Kenya: Sugar Cane Leaves Now Money-Minting Fodder for Villagers

Benson Okome, 38, from Ichinga Village in Mumias, Kakamega County, has resorted to harvesting the overgrown grass on the deserted Mumias Sugar Company's nucleus farm, selling it to livestock farmers as animal feed.

Besides harvesting the overgrown grass on the farms that were once the source of raw material for the troubled factory, Mr Okome also moves around the farms collecting cane leaves.

It is not a bad venture as the demand for sugar-cane leaves is high, he tells the Nation. Farmers use the leaves as livestock feed.

Mr Okome is among those who once relied on cane farming to earn a living, but have been forced by circumstances to look for new ways of survival. Also reaping from the cane leaves is Fredrick Waswa from Khaimba in Mumias East.

He, too, moves around the bushy estates - one part of which was reserved for managerial and the other for artisan staff - in the factory's vast compounds harvesting the grass. He also has a steady clientele.

On a good day, he can make up to Sh1,000.

PLANTED MAIZE

"I used to grow sugar cane on my half-acre piece of land and would make more than Sh20,000 when I harvested the crop. Life has remained difficult since things went south," says Mr Okome.

In 2016, he uprooted the crop from his farm and planted maize and other subsistence crops.

He says the portion, however, is not enough to feed his family, hence the venture into livestock feeds. "As a man, you need to have money in your pocket so that you can sit with your friends and chat in comfort," he added.

The father of four says back in the day, many did not have any use for the leaves and that farmers never preserved them for future use as fodder for their livestock.

Whenever sugar cane is harvested, he collects the leaves and sells them on the busy Mumias-Bungoma road to livestock farmers.

FODDER

A heap of the fodder sells for between Sh50 and Sh150 depending on the size, freshness and contents. He mixes some heaps with fresh potato leaves.

Mr Waswa sells his products at Shianda Market along the Mumias-Kakamega road. He says he is able to feed his family and save a few coins to take his children to school.

"I travel to as far as Butali and West Kenya Sugar Companies to collect the leaves from farmers," he says.

The only challenge is transport, as he uses a motorcycle to ferry the fodder from farmers' fields.

"A motorbike cannot ferry a lot of the fodder and this forces me to make several trips in order to achieve my daily target," Mr Okome states.

During dry seasons, he says it becomes difficult to get the leaves, yet demand remains constant.

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