Shooting Kenyan Farmers
Despite many Kenyans ‘going digital’, farming still remains our major economic activity, employing and providing for the livelihoods of more people than any other industry in the country. For the last six months, I’ve had the privilege to get off the super highways and onto the unpaved roads leading to farms that produce what will be on your plate this evening. This was thanks to USAID through the Kenya Horticultural Competitiveness Project that is implemented by Fintrac. I got to visit Homa Bay, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Makueni and Machakos Counties and saw how farmers have been connected with markets both locally and internationally, and how simple technologies have helped them produce crops year round, even in the absence of rain. Some of these areas heavily relied on relief food not too long ago, and are now feeding the country, thanks to USAID and partner organisations. Some of the most outstanding stories I helped document came from Makueni and Machakos. Several farmers have adopted rain water harvesting methods and through drip irrigation, have turned their farms into green patches of fresh produce surrounded by dry, parched lands. Farmers build dams where rain water collects when it pours. The dam waters are then used to bridge the gap between the rainy seasons. You can clearly see the stark difference this makes. Skuma wiki growing in Makueni. A mango farmer in Machakos County prepares his farm for inter cropping. This is in Machakos County as well. So green it could be mistaken for the Central highlands! To draw water from dams, new technologies like solar pumps are being tested as alternatives to diesel and foot pumps. Something else that stood out for me is the average of the Kenyan farmer – it has been estimated to be around 60! What will that do for our food security in the next ten years? I’m thankful to God for farmers like Daudi Mng’atu here who at 37 is a huge hope for Kenya. We really need more young people to take up farming. In an extensive tour of Western Kenya, I got to visit several farming projects, many run by young farmers and youth groups. Jane Wanyonyi at her farm in Kibisi, Bungoma. Using water from the nearby river, she has been able to profitably irrigate her skuma wiki farm. Sweet potatoes. It’s all smiles for Gilbert Oundo who grows sweet yellow passion fruits in Busia. Drip irrigation is quite simple, yet genius. Using pipes like the one above, the farmer pumps harvested water to specific plants in his / her farm, ensuring there is no wastage of water like is the case in furrow irrigation. Members of Kololokha Madola A Group at their orange flesh sweet potato farm in Madola, Busia County. This is one of the inspiring youth groups I got to meet. The faces… The empty plates… That mountain of mash made from orange flesh sweet potatoes… This was at a demonstration of how farmers can use crops they grow for their own consumption. Michelle… Amazing Michelle! She is the little one to the right in the photo before. I think she enjoyed the meal the most. All she did was nod and smile when we spoke to her. Very sweet little girl. In Kakamega’s Muynoki Village, we found Peter Amboga tending to passion fruit seedlings in a nursery. These are sold to other farmers who are switching to passion fruit farming as demand from the local market is yet to be met. Peter Amboga. Monica Shikuku, Mazakha A Village, Kakamega. Geoffrey Ndenga, tends to banana seedlings at the ACK Western Region Demo Farm located within the ASK Showgrounds in Kakamega. Luckas Mukweyi has a lot happening at his farm in Shiongo Village, Kakamega. Apart from having a banana plantation and tree nursery, he also keeps chicken, ducks, cows and grows other crops as well. Another young farmer who was a great inspiration. Rainbow over Bumala. To USAID and all partner organisations who are helping Kenyan farmers meet their potential, a big Thank You to you. May God refill your pockets for your generosity. And to you my fellow Kenyan, young as I am, give some thought on how you can invest in farming to guarantee this country food security and handsome profits for yourself. I know I will.