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Machakos farmer reaps from new ndengu variety

Samuel Wathomi from Kyeleni location in Machakos county has been growing beans for 30 years. Recently, he decided to venture into green grams (ndengu) farming because the few farmers who grow it cannot meet rising market demand.

Moreover, the bean doesn’t require a lot of water to survive harsh climatic conditions in the semi-arid area of his Matungulu sub-county. “I started planting green grams three years ago and I cannot regret it.

With green grams, I harvest double of what I used to harvest from ordinary beans and even better, I earn almost three times more,” he said. Was the profit motive the only reason he opted to venture into growing this nutritious leguminous crop? As a bean farmer one season in 2014, he almost lost all his harvest because of drought.

Wathomi decided to diversify into green grams, but because of using the late maturity variety, he didn’t harvest as much as he had anticipated. Frustrated, he almost gave up farming altogether to look for a formal employment.

Lady Luck knocked his door in 2015 when officials from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a specialised food agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger, visited his Kyeleni village.

Samuel Wathomi displays a healthy crop of ndengu (green grams) during a function at the Nairobi Museum last week. Photo/HELLEN MUTURI

The FAO officials taught the villagers the importance of growing green grams and how they are planted.

“We were trained on increasing productivity of dense legumes such as green grams and groundnuts, cereals and improved planting practices. This is when I realised that I was using the wrong variety for my area leading to minimal productivity,” he said.

This revelation prompted him to look for the best variety for his region, which is KS20. This type of ndengu is adapted to hot dry areas of Machakos and is really doing well in Matungulu.

Armed with Sh7,000, Wathomi bought four kilogrammes of seeds at Sh1,000, prepared his three-quarter-acre piece of land and got ready to plant.

When the rains arrived, Wathomi decided to put green grams farming to a practical test and followed all what he was trained on. His adoption came at the right time because for those who planted maize or beans that season incurred huge losses following rainfall failure in Machakos county.

Due to the combination of high-yielding improved seeds and training on better agronomic practices, after six months he harvested 810kg (eight 90kgs bags) from the three quarter- acre of his land. He sold the crop at Sh100 per kg and earned Sh81,000, ending up with a profit of Sh72, 000 after expenses — a high income compared to other crops he used to plant in the past.

“This marked a historic moment in my farming endeavour which used to generate less than Sh20,000 from the sale of beans in previous years,” says Wathomi. In 2016, the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE), a non-governmental organisation, which empowers women farmers to end hunger and Greenpeace Africa, visited the locality.

The team trained farmers on how to harness indigenous knowledge and innovations to transform food production in times of climatic stress. They were also trained on the new, low-moisture cropping initiative aimed at empowering them to produce maximum yields.

“Currently, I am harvesting nine bags of green grams every season and a year has two seasons. Green grams pay well compared to other cereals and I am planning to expand the acreage,” he said. Wathomi says for farmers to fully exploit the potential of green grams, appropriate technologies should be availed to end-users.

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