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Towards changing the face of the ranching subsector in Taita-Taveta
Towards changing the face of the ranching subsector in Taita-Taveta
Towards changing the face of the ranching subsector in Taita-Taveta
Towards changing the face of the ranching subsector in Taita-Taveta

To many, modern ranching might sound like a very lucrative undertaking. However, modeled along diversification which is the major way of maximizing profits, ranching turns out to be one of the most
involving and challenging investments that calls for both financial muscle and the relevant know-how.
 

In fact for engineer  Wambugu Kariuki who quit teaching at the University of Nairobi to venture into ranching, the investment becomes more tricky when the ranch is located in an area that is perennially
dry and teeming with wildlife such as Izera Ranch  in Taita-Taveta county, in which he is the director.
 

The area is dotted with elephant dung, acacia trees, reddish brown anthills and tufts of dry grass.
The farm is like an oasis in the middle of an area that is perennially hot and dry.
 

John Ndigha, who is in charge of the farming section of the ranch, conducts us around the horticultural unit which is booming with both sweet  and water melons as well as a variety of vegetables and fruits.
 

“We have ringed 60 acres of the ranch with an electric fence to keep off wild animals especially elephants which have a voracious appetite for melons”, says Ndigha.

The farmer says the electric fence cost about Sh2.5 m and gets power from a solar energy system installed in the ranch.
The solar system also provides energy for powering the pumps installed in the six boreholes drilled at the vast ranch.
“Out of the six boreholes, three produced fresh water while the rest are salty. However, contrary to what people believe, salty water from the boreholes cannot be condemned wholesale as it can be used to water the livestock. It only becomes a problem when used to irrigate fruits such as melons as it affects the usual sugary taste of the fruits,” says Ndigha.
He says the  horticultural unit, being part of the ranch, gets manure from the livestock, saving on cost of buying fertilizers.
“Manure is the best as it improves the soils quality by holding soil grains together and hence helping in retaining water,” says Ndigha.
The farmer says use of drip irrigation has proved very effective for the model farm, with yields of melons reaching up to 1 tonne for a single harvest.
“A tonne of sweet melons goes for between Sh80,000 to Sh100,000 while the same weight of water melons fetches between Sh 35,000 and Sh 40,000”, says Ndigha.                                                                           

 

high returns
 

The farmer says returns of up to Sh200,000 for a single harvest for melons has been realized, excluding other fruits and vegetables grown in the model farm.
According to  Wambugu the director of  the 20,000 acre ranch, the farm has 2,000 head of cattle and 800 sheep and goats.
“We are modeling the ranch to become a center of employment and wealth creation and currently we have 100 workers. We intend to employ more workers now that the drought that we had been experiencing is about to come to and end”, says Wambugu.
The rancher says investing in a ranching project in a vast arid area teaming with wildlife is not a walk in the park.
“The major challenges we have had to contend with is supplying water in the ranch and dealing with marauding game,” says Wambugu.
 “Even though our water is meant for our livestock and our crops we have been forced to set up three shallow water pans to  provide water for the wildlife especially elephants, otherwise they might wreak
havoc in the ranch and farm,” says Wambugu.
The rancher pointed out that so far they have a number of cows which were devoured by lions while jumbos have destroyed two water tanks and wreaked pipes when searching for water in the ranch.
Wambugu says they have also encountered problems with poacher’s snares which sometimes end up ensnaring the livestock in the ranch.
We plan to modernize the ranch by setting up a fruit , meat and milk processing units. Diversification in the ranches is the way to go if these livestock establishments are to be sustainably managed”, says
Wambugu, adding: “Kenya’s demand for red meat currently stands at 540,000 metric tones annually, a clear indication that there is a vibrant meat market in the country.

The rancher says processing of livestock products such as milk, hides and skins will also boost the economic potential of the ranches in the country and Taita-Taveta county in particular.

Other plans on the cards towards the modernization of the ranch include the putting up of a modern hotel and an airstrip that will serve both local travelers and tourists visiting Tsavo area that has a
rich tourism potential.
 

“Kenya’s demand for red meat currently stands at
540,000 metric tones annually, a clear indication that there is a
vibrant meat market in the country,”- rancher Wambugu Kariuki

 



captions: 1.Rancher Wambugu Kariuki enjoys a close encounter with his charges at Izera      ranch

   2.Livestock drinking water at Izera

   3:An unidentified man at a watering point at the ranch

 

photos:i-MPACT PICTURES

 

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