Garissa farmers get smart with new age crops

garissaagricSmallholder farmers in Garissa are teaching their Kenyan counterparts the art of making quick money with smart farming earning some of them upto Sh100,000 a harvest and shunning age old myth of a community associated with sticking begging bowls.

Isnino Bile and her colleagues have been the pioneers in the new age farming in the Abaqdea area of Garissa, whose success is now endearing more to balance livestock farming and crop production. “We had our first harvest during in July and I harvested five buckets of chilies, 10 jerry cans of tomatoes, and two-and-a-half bags of maize which I sold for Sh100,000,” said Isnino.

 Adeso’s USAID-funded Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands – Improving Resilience in Kenya (REGAL-IR) project supported Abaqdera community prepare 10 acres of land and jointly farm it. Under the umbrella name Tawakal farm, each of the 20 members utilizes about half an acre for mixed farming. This helped the local community, predominantly composed of native pastoralists, tackle food insecurity by diversifying their livelihood options.

The farm is located on the banks of River Tana, a permanent water source that traverses various parts of the county. Looking back at the last drought of 2011, Isnino now feels a sense of security. “During that time, we relied on relief food for our survival, and that of our few remaining livestock. We were told some of the livestock feed came from a nearby farm,” said Isnino, who has since developed an interest in riverine farming. Before the drought, she had a herd of cattle and goats, but now she keeps just a few cattle for milk. “I feel that life is better now because I have vegetables for my family and my cattle also get feed from this farm. I hope to also educate my eight children from this work,” she said.

Isnino’s story is not unique. Ali Ibrahim, also a member of the Tawakal farm, opted to cultivate just one crop on his land: onion. It’s likely that he too, will have a bumper harvest this year. Tawakal farm was formed in 2013 and, with support from government agriculture extension officers, trained on how to layout a farm, make seedbeds, handle seedlings, and plant.

The group provided labor for bush clearing, saved money to invest in the farm, and prepared the land, while REGAL-IR supported them to buy seeds and plant. As a group, the members share fuel costs to pump water from the river. To increase their profit margins, farmers also pool their resources and jointly transport their produce to sell in the nearest town, Garissa, about 48 kilometers away. The success of Tawakal farm demonstrates how a little support can go a long way in strengthening community resilience, allowing them to be better prepared to face future shocks.