A part-time Kajiado County farmer is cutting expenditure costs by growing vegetables on a ‘free’ public purpose piece found between Mbagathi River and the Nairobi National Park.
Willy Muiru, a building construction assistant, is earning a minimum of Sh15000 from the less than one-eight acre piece, where he does not have to pay any fees for the land or irrigation water.
For the past three years, Muriu has been earning off this land by growing sukuma wiki.
Muiru is part of more than 100 farmers that have subdivided the piece of land which meausres approximately 0.05km by 3km. On it, they are growing various types of vegetables for consumption by nearby Ongata Rongai residents.Most of them are from nearby Bangladesh informal settlement.
Although he cannot quantify the harvest in kilos per month, he sells three bunches of the sukuma wiki at Sh10 (tatu kumi). This earns him between Sh5000 and Sh6000 a month. He harvests thrice a month.
Each bunch has about 10 leaves, but the number may vary depending on the demand in the market.
Maasai Lodge residents and grocery owners are his main consumers.
The idea of farming along Mbagathi River struck him one afternoon as he was returning home after being turned away from a construction site. The owner of the building had suspended the work indefinitely.
“Irrigation with the passing water has enabled me have a constant supply of sukuma wiki or any other vegetables I grow at any given time. I have no regret for passing by this river that afternoon after being turned away from mjengo,” he said.
Besides directly fetching the water for irrigation, they use generators to quicken the process. Those who do not have hire the machine for Sh200 per session.
Black night shade (managu), spinach, pumpkins, sorghum and napier grass are some of the crops thriving in the Mbagathi River basin.
When he is not at his shamba, he looks for construction work which at times earn him around Sh500 a day.
David Kirimi, who has subdivided his piece into 30 feet by 20 feet outfits, is growing spinach, black-eyed beans, and kales.
“I expect to earn Sh1500 from this small piece after harvesting the stems of the black-eyed beans every month. Thereafter, I will transplant the nursery bed kales to this piece,” he said.
Because the beans are for leaf consumption, he planted them closely, with the piece of land taking two kilos.
Flooding is a blessing and a curse for these farmers. The river flows from the Ngong Hills forest with force after heavy rains, sweeping everything along the burst banks basin.
After the rains, the water drains away through the terraces, leaving behind nutritious silt. They plant again and again. They only incur pesticides expenses.
Like many other farmers this garden is Kirimi’s part-time engagement after a painting job in Ongata Rongai.
The farmers know the land may be taken way any time.
But before that happens, they will continue working there to better their lives.