Ex-governor finds purpose in dairy
After losing his gubernatorial seat in 2013, former Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu found a new purpose in farming.
“After losing the seat, I saw it wise to teach Laikipia residents modern crop and dairy farming. I teach them how to embrace technology to boost farm operations,” Irungu said.
He has turned his farm in Kinamba, Laikipia West in to a centre of excellence where institutions, cooperative societies and individuals, come to learn best practices.
At the two-acre farm, the governor keeps dairy cows and also grows macadamia, mangoes, pineapples, arrow roots and sweet potatoes.
His mission is to raise a generation of food producers from Laikipia County.
“I have lived in Laikipia my entire life and I have seen people sleep hungry. That is why I decided that even if I am not the governor, I will be at the forefront in educating people on modern ways of farming,” he said.
Irungu was once a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture. From his previous docket, he gained a wealth of knowledge in agriculture which he is sharing with the locals.
“I have noticed that most farmers practise traditional farming which comes with wastages and low production levels. I am teaching the locals simple technologies like using drip irrigation to minimise water wastages,” he said.
With his crop farm well established, his focus is now on boosting his dairy enterprise.
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When The Smart Harvest and Technology visited the farm, he was busy putting up a structure that will accommodate 100 dairy cows.
His six dairy cows produce 200 litres of milk per a day. “The dairy sector is one of the businesses that has not been exploited and I want to lead by example. In the next few months, I plan to buy 100 dairy cows which I will also use to train people on best practise,” he said.
He has also set up a biogas system.
“Nothing goes to waste here. The cow dung is used for biogas. This has helped to cut down electricity costs. We no longer buy cooking gas,” says the former agricultural officer.
In this era of climate change, as a coping mechanism, he advises locals to plant drought-resistant crops which do well in the area.
“For example, with 100 macadamia trees, one can earn more than Sh50,000 per month,” he said.
Though he is not making millions, he says life in farming is relaxing and rewarding. “When I was the governor, I had no time to concentrate on farming which is my passion. Now I have all the time as well as take care of my family and give back to the community.”
So far, Irungu says the biggest challenges in the dairy sector is middle men who buy milk from farmers at a low price and later mix it with water then increase the cost.
To get over that hurdle, he sells the milk produced at the farm directly to milk processors. “Brokers are the biggest stumbling block in the value chain. They earn from the sweat of farmers. I would advise smallholders to form cooperatives so that they have a stronger bargaining power.”