At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science & Technology (JOOUST) there are two greenhouses built and one research tunnel. The minor group from last year built a greenhouse, which is connected to the water system of the university. The greenhouses of the university are used to produce vegetables and sidling. Both products are sold to farmers and local population. The agricultural teachers from JOOUST and some students take care of this greenhouse. This newest greenhouse has been used for tomatoes but they all died unfortunately. Mr. Ndegwah mentioned the problem ‘bacterial wealth’ as the cause of the failed harvest of tomatoes. The was infected by different species of bacteries, which are unknown, since the ground wasn’t tested. A solution to this problem could be the usage of chemicals, these fumigation methods aren’t used yet at JOOUST.
With the second harvest they came upon another problem: drought. The water system of the university broke down. The university even closed down for a couple of days and so did the greenhouse. This caused the crops to die. There is a river close to JOOUST, named Yala. This connection breaks down often, because the parts like pumps aren’t reliable. It is also vandalized very often by people who can sell these parts or by people who use it to get access to water themselves. This connection already broke down three times during 2016. The only back-up system is the usage of water tanks. The university owns a couple and keeps them always failed in case of a breakdown. During such a breakdown these tanks can keep the greenhouse running for a couple of days.
According to Mr. Ndegwah there might be a solution: a borehole. This is very expensive and might be not the right solution. Water from a borehole needs to be purified, since Bondo lies in a semi-arid area. The water which is coming from the ground is very salt. Purifying this gets expensive according to Ms. Andika, another teacher in horticulture at JOOUST.
According to Mr. Ndegwah there are still some major advantages of using a greenhouse:
- Protection of the crops: insects, diseases and even animals like cows and goats can form a danger to the crops being produced. A greenhouse covers them and protects them for these factors.
- Inside a greenhouse you can protect the crops against heavy weather. Heavy rain often destroys crops because of the great amount of rain falling at the same time. During the mornings it can get very cold. Because of the plastic cover, a greenhouse uses the warmth from the day to keep the crops during the nights and mornings warm as well.
According to David Ndegwah there are also disadvantages:
- Inside the greenhouses it gets very hot, even hotter than outside. This results in a high water consumption. Mr. Ndegwah says that a large greenhouse uses up to 15.000 liters of water each month. This information has to be checked with other greenhouse operators.
- Crops grown outside a greenhouse are often preferred by customers. These are sweeter due to the direct radiation. These crops are often longer consumable. The crops from inside the greenhouse have more water in it and thus less nutrients. They are softer as well. The quality of these crops are lower than the quality outside the greenhouse. This is not what we had expected when we started the project. David mentioned that it still would be profitable to use a greenhouse, because these naturally grown crops are scarcely available.
After the conversation at Ndegwah’s office we went on a little field trip to the greenhouses at JOOUST. There are three greenhouses in use at the moment on the University of Bondo. One of these greenhouses is not the property of the university and is used as a research tunnel in which they research insects that can be used as food. When the tunnel is not used for research the university of Bondo is free to use the greenhouse as they wish.
The oldest and also the smaller greenhouse is bought from a company called Amiran. The greenhouse is made from a steel construction which is easily demounted, this is practical if the greenhouse has to be moved. The round shape of the greenhouse makes it very difficult to collect the rain water and use it again, this is one of the downsides of this greenhouse. Another downside of this design is the material from which is made. The cover of the greenhouse is made from a plastic canvas which can’t be moved. The use of the canvas is to protect the inside of the greenhouse from animals, insects and diseases but it also reduces the temperature drop inside the greenhouse during the nights. The downside of this fixed canvas is that during the day the temperatures inside the greenhouse are higher than outside, this causes more evaporation of moist which increases the need of water. This while the drought is a huge bottleneck for the agriculture in the area.
The greenhouse has been used for I wide variety of crops including tomatoes, spinach and cabbage. As it is right now the greenhouse is being used for an experiment with maize which until now has not been grown inside a greenhouse. There also runs an experiment on using a different types of soil.
The greenhouse uses, when it’s fully occupied of growing crops, 10000 litres of water a month. This amount is not the same for every type of crops.
The newest and larger greenhouse has a different design than the greenhouse build by Amiran. The roof of the greenhouse is also round but the sidewalls go straight up. This makes it possible to reuse the rain water with a gutter. The sidewalls of this greenhouse are made from a breathable net, this enhances the ventilation and reduces the temperature rise inside the greenhouse while it still protecting from animals and diseases. This is positive because it reduces the amount of water needed. The downside is that the temperature drop in the night is larger. Besides the growing of crops the greenhouse is also used to grow sidling’s. Plants are grown until a certain size and sold completely, the buyer plants them back in the ground and gives them water. This way the buyer can harvest their crops very shortly after they bought their sidling. This is mostly used by farmers because of the uncertainty of water, the farmers buy the sidling when it is rainy so the chance of a successful harvest is larger.
This interview gave us some interesting insights which we will use in the next version of our project plan. Due to this conversation we have also a better view on the problems the single farmer is coping with.