Former police office making a hit in farming – success story of Samson Thoya
Bore Singwaya in Kilifi County is an ordinary settlement like any other, where many families engage in subsistence farming.
You will find small farms dotted with maize, with residents harvesting once a year.
But a former police officer has set out to change this practice by engaging in commercial mixed farming.
Samson Thoya, 50, keeps bees, dairy cows and poultry and grows watermelon, pineapples, passion fruits, cashewnut and a variety of trees, all on 20 acres.
“I went into farming after taking early retirement from the police force after 32 years of service. The farming bug had hit me in 2005 but I quit in March,” said Thoya, who has four employees and when starting, he invested about Sh1 million.
Of the money, Sh700,000 went to buying the 20 acres. He bought the farm in parts over time while still working in the police service.
His 100 cashewnut trees offer him at least 250kg of raw nuts every year. He sells each at Sh40 to a factory in the region.
From the one-acre watermelon farm, the farmer gets 650kg after every three months.
He sells a kilo at between Sh15 to Sh20 to middlemen at the Malindi market.
“I grow the Sukari F1 and Sugar Baby varieties that perform well when planted with manure that I get from my five dairy cows that provide milk for my family,” he said.
During a tour of his farm, Thoya, who kept referring to himself as a former telephone farmer, said he grows watermelons in two seasons to avoid tiring the soil.
“I used to call the farm assistant and advise him on what to do on the farm for the entire period of my absence but now I supervise everything myself and help in doing the tasks,” said Thoya, noting telephone farming can be heart-wrenching.
Away from the melons, Thoya keeps bees to assist in the pollination of watermelons.
“Watermelons and other crops cannot do well if they are not pollinated. As a farmer, I realised I cannot rely on wild bees, which is why I keep mine and harvest honey for domestic consumption. I am doing this on small-scale.”
The father of five also grows yellow passion fruits, starting first in the nursery where he currently has about 50,000 seedlings.
“The passion variety is drought-resistant and I expect to start harvesting in August. I will also sell seedlings once I have stabilised the business.”
He further has 35,000 pineapple plants on five acres. “I get suckers from the existing plants and transfer them into dug pits after putting organic manure.
Each growing mature plant produces about six suckers. I sell the fruit from Sh40 to Sh50 each.
Next to the pineapple farm, on a two-acre plot, is a forest of casuarina, blue gum and indigenous trees, which total 1,400.
“I sell the casuarinas and blue gum, 4-inch in size at Sh1,000 a pole. Most of those who buy are people in the construction sector.”
At another section of his farm, he has planted rice.
“I am growing the crop on trial basis. If it performs well, I will grow it,” said Thoya, noting he has diversified to avoid overreliance on one agribusiness.
The Kongowea and Malindi markets are the major outlets for his produce.
“I realised farming needs a lot of concentration for one to earn good money, the reason why I quit. However, one must have a business plan and execute it well,” said Thoya, who served in Anti-stock Theft Unit in Pokot, Machakos, Meru and Isiolo and as an OCS at Mwiga, Baricho Station in Kirinyaga and in the Criminal Investigation Department in Lamu, Hola, Mombasa and Kilifi.
He retired at the rank of Superintendant of Police.
Thoya, who gets his water from Baricho–Marafa waterline and stores in a 12,000 cubic metres tank for irrigation, plans to invest in another 100 acres, where he will grow horticultural crops and maize.
“I will lease the land to grow maize to supply to secondary schools. Horticultural crops like melons and pineapples too have big market,” said Thoya, who adds he will enroll for an agricultural course at Pwani University to boost his kills.
His biggest challenge is market, as he is forced to sell his produce to brokers at low prices. He has formed the Bore Singwaya Farmers’ Association to promote the growing of watermelon, passion fruits, rice and pineapple.
“There is life after retirement as long as one plans what to do. Farming offers a good option,” he said.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation Mtwapa Centre director Michael Njunie said mixed commercial farming is not common at the Coast, thus, anyone engaging in it can reap big rewards.
“It is a better way of farming than mono-cropping because when crops fail, livestock and poultry will provide income that can sustain the other ventures.”