Life in Endo ward and Lower Sambirir wards in Marakwet East Sub County and parts of Marakwet West is characterized by all manner of challenges, killings, loss of property as a result of cattle rustling and drought, but the resilience of the residents is unrivalled.
Despite all these challenges, residents have continued to make the best of the situation through engaging in various agricultural activities to earn a living aided by the age-old Marakwet water furrows and the Kerio River which provide water for irrigation and the climate which is conducive for short maturing crops.
Members of Kewabell Farmers Youth group in Endo ward for a long time relied on mangoes as their major income earner, though the area is rich in mango production, the harvest season comes only once in a year.
Therefore, they had to look for other economic activities for their day-to-day expenses thus turning to growing of horticultural crops like tomatoes and watermelon.
However, the assistance from the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Programme (Kcsap) to the group formed in 2018 with 21 members couldn’t have come at a better time, they not only received inputs but were also trained to improve on their farming thus increasing their income.
“We received Sh400, 000 in terms of inputs for watermelons, tomatoes and beans,” said Moses Chemitoi.
According to Chemitoi, they were given certified seeds and taught about spacing, using the right pesticides and proper application of fertilizer. Armed with this knowledge, he embarked on tomato growing on a two-acre plot where he harvested 500 crates.
“I managed to get Sh120, 000 which I used to buy an acre where I have planted 47 mango trees which is part of my long term investment,” he said.
For 27-year-old Davis Kibet, he had always desired to be a teacher, but after his form-four, the dream almost died as his parents could not afford to take him to college. He had resigned to fate, married and even had two children but the boost by Kcsap enabled him to achieve his dream.
“I resolved to plant beans the Nyota variety which only takes two months to mature and has ready market,” he said. Kibet said initially they used to plant three seeds in one hole but Kcsap trained them how to space and also preparation of furrows instead of the holes.
He sold the bean crop and managed to raise Sh84, 000 and immediately enrolled for his dream course at the Baringo Teachers Training College in 2019 September and completed last year.
“I am a holder of a P1 certificate and teaching in one of the private primary schools but I still plant the beans which I use to support my family,” he proudly said.
Henry Kipkore another member of the group had a passion for growing watermelons. “I had tried planting different varieties and I was almost giving up because I was not breaking even,” he said.
The training by Kcsap however changed his fortunes after he was trained on how to plant and on top of that he received certified seeds, “I planted in one acre and managed to harvest 8 tonnes of water melons which I sold for Sh100, 000,” he said.
Buoyed by the success, he planted again and bought a motorcycle to supplement his income and also built his house. However, the next time he tried on a larger scale, he was not lucky as attacks escalated and he was not able to harvest.
The residents are hoping as the current security operation gets underway in the area, it will bring lasting peace saying that is all they need to engage in income-generating activities.
Twenty-four year-old Brian Kanda, an Applied Statistics graduate from Moi University joined the Kapchebee mixed group while still a student and through the tomato project was able to meet some of his expenses while in college.
Using proceeds from the project, he has started a goat-keeping project which he hopes will help him build his own house. As his colleagues wait for blue-collar jobs, Kanda is already investing in his future. “Even as I wait for a job, I have started laying the foundation for the future,” he said.
Ben Ruto is another youth from Kaset United youth group who has been planting tomatoes which he says have enabled him to construct a room at his commercial plot in Sangach where he runs an eatery business.
While youths fight for non-skilled jobs during the construction of roads, for the youths already engaged in horticultural farming they don’t need casual jobs on the Tot Kilangata road which is being constructed by the government.
“I can make more than Sh100, 000 from my agricultural ventures within two months, you cannot compare that with the Sh20, 000 being paid per month by the road construction company and they require me to be there full time,” said Ruto.
The residents say they are looking forward to the completion of the road as it will offer them opportunities key among them granting them access to more markets outside the area for their produce saying lack of market has affected their income.
Ruto is calling on the county government to ensure that water from the furrows is extended to reach more farmers and also to provide them with cold storage plants which they can use to store their products as they look for market.
The farmers said having been trained on book keeping, they are now able to gauge whether they are making any loses from their ventures.
The men said since they started farming the short maturing crops, they no longer depend on mangoes, “We have left the mangoes to our wives to sell to meet some of their financial needs,” said Kipkore.
By Alice Wanjiru