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Mukuyu Farm

Mukuyu Farm is a 20-hectare commercial farm located 220 kilometres south of Nairobi in the southern Ukambani drylands. It is watered by Kibwezi River, allowing irrigation of vegetables on 1.5 hectares and mango trees on 7 hectares.

Other activities include tree-growing, mostly of mukau (Melia volkensii) and neem (Azadirachta indica) trees, small-scale sheep rearing and beekeeping. There is a tree nursery, fodder production for the sheep and compost making.

Zero grazing of sheep. Two sheep races are kept in the farm; the local Masai sheep and Dorper.

A special feature of Mukuyu Farm is its low pressure irrigation system, with inexpensive water storage tanks. These are simple earth embankments with a plastic liner, linked for irrigation with Kenyan-made PE pipes. Their sizes are flexible, and such basins can contain anything between 30 - 100,000 liters of water.

Jan Vandenabeele, the Executive Director of our mother company Better Globe Forestry (BGF), is one of the directors of Kibwezi Mukuyu Farm Ltd. Its activities are independent of BGF, but there are synergies to exploit, notably regarding training opportunities for farmers in drylands.

BGF has a programme for capacity building for farmers in the buffer zones around its plantations, and farmers by nature are always on the lookout for innovations useful for their particular circumstances. Not everything the farmers find on Mukuyu Farm suits them, but among the range of technologies on offer, inevitably some will interest them. Easy examples are the different drought resistant species of fodder plants for livestock, the use of bio-pesticides based on neem, and modern beekeeping.

Simple techniques like mulching to limit evaporation, stressing mango trees for out-of-season production and creation of impenetrable hedges with indigenous acacias are all appealing features for visitors willing to learn.

Another synergy for BGF is that Mukuyu Farm is a research ground for BGF's activities. An example is the occurrence of a stem cancer on mukau, which after analysis proved to be of bacterial origin and treatable. Similarly, other small issues contribute to a continuous incremental improvement for BGF's plantation management. The synergies also work the other way round, as Mukuyu Farm has benefited from the continuous quality improvement system as practised in BGF.

Mukuyu Farm aims at zero tolerance for erosion and truly is a model farm regarding technical answers in an ecologically daunting environment. The farm employs 12 people and seasonal labour when required, and as such contributes to employment in the Kenyan countryside.

Horticulture on terraces. Makarikari (Panicum coloratum var mararikariense), a good fodder grass and quite drought-resistant.
Construction of water basins used for drip irrigation. Each of these basins can store 50,000 litres of water. Plastic sheets are used to contain the water.
A view of a smaller water storage basin (capacity 25,000 litres)
Five year old mango trees watered by drip irrigation. All mango trees have been grafted, and most of the grafts are of the Apple variety, of excellent quality and good for export.
Sun-drying of tomatoes on the farm.
Neem trees.