While millions of Kenyans are faced with starvation occasioned by severe drought in several parts of the country, a group of farmers from semi-arid Kilimambogo area in Thika East Sub County are making a fortune from irrigation agriculture.
The over 200 farmers from Kisiiki village have tapped the adjacent Athi River and farmed vegetables, tomatoes, maize and bananas, which they have been selling over the dry period to make a living.
The farmers have connected generator pumps and pipes from the river and are always in their farms doing irrigation till late.
Each day, hundreds of traders and brokers flock into their farms to get the vegetables to supply to the nearby Matuu and Thika and other local markets as well as the nearby learning institutions including the Kilimambogo Teachers Training College.
Kahacho Mbugua has been farming the vegetables for the last three years and has been making millions of shillings every season. He says this is the season when the demand for his agricultural produce is high.
“The demand for the vegetables is so high that we have to increase the farms under irrigation. We rarely take these products to the markets as traders flock the farms each day to buy the produce,” he said.
The former Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) employee expects to make close to Sh800, 000 this month. He farms tomatoes, cabbages and bananas and has employed three casual laborers to help in irrigation, weeding and harvesting of the produce.
“Almost every person from this village who has a farm adjacent to the river is busy in their farms. We have the chance to tap the big river to kick out hunger in the area. This river is a blessing,” he says.
Kahacho has managed to educate his six children through secondary school partly using agriculture proceeds, as well as owns some parcels of plots and other investments from farming.
“We know hunger is biting millions of Kenyans, but we partly blame misplaced priorities by national and county governments as well as laziness by those adjacent to rivers,” he said.
Joseph Njoroge, another local farmer is making thousands of shillings each day from selling kales, spinach, beans and maize which he has farmed in his half an acre piece of land.
He has employed four casual labourers to help out in the farm and expects to make close to Sh 500,000 in the next one month from selling the produce.
“During dry seasons is when we are busy in the farms planting vegetables. The river, being permanent, has helped us in irrigation as it flows all year round. The market for our produce is also huge and we expect to continue making good money to keep us moving,” said Njoroge.
The farmers complained over the high cost of farm inputs and labour saying it reduces their earnings, with some almost giving up. They particularly cited the high cost of fuel which they use to run their generators for irrigation saying it was a worry and should be addressed if the country is to be food secure.
“We also cannot access the subsidised fertiliser as we can only afford to purchase a few kilograms, not bags which bring hiccups at the distributors. These are important farm inputs whose cost affects food production and must be addressed,” said Njoroge.
By Muoki Charles