Grass brings grace, says Noah Chemirmir who makes Sh20 million a year. Noah Chemirmir makes Sh20 million a year from selling hay and seeds to Kenya Red Company
When he left for the United States in search of greener pasture 15 years ago, little did he know that he had left a gold mine back at home.
Noah Chemirmir, 36, an IT expert returned home after a commercial bank he was working for collapsed during the global economic recession of 2008-2009 that hit the American financial sector hard. He had lived and worked in America after graduating from Collins County College in Texas.
“I decided to return after I lost my job. I wanted to stay in Kenya for six months before going back to America to seek for an alternative job,” he says. However, as he did jobs here and there in Kenya to keep himself busy, he found out there was no reason to go back to America to face an uncertain future.
And the reason for him staying in Kenya came from a tradition he had watched while growing up and wanted to break. “Every dry season, farmers walked for long distances looking for pasture for their animals. For animal keepers, drought is a nightmare,” he says.
Chemirmir says, as an IT expert, he takes challenges as opportunities and works to provide solutions for most of the problems he encounters. That is how Sochon Farm, Rongai, Nakuru, was born. He grows grass for sale as hay and is also contracted by Kenya Seed Company to provide seeds for the same to farmers.
“I saw an opportunity in pasture growing because many people were moving into dairy farming so the demand for feeds was high,” he says. He now provides a source of income to more than 250 people as casuals on his farm.
He started by growing Boma Rhodes grass for hay at his vast family land. “I started with 20 acres, this year we are expanding to 700 acres,” he says. He invested Sh800,000, from his savings and charcoal sale. “I harvested around 10,000 bales and sold at Sh150 each,” he says.
He made Sh1.5 million. Buoyed by the profit, he planted 70 acres in 2011, but poor grass seed quality cost him Sh500,000. He vowed to always get quality seeds and advises farmers to do the same.
“It is our culture to share seeds but that is not a right call for a farmer looking to make a profit,” he says. According to records, there are about 1.6 million dairy farmers in the country and this, Chemirmir says, has presented great opportunities to hay growers.
Chemirmir, who is also the chairman of the newly launched Rift Valley Hay Association, urged maize farmers to venture into Rhodes grass to cushion themselves during drought.
“We used to grow maize but we encountered a lot of challenges because of poor and unpredictable rainfall patterns, poor yields and poor prices,” he says adding that grass growing is more profitable. He harvests more than about 100,000 bales per year and he gets Sh200 from each bale. This translates to about Sh20 million a year.
He is contracted by Kenya Seed Company to grow Boma Rhodes seeds and he sells hay to livestock farmers. On one acre, he plants five kg of seeds and harvests an average of 60kg that Kenya Seed buys at Sh333 per kilo.
Unlike maize and beans, the common crops grown in the area, Boma Rhodes is less labour intensive. There are four million dairy cows in the country with each cow eating about one bale of hay per day, thus the dairy sector has a huge potential and it contributes four per cent of the GDP.
From experience, he says farmers need to understand the climate of their areas to be able to select the right seeds for hay production. The crop suppresses weeds as it grows, consequently, it is advisable to spray soon after planting.
Nitrogen should also be added into the soil each time after harvesting to hasten the growth process. “I mix seeds with fertiliser when planting using a tractor, spray to curb weeds after two weeks and wait to harvest after four months,” he says. The grass is harvested about four times before it is uprooted.