At Ofafa Jericho 1 Estate next to Makadara Law Courts in Nairobi, there are a plethora of activities going on at any given day.
Apart from noise pollution caused by the flashy matatus plying Jogoo Road, hawkers competing for customers to buy their produce, to boda boda operators ferrying people to Uhuru market, Francis Wachira too takes care of his dairy goats just 200 metres away.
Wachira came to Nairobi in 1974 to look for work and he soon landed a job as a maintenance officer at the Export Processing Zone.
He was not comfortable there and wanted to be his own boss. After four years, he quit and started selling fruits and vegetables at Marikiti market.
In 2001, he moved to Ofafa Jericho 1 estate where he says there was a lot of space that nobody was utilising.
He started growing sukumawiki and selling to his neighbours but things changed in 2010, when he visited the home of former Embakasi MP Ezra Njoka and saw goat dairy farming. He gathered courage and bought one dairy goat in Ruai.
It was not until late 2012 that he went large scale with goat farming and he has never looked back.
“Some of my friends discouraged me that goats smell bad and there was no use keeping them. But I asked myself, if an MP can keep these animals, why not me?” says Wachira.
The 65-year-old farmer has become a household name in ‘urban farming’ with his home teeming with visitors from as far as England and Germany. Local NGOs and universities also visit his farm to learn techniques of dairy goat farming.
What strikes one when you visit his farm is that he has utilised very little space in his compound to keeps the goats.
He has 12 dairy goats with three of them producing 2-3 litres each in the morning and evening.
Wachira sells a litre of milk at Sh100. On a good month he gets at least Sh15,000.
“On average I get about 5-10 litres in a day. The market has grown thanks to commercial dog breeders as goat milk prevents puppies from diarrhea as opposed to milk from other animals. I get orders of about 5 litres from the dog breeders,” says Wachira, adding that goat milk is very rich in calcium and proteins.
The father of three keeps the German alpine, toggenburg and sanen breeds. He says dairy goats consume very little feed (around 3kg per day) and require very small space to keep.
He feeds his goats on waste from the market and supplements with commercial feeds and hay.
“Luckily, I stay near Uhuru market, so my employees collect the maize cobs, kales, sukumawiki and sort them out for the goats. We just feed them in the morning and evening; you don’t have to stay there to feed them,” says Wachira.
Wachira says it is advisable to give goats herbs like lucern, neem (mwarobaine) or avocado leaves to increase the milk’s medicinal values.
“Raising the pens to keep pneumonia away is very crucial in dairy goat farming. When it is raining and your dairy goats are on the floor, they may develop problems with their hooves. It is important to maintain high standards of hygiene. We clean the pens every morning and do thorough cleaning once a week,” explains Wachira.
He however says dairy goat farming lacks proper Artificial Insemination system.
“What we have in the market are goats that have gone through in-breeding system. With proper AI, we could get around 5-6 litres from each goat per milking session,” he says.
Wachira also teaches other farmers on urban farming at a fee of about Sh3,000.
“I take the farmers through the tenets of urban farming, where the market is and how to start a project of their own. Booking for the visit is done in advance,” he says.
In a month’s time, his farm will be used by the Aga Khan University as a training aid on urban farming.
“The institution has approached me and they want to use my farm to teach others, this is a plus for me. They will put the video on the web for other farmers to learn just on a click of a button,” says Wachira.
The soft-spoken urban farmer says he met the governor of Nairobi at the just concluded Nairobi ASK show. He hopes the governor will one day find time to visit his farm.
He also rears kienyeji chicken, guinea pigs and geese in his backyard.