Ezekiel Muli has perfected the art of roadside farming and is now feeding hundreds of dust infested Mlolongo and Athi River neighbourhoods in a venture that earns him Sh30,000 a month from harvesting four pickups of kale and spinach.
Formerly a sand harvester,the 40 year old Muli was inspired to start farming by his usual lunch comprising of rice and beans. '' I needed some greens on my plate but that only meant paying much more,'' said the man whose name has since changed to Sukuma. Armed with passion and a jembe but no land, he could only manage one thing; hope that the vast sandy pieces of land stretching way beyond modern buildings along Mombasa road were his.
Farming along road reserve comes with its share of challenges including frequent harassments by council officers, floods and theft but this has not deterred the father of three who plans to use some of his profits to venture into green house farming. '' I have learnt to live with some challenges while turning others into opportunities,'' said the farmer. For instance, he has dug trenches where he harvest flood water and use it for irrigation.
Currently, Ezekiel has managed to acquire about a kilometer strip of land along the busy road while influencing 23 other young people who get at least sh 15000 a month which translates to sh 500 a day. This amount is sh 350 more from what they used to earn daily as sand harvesters.
Ezekiel's case presents a perfect example of how small scale farmers can improve food production in the world by utilizing idle land in a bid to stem runaway food prices and malnutrition problems that top the list of Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Rockefeller foundation report on food security in Africa indicate that 300 million people on the continent lack food daily perhaps a justification for the continent's policy makers and farmers to come up with viable ideas on how to use available resources like land to increase food production.
Farming along the road has been practiced informally across the globe for the past century. During the First World War 1918-1919, American president Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to use all available space of land for farming including road reserves to produce enough food for the country since most European countries were deeply engaged in the war.
Although health experts have expressed fears of toxic organic substances like gasoline from vehicles on consumables, a research conducted by Agrodok24, a farming institution championing for urban agriculture as means to increase food production in the world indicate that some of metals like copper absorbed by plants spur their growth and have less effects on health.
Formal road side farming initiated by Muli that enable him harvest two pickups full of kale and spinach after two weeks which earn him at least Sh15,000 not only presents a perfect case study for agricultural scholars world over on this new form of farming but also challenge policy makers and farmers to come up with more innovative ways of placing adequate food on table.