In an area where pastoralism is the main economic activity due to low rainfall, crop farming is turning out to be lucrative for those who irrigate their land
In the vast parched grasslands of Kajiado County, a contrasting spectacle stands out. The “green oasis” is easily noticeable from a distance in this semi-arid region, dotted with acacia trees.
A closer look reveals a variety of healthy looking crops growing on a two-acre piece of land on the outskirts of Isinya Town along the Nairobi-Namanga Road.
“Pastoralism is the main economic activity around here, owing to low rainfall. However, with a water source and an affordable irrigation system, crops do very well,” explains the farm owner, Moses Kool, as he gestures towards a solar panel mounted next to a 10,000 litre capacity water tank.
He points to some distant farms and adds that farming is turning out to be a lucrative venture in his locality, for those who are able to irrigate their farms.
“Land here is virgin and requires little or no additional fertilisers. In case there is need to add manure, it is readily available and cheap,” he says.
Though it is hardly a year since he ventured into commercial farming, Mr Kool is already excited with the returns he is getting. The youthful farmer has half an acre under maize intercropped with peas, while the other portions have been set aside for onions, kales, spinach, tomatoes and coriander. He prefers selling green maize and says the returns are impressive.
Buyers have also been flocking to his farm to buy tomatoes and vegetables. Three maize cobs sell at Sh25, while a kilo of tomatoes goes for Sh40; coriander is sold at Sh50 per kilo, while a kilo of kales fetches Sh20. The farmer is also looking forward to making his first harvest of onions in October and says a kilo will not fetch less than
Sh60. He has a quarter acre of bulb onions.
“I have not been keeping proper income records but I know I have recovered half of what I spent purchasing the solar irrigation system. Hopefully in the next few months, I will have recovered the entire cost,” he says.
How did he learn about the solar irrigation system? Mr Kool says his passion for farming saw him enrol for one-year training programme at a local agricultural institute. Once he was through with the course, he was eager to put the theory into practice on part of his 10-acre piece of land inherited from his father.
Around the same time, the family came together and sunk a borehole.
With water now available, the next hurdle towards fulfilling his dream of becoming a commercial farmer was to identify an affordable and suitable irrigation system.
The family homestead is not connected to electricity and the then budding farmer reasoned that using diesel or petrol pump was going to be involving and costly.
“One day as I was browsing through social media, I came across SunCulture and learnt of a modern agro solar irrigation kit.
I made contacts and visited their offices in Lavington, Nairobi and that marked the first step towards realizing my dream of becoming a successful farmer,” says the father of three.
Mr Kool purchased the complete irrigation system at Sh254,700; enough to irrigate a two-acre piece of land. Technicians at SunCulture offices visited his farm and assisted in installing the system.
A few weeks later, the water pump developed some mechanical problems and after reporting, it was replaced with a new one.
“Today, my system is operating very well and I have no complaints thanks to SunCulture. Every day, some 8,000 litres are pumped into the tank between
8am and 9am and later in the evening between 5pm and 5.30pm,” he says.
Besides farming, Mr Kool runs a pharmacy at Isinya town, having graduated with a diploma in medical laboratory technology at the then Kenya Polytechnic. Besides farming, Mr Kool runs a pharmacy at Isinya town, having graduated with a diploma in medical laboratory technology at the then Kenya Polytechnic.
He says using a solar irrigation system, which is almost self-operated, gives him the much-needed flexibility to attend to his other clients at the drugstore. When need arises, he hires casual workers; but his wife takes charge of the farm when he is away.
The farmer describes solar irrigation technology as a timely solution to food insecurity in semi-arid regions, noting that it is cost effective, easy to operate and durable. He plans to put two more acres under irrigation after purchasing another Agro Solar Irrigation Kit from SunCulture.
According to the Director of Sales and Marketing at SunCulture Ms Kathryn Weichel, any farmer willing to go into irrigation can obtain an irrigation kit with as little as Sh39,000 which comes complete with the long life irrigation pipes, layflat main pipe, a filter, and all the necessary connectors.
49 Convent Road, Lavington