Talking Hay and Agriculture

As a manager of a hay farm, I am increasingly seeking and eager to engage with people who are outliers in our agriculture system.

This is borne out of the realization that hay farming is not a stand alone activity, but its success or failure is inextricably linked to the rest of the agriculture sector.

Being free from the baggage and hindsight that is commonly found in policy papers, research documents or latest directives, the outliers have very pragmatic and market oriented views on agriculture.

Though they can sometimes stretch things – especially with the excellent spreadsheets showing profits and how telephone farming and apps can be a panacea for most problems in agriculture – I find it very illuminating to listen to their perspectives from the prism of their current or former careers.

What’s not to like when I listen to an engineer, a data cruncher, mama mboga, teacher or an artist, who have sunk their feet into farming? All these people draw me out from the echo chamber of agriculturalists, where conversations are often based on policy papers, research and directives.

But have we been saying anything different? Other than the change of venues, the sponsoring donors and the branded merchandise, do we have results that can show the value of these conversations?

Let me own up by saying that on my own volition I participated in conferences (pre-Covid), surveys for research and interviews until fatigue set in.

So a lot of requests nowadays are met with – No Thanks.

The sore point which triggered my fatigue was when I had professionals (academia) come to the farm and I felt that some lacked a level of depth and intellectual curiosity to an extent that they conducted their interviews by rote, a matter of ticking boxes with a stopwatch at hand.

I am careful of how I allocate my time and I would be hard pressed to give anyone more than an hour. But for my input, I look for a quid pro quo in which I will be made and left better by having a robust exchange of ideas ranging from fodder, feeding systems, cattle breeds and even crossing over to tomatoes, coffee, markets or soil testing. 

If it is agriculture – bring it on.

Ok, let’s squeeze in 1 minute for politics – we are Kenyans. Done.

It literally pushed me to the grass whenever I would see a researcher opening his/her laptop for a document to enhance a conversation or promise to send me a link for a very 101 document in agriculture. 

I fully appreciate people referring me to informative papers and journals.  But this does not justify a below par performance with an at-your-fingertips agriculture basics conversation.

I expect your presence to enrich me, so as not to proverbially remain with my head buried in grass. This is not asking for too much. It is a very bare minimum, and more so for people who are from the agriculture pool.

My other pet peeve was the constant reference of how things are done in other countries.

Hallo, I am in Laikipia North and unless you are telling me about private or community initiatives in Baringo or Wajir – ASALs counties with similar rainfall challenges, access (or lack of) extension services with me and the initiatives are not donor or government funded – see, I don’t want to call them projects – it is futile to forever dwell on countries that have subsidized agriculture, enforceable standards of farm inputs, extension services on call and protected agriculture markets.

Of course there are lessons we can learn from these countries e.g.value of  mechanization and large scale production – but these are two items we have unfortunately made non-starters by subdivision of land in our once food production zones.

Oh and while we are at this – could we move on how the fodder fortunes of ASALs will change with dams and irrigation? Pesa iko wapi? 

In my opinion the economically viable and scalable game changer in ASALs is proper management of our soils – to keep them fertile so that even with the minimal rainfall they can sustain fodder. If we then leverage it with good herd management, we are in Eden.

I am aware that totally isolating myself from the happenings on the current events in fodder production can lead to my stagnation. I am therefore in social media forums on dairy/ fodder through which I have had the privilege of being visited at farm by some all round and very engaging agriculturalists. I am fortunate to call some of my mentors.  Asanteni. 

Also there are some professional acquaintances that tumetoka bali and we yield to each other when input is needed. Thanks to Mburu (KDB) and Butichi (Livestock Laikipia) – on 11/9/2020 I participated in a survey about fodder by the Tegemeo Institute.

This post is not for preempting the content of the survey, but I was candid about the potential of fodder production in ASALs and also the challenges facing the small holder hay farmer. I look forward to knowing the findings.

For purchase of quality Rhodes Grass Hay, contact the blog writer:

Anne Tel: 0725-520627


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