Drought made market for vegetable farmer

Sukuma wiki, Nathan Mala.JPG

Kiambu County farmer Nathan Mala harvests sukuma wiki. Photo by Laban Robert.

After being edged out of bodaboda riding business due to competition towards the end of 2016, Jasper Mwambigu saw another opportunity in irrigation to supply vegetables for the market ahead as drought ravaged crops across the country.

The 25-year old Taita-Taveta farmer piped water from nearby Kisenyi Dam, which had been desilted a few months earlier after Deputy President William Ruto visited the area in August 2016.

“I knew vegetables could be on demand starting January ahead of the long rains in March to June. My kales and spinach taught me that farming is fulltime job that can turn round my life without going to urban areas in search of a formal employment,” he said.

From the about half an acre piece, the farmer harvested between Sh30,000 and Sh40,000 between January and April, with most of his kales and spinach selling at Mombasa’s Kongowea Market.

He harvested twice a week.

From November 2016 to around April 2017, a bag of 60kg of sukumawiki rose from Sh700 to Sh2,500 in most towns in Kenya.

Mwambingu sold the same bag between Sh1,700 to Sh2,000 depending the spinach also ranged within the same price.

The farmer attributes his success to the Kisenyi Dam, which has turned the semi arid land in Taita Taveta into an oasis of plenty.

The dam, which is about 50,000m3 in capacity, was diminishing as a result of silt deposits. But the cleanup has given the water reservoir, which serves more than 12,000 residents of Wundanyi Sub County and its neighbourhood.

Although it relies on rain to fill to capacity, underground rivers also deliver water to the dam. Even in absence of rain, the dam still has water, although the levels are lower.

The farmer is also bringing in peas and French beans into his cultivation.

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