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One and a half years since US billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates paid an ordinary dairy farmer in Nandi County a surprise visit, the man’s fortunes have dramatically changed.
Laban Kipkemboi Talam and his wife Miriam have been thrust to fame and are sought after celebrities both locally and internationally.
The couple has since entertained and given lectures to international chief executives, scholars, agricultural experts and ordinary farmers at their home in Kabiyet village in Nandi South District
Experts from Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Heifer International, African Medical Research Foundation (Amref), East African Dairy Development (Eadd), Techno Serve, Icraf and Nestle Foods International are among some of the high profile officials the couple has brushed shoulders with.
Dairy experts from German, US, Rwanda, and other countries have been to the home to learn zero grazing on their 1.7 acre piece of land.
The couple rears two dairy cows and two heifers of Friesian breed and also undertakes small-scale horticultural activities using organic manure.
"The quality of the food we eat as a family has improved after we stopped using artificial fertilisers on our farm," Miriam said during the interview.
The family has also put up a biogas facility that generates gas for cooking.
"The biogas project was installed two months ago at a cost of Sh50,000 with the help of Eadd and has become a major attraction to farmers from within and far flung areas," Talam said.
The farmers have also been engaged by the Kabiyet Dairies – who are their main client – as a community extension service provider.
His farm is used for demonstrations both by the Government and private sector in the dairy industry.
The family grows kales, bananas, sweet potatoes, onions, cabbages and various traditional food crops.
"We receive an average of 150 farmers who seek to borrow a leaf from us on dairy farming," he stated.
When Gates visited the farm, the zero grazing shade was grass thatched while the floor was un-cemented. The floor is now cemented while the roof is made of iron-sheets.
Bill Gates Foundation and Nestle Foods Company has trained the couple on quality and handling of milk, while Coopers Company has taught on calf rearing, feed formulation and hooves trimming, among others.
"Because mine is a demonstration farm, I pass on the knowledge I have accumulated from the trainings to farmers who pay us a visit," he said.
One year ago, he used to earn Sh17,000 from the dairy undertaking, but the same has since increased to Sh33,000 a month due to improved farming techniques.
The couple also plans to visit the US.
"Gates asked me what I would like to do in the future and I told him that besides improving my herd and purchasing a bigger farm, I would wish to visit his country," he said with a chuckle.
And recently, Eadd and officials from the Bill Gates Foundation told the farmer and his wife to process their passports in readiness for the US visit.
"We were told that the visit would take place sometimes in June though there is no final word yet," Tallam said.
When Bill Gates landed in Kabiyet on December 12, 2009, locals did not recognise the world famous billionaire.
Local security agents only got wind of the visit when the man had left and was already in Eldoret town.
Even the Tallam’s did not know whom he was until when he was about to leave and had to sign the visitor’s book.
"It is only after I saw the name and signature that excitement and shock gripped me. It did not look real to me as he was so ordinary, so inquisitive and so simply dressed. He mingled freely with us," Talam said.
Tallam said he had only been informed that a senior person would be visiting his farm but no one disclosed to him who that person was.
"The only thing that looked unusual to me is the number of people who visited us prior to Gates arrival. They kept asking us many questions," he said.
Gates was accompanied by a number of aides and Eadd officials led by Country Director Augustine Cheruiyot. Besides, the dairy investment, the traditional fireplace made of mud also enthralled Gates.