The buzz of a swarm of bees welcomes one to the home of University of Eldoret don Patrick Kafu. There is a beehive on the right as you make your way into the compound in Mukuyu village, Bungoma County.
We are advised not to attempt stating the bees for it might become chaotic.
Mr Francis Lusaka, an apiarist, is busy taking care of the insects. Mr Lusaka says a bee unit with 63 hives was established at the farm in 2016.
From that time, more than 600 kilograms of honey has been harvested.
“We harvest after every three months. The farm has received an order from a company in the United States to supply 20 tonnes of honey but we cannot meet the demand so we are thinking of mobilizing other bee farmers,” he says.
Mr. Lusaka added that one must have a knowledge of the insects if he wants to get into the honey business.
Once established, the hives must be continuously inspected.
We are then ushered into a small house the professor and his workers extract oil from sunflower.
Prof Kafu and his wife Catherine Namikoye are in white dust coats, directing a worker to pour and the oil in bottles of different sizes.
“This is my oil extraction plant. We sell some and use the remaining,” he says.
The professor practices intense mixed farming on his 30-acre piece. The sunflower also provides food for the bees.
After harvesting, the sunflower is shelled to seed, dried and temporarily stored in bags.
“We take the seeds and put in the holder of the nut crusher. From the crusher, we get cake and crude sunflower oil,” he says.
The cake is mixed with sunflower hemp — obtained when sunflower is harvested — and used to make feed for his cattle.
The crude sunflower oil is then poured into a filter for refining. It is then packaged into containers for storage and sale.
Prof Kafu says he gets about 20 litres of sunflower oil daily. The refined oil is packaged into 220ml, one-litre, two-litre and five-litre bottles.
BEST SMALL SCALE MIXED FARMER
“Five acres are under sunflower. We harvest about 100, ninety- kilogram bags of sunflower per season. The oil is produced throughout the year,” he says.
A 500ml bottle of sunflower oil goes for Sh300, while a five-litre one is Sh1,200. The oil is sold to shops and supermarkets in Bungoma, Kimilili and surrounding towns.
“We buy graded sunflower from Kenya Seed Company and use DAP fertiliser when planting.
“The crop is weeded twice before it matures,” says Prof Kafu who was recognised as the best small-scale mixed farmer in Bungoma County this year.
It was the second time the father of eight received an award for good land use and management. In 2009, he was the runner-up in the large scale category.
He was put in the small-scale category this year “since large scale farming entails the use of planes for spraying and heavy machinery in cultivation, planting and weeding”.
The professor bought the land in 1972. Sunflower is not the only crop that earns the don an extra shilling.
He has divided the land into paddocks and plants maize, cabbages, traditional vegetables, napier grass bananas and other crops. He also has a kitchen garden.
The professor keeps grade cows and rears “kienyeji” chicken. He describes every crop in his farm as a gold mine.
The don recently planted bananas on an acre. He obtained the seedlings from Lodwar, Turkana County and expects to harvest more than 600 bunches.
“There is a ready-market for bananas. One bunch will hopefully go for Sh3,000,” he says.
Prof Kafu has two permanent workers and occasionally hires casuals.
So, how does he juggle classwork and his farm? Prof Kafu says he lectures on weekdays and tends to his farm on weekends.
However his wife, who is 72, is the backbone of the farm. After retiring as a primary schoolteacher in 2005 she took the decision to fully dedicate her time to the farm.
Mrs Kafu says her husband wanted to open a private school for her but she opted for farming.
“We get enough money from the farm. It has enabled us to take two our two children to the US for studies.
“One is in a Namibian university while another is pursuing her doctorate in South Africa. Two are doing their A-levels in Uganda,” she says.
Prof Kafu developed interest in farming while at St Peter’s Intermediate School, Mumias during the colonial era.
“Colonial education was enterprise-based. We were given technical and vocational education, which included agriculture,” he says.
After completing his undergraduate studies at Makerere University, he married and ventured into farming.
He rarely seeks support from county or national government agricultural experts.
“What I’m doing shows how going to school can actually improve agriculture in Kenya and the region,” he says.
He urges the government to encourage the educated to go into agriculture “because the community will learn a lot from them”.
“Educated people require little supervision and advice from experts. They have travelled widely and learnt a lot from other countries,” he says.
The don hopes to establish a training centre on his farm.
“That is the only I can improving livelihoods here,” he says.
One of the biggest challenges he faces is when taking to locals is resistance to modern farming methods.
The professor advises politicians and other leaders to help change the mindset of Kenyans, particularly on farming.
This article was first published on the Daily Nation.