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How I make money, drip by drip

Joseph Mbai has transformed a once dry land to a piece of Eden through irrigation

Anyone who visited the dry Kandara constituency in Murang’a County a year ago will undeniably think they are lost today. It was a barren desert, so dry that residents relied on relief food from the government and other well-wishers.

The climate was so harsh that even desert shrubs that tolerate such conditions would sometimes wither and die. However, the situation is now changing, thanks to irrigation projects initiated by the county government, which have resulted in increased value of land from an average of Sh100,000 per acre to more than Sh400,000 per acre in less than a year.

Those allocated the land here were squatters, who had come to believe that the government’s intentions were to dump them here at the barren condemned land, but have now every reason to smile thanks to water pans constructed by the county government.

Drip irrigation has multiple benefits including savings in water and reduced costs of weeding, as water drips at the base of crop. Joseph Mbai is among farmers that have fully embraced the dams, with his farm flourishing ever green. His five-acre farm is located at Ngeleyia village, and it was a replica of many others until last December.

Motivated by his achievements in less than a year, other farmers are emulating him, and that is exactly what Mbai wanted. “The county government made the water pans but residents did not make proper use of them. I visited the area and saw the potential. The land here is almost virgin due to minimal farming activities,” says Mbai.

Joseph Mbai
Joseph Mbai

He bought the farm and did some research on the amount of capital he needed. He found out he required about Sh500, 000.

“The most crucial thing was to get the water closer into the firms, the pan is about 100 metres away, my priority was installing the drip irrigation system which cost me Sh300,000,” Mbai says.

That done, he did a survey on types of crops suitable in that area and which had guaranteed markets, and settled for tomato — two acres— and bulb onions— an acre.

“I started the farming end of last year, that’s when I planted the seeds at the seedbed. I then transplanted the seedlings about a month later.

In April, I harvested tomatoes and onions in May. I harvested 1, 200 kilogrammes of onions, which I sold at Sh100 per kilo earning me Sh120, 000 but there are still some on the farm.

I had some challenges with tomatoes and was only able to account for about 150 crates which earned Sh600,000, each crate selling at between Sh4,000 and Sh4, 500,” he says.

He says there was ready market because other farmers were affected by erratic weather. Due to favourable weather conditions, the crops also matured about two to three weeks earlier. He also planted maize in the remaining two acres, which he sold handsomely.

“The area is productive with good rich soils, I wanted to set the pace and change local perceptions. A good number of my neighbours are already preparing their farms for irrigation.

Irrigation can help fight food insecurity in the country,” says Mbai. To practice crop rotation, he has replaced onions with beans, and tomatoes with onions. He says the biggest advantage with irrigation is that farmers are able plan crop planting according to market demands.

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