds and he sells hay to livestock farmers.

On one acre, he plants 5kg of seeds and harvests an average of 60kg that Kenya Seed buys at Sh333 per kilo.

An acre gives him an average of 100 to 120 bales of hay. Unlike maize and beans, the common crops grown in the area, Boma Rhodes does not need a lot of attention and it is hardy, Chemirmir says.

“I mix seeds with fertiliser when planting using a tractor, spray to curb weeds after two weeks and wait to harvest after four months,” he says, adding that the crop is harvested about four times before it is uprooted and replanted.

SHUT DOWN

And he is not your ordinary farmer. Chemirmir is a graduate of Collins County College in Texas, US, where he studied computer science.
He lived in the US for five years before returning to Kenya in 2009 after the bank he was working for shut down.

For many people, returning from abroad marks a beginning of a confused life as they try to acculturate themselves to the Kenyan life.
But Chemirmir says when he returned to Kenya, he already knew what he was going to do – farming.

His farming story started in 1999 when the area, which is semi-arid, was hit by a prolonged drought causing loss of livestock.

“In 2000, I farmed 20 acres of hay, just to try if I would make some money from the livestock farmers who had no fodder,” he says, adding, “To my surprise, I sold all the hay as people feared losing their animals to drought.”

He continued farming, though on small-scale on the family land, until 2004 when he left for the US.

Losing his job in the US years later was a blessing in disguise as it gave him a chance to return home and grow grass.

Upon his return, he cleared 80 acres of the vast family land and invested Sh800,000, part from his savings that he had accumulated while in the US and the rest came from charcoal that he made from trees which he cleared on the land.

“I harvested around 10,000 bales and sold at Sh150 each,” he says.

Encouraged, he planted 70 acres in 2011, only to harvest Sh500,000 loss. “The problem was poor quality seeds which I had sourced from a farmer,” he regrets, but adds that he learnt his lesson.

He did not give up; he went to look for certified seeds at Kenya Seed, where he also enquired if he could become their seed producer.

Initially, he says, Kenya Seed did not take him seriously due to his age, and the fact that hay farming is often associated with old people.

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