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Kenya’s arid north defies myth, adopts horticulture

Residents in the northern parts of the country, which are arid, have taken up horticulture farming, demystifying the myth that crops such as tomatoes, vegetables and capsicum can only thrive in places that have good rainfall. 

Farmers in Moyale, Garissa, Mandera and Wajir are farming the crop using irrigation amid growing demand for horticulture produce across Kenya as the dry parts of the country grapple with tough effects of climate change. Onions, tomatoes and watermelons are among the favourite crops for the farmers as they transit from pastoralism, their age-old practice. 

Haile Omar is one of the farmers growing watermelons in Garissa, one of the driest parts of the east African nation. Omar has been growing the crop for the last two years at an irrigation scheme run by the county government using water from Tana River.

“I farm the crop on two acres and sell to residents in the town and traders come for the bulk to transport to Nairobi,” the farmer, whose family was initially a pastoralist, said on phone. 

The crop does well in the region and the farmer does two seasons a year, ending up with bigger, sweeter fruits. “I sell each fruit at Sh200  because most buyers come from as far as Nairobi for them. It is a good business,” he said, noting residents too eat the fruits in huge numbers thanks to the hot weather.

Other crops grown at the irrigation scheme, according to him, are tomatoes and onions, which similarly do well due to the warm weather. “Due to the warm weather, when you grow tomatoes and onions, they cannot be affected by diseases like blight, which are prevalent in areas with cold weather or heavy rainfall,” he offered.        –XINHUA

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