In Summary
  • Kajiado County is primarily a semi-arid region with numerous challenges that include desert vegetation, inadequate rains and a sunny weather, all which make it rough for both crop and livestock farmers.
  • As the name suggests, this is a technology that helps in mulching, therefore, controls weeds, prevents soil erosion, reduces evaporation and keeps diseases at bay.
  • Plastic mulch technology cuts water use by reducing evaporation, which means the crop gets 100 per cent of the water required.
  • With plastic mulch technology, there is firmness in the soil on a particular bed and nutrients are relayed to where they are needed and less water is used as irrigation is targeted to the spot where it is needed.

Huge swathes of dry land stretch yonder as one traverses Isinya in Kajiado County, some 60km from Nairobi.

The county is primarily a semi-arid region with numerous challenges that include desert vegetation, inadequate rains and a sunny weather, all which make it rough for both crop and livestock farmers.

But despite the tough conditions, crops are flourishing and livestock is thriving, thanks to innovative farming methods.

One of the places to visit for lessons on successful farming in a dry area is a three-and-a-half acre farm located some 7km from Isinya town along the Namanga Road.

The farm named Soil Ripe Ltd uses plastic (poly) mulch technology to grow tomatoes and capsicum, each on an acre, for the local market.

They also grow bullet chilli on half-acre and African bird’s eye chilli on an acre using the technology for sale in Britain, Germany, Norway and France.

“As the name suggests, this is a technology that helps in mulching, therefore, controls weeds, prevents soil erosion, reduces evaporation and keeps diseases at bay,” says Hilda Wangari, the owner of the farm.

They have been using the technology for the last two years, saving immensely on costs associated with weeding, water use and diseases.

“Our savings while using the technology are about 50 per cent. The plastic mulches are specially designed not to absorb heat which may harm the crops,” explains Wangari, adding the paper imported from China, which cost them Sh300,000, is hard to tear and can serve for at least three years before wearing out.

Farm manager Moses Odhiambo says many farmers use grass for mulching, which while it does the work, it does not guarantee better water retention, especially in semi-arid places like Isinya.

CONTROLS SPLASH EROSION, DISEASES

“Plastic mulch technology cuts water use by reducing evaporation, which means the crop gets 100 per cent of the water required. We learnt the technology from Amiran and is widely used in Israel and Asia.”

Through the method, soil erosion is also controlled since the ground is covered and, therefore, no splashing of water occurs. With no splashing, the spread of diseases from one crop to the other is minimised.

“The technology also promotes the right spacing as both the drip and the plastic mulch paper have the right and equal spacing,” says Odhiambo.

To lay out the technology, Odhiambo explains that the land is thoroughly ploughed, turning over the soil followed by harrowing to make the soil texture fine as a good tilth is suitable for seedbed.

Thereafter, uniformly compacted and fertile beds are then created manually or by a tractor, followed by racking then laying down of the drip lines and the mulch paper which is specially designed to match with the drip’s spacing.

“The plastic mulch paper is punched depending on the crop, which dictate distance from one hole to another, but average is 30cm or 45cm. The ground is then wetted awaiting transplanting,” says Wangari.

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