SABC News - A farmer in central Kenya is changing farming :Friday 5 July 2013

A farmer in central Kenya is changing farming

Friday 5 July 2013 17:16

Sarah Kimani

The method of planting on water called hydroponics has been practised for hundreds of years in countries is new in Kenya.

The method of planting on water called hydroponics has been practised for hundreds of years in countries is new in Kenya.(REUTERS)

Kenyan analytical Chemist Peter Chege has started an age old method of planting on water, for the first time in his country. He plants vegetables and fodder for his livestock without soil. The method is called hydroponics.


Chege has made money selling vegetables grown this way. He is also teaching those interested at a fee. At a corner of his farm in central Kenya, Chege watches as his piglets scramble for a meal of freshly harvested barley.


His vegetable farm is inside his greenhouse. There small pink, green, blue and orange buckets hang suspended with strings from the roof. In another corner more buckets are perched onto of what looks like wooden benches – there green tomatoes peep from the healthy trees. Still in the green house, silver trays are line up at another corner, some have what looks like a carpet of green grass sprouting – this is barley. 


Chege says, "Hydroponics is not a new concept, it has been practised from the 1930s. What has been lacking is the hydroponics nutrients because if you want to import, it is very expensive. So I did research on how to make hydroponic nutrients for growing all crops."


He says without soil and with the help of the nutrients his crops had more yields and without using a lot of energy to get nutrients from the soil, the plants mature faster and are more nutritious. He says the hydroponics method is economical and conserves more water.


Chege adds: "It grows from fodder to seed and it takes six days. Conventionally, it takes 12 weeks and it is very nutritious. For the tomatoes it will produce three to four times more fruit."


The analytical chemist says he has no regrets for quitting his job at a pharmaceutical company to concentrate on farming. 

I have heard good things about it

Everyday farmers keen to know how the system works and those ready to try it out in their farms go to Chege and learn first-hand from him. 


Roseline Gitaiga who keeps pigs says, "I am convinced I want to go try out and see. I have heard good things about it and I want to go try out and see how the pigs improve when I feed this versus feeding them regular feeds."


Chege has moved his business a notch higher – he now builds hydroponic systems for interested farmers. He has so far installed well over 70 systems at home and across the borders in Uganda and soon in Rwanda.


And in a continent where farmers have for years relied on rain fed agriculture, Chege says this could be the solution to food insecurity. The system has proved a success in the United States and Australia and Chege is looking to lead Kenya and the region the hydroponics way.

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