Eldoret Technical Training Institute farm in Eldoret. The farm is used as a training facility. [Kevin Tuno, Standard]

When Eldoret Technical Training Institute set up a pig farm, ten years ago, locals at Kapseret village were not a happy lot because they felt this was culturally wrong.

Many were of the view that cattle keeping is their main stay activity because cows give them milk which is later converted to Mursik (traditional sour milk). Pigs on the other hand, had no economic value, so they thought. But the institution steered on with its project.

Today, the farm is a centre of excellence on integrated farming with focus on pig keeping. Smart Harvest got a chance to sample the 8-acre farm located off Eldoret-Kapsabet road. Currently, they have more than 1,200 pigs, which are the prolific Large white, Landrace and Duroc. They also keep more than 200 cattle both for beef and milk under zero grazing.

"This farm started as a demonstration plot for students but slowly it transformed into a project to sensitise locals on diversification. Most people are fixated with the traditional cattle and cereal farming the region is known for. But in these harsh times, that is a risky affair," says Evans Kiplagat, the institution's farm supervisor.

The institution has demonstrated to the locals that unlike cattle, pigs are low maintenance, low risk and have high returns.

To minimise costs, they feed the pigs on locally available feeds that are less expensive, but can be nutritionally complete when properly prepared.

Kiplagat notes that pigs, can be fed using only kitchen scraps from a family's household. The swine's nutritional needs comprise water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

For hygiene purposes and to keep diseases at bay, movement into and out of the farm is highly monitored and controlled.

"Outsiders are known to come with disease causing organisms, that is why we limit their entry into the farm. And now with the Covid-19 restrictions, visits are not allowed at all."

Prior to the Covid-19 restrictions, every visitor to the farm whether on foot or on a vehicle had to pass through a sanitisation booth.

On marketing

The institution has secured a deal with Farmers' Choice and they also sell the animals to individual farmers from as far as Githungiri in Central.

"We sell a mature pig at Sh40,000 and in a good month we sell over 100 of them. That is good money for us, if you consider the feeds they have eaten and the duration they have taken to mature," says Kiplagat.

The beauty of pigs he observes, is that they farrow thrice a year with a litter comprising between 9-18 piglets. Within six months they are ready for market fetching good returns.

To maintain the high breeds, they use Artificial Insemination technology both in the dairy and pig sections. They have a vet who does the procedures.

"All our sows are sold after being served to save farmers that headache," he notes.

To supplement their income they also keep dairy cows, 100 different breeds of trained dogs, poultry among them geese, turkey, chicken, ducks and guinea fowls.

They sell mature dogs at Sh20,000 (Chihuahua) and Sh100,000 (Doberman). They also breed German shepherd, Greyhound, Rottweiler, Great Dane among others each with its kennel where they are trained, fed and groomed.

No chemical fertiliser used

At the horticulture section, they use drip irrigation and practice organic farming.

"The slurry from our dairy and pig units after going through the bio digester is directed to the farm to grow cucumber, broccoli, a range of vegetables and tissue-culture bananas among others. Organic farming also helps to regulate the soil acidity," he says.

The farm has employed several farm hands and they have pig plans for the future.

"We plan to acquire more land for green house farming and put more investment to meet the growing demands," he says.

But all these plans are on hold, as they wait for the Covid-19 pandemic, which has slowed down business, to end.