The class four dropout who found money and fame in soil

Ronald Nyagaka is a class four dropout who earns a minimum of Sh30, 000 a month from his two acre farm. This, coming at a time when most young people his age have moved to urban areas in search of better lives but are still struggling to make ends meet as jobs become elusive.

For Ronald, a journey that began when his parents could not afford his school fees which saw him drop out of school at a tender age has culminated into him being crowned the overall winner youth category in the Elgon Kenya National Farmers Awards 2014.

As other children his age then woke up early to get to school on time, Ronald woke early to head to his parents’ two acre farm. The most pressing need then was to produce food for the family consumption and to push them for another day. The parents had no meaningful source of income. 
But Ronald always felt that farming only for family consumption wasn’t enough. A visit by extension officers to their farm in 2005 convinced him that there was money in the soil.

With blessings from his parents, Ronald delved into serious farming for business. Living in Kisii which is well known for its banana production, Ronald decided to try his hands on banana farming which had a guaranteed market. But with many farmers in the area planting and harvesting the bananas at the same time a market glut would always emerge. The concomitant effects of low prices got Ronald thinking.

Noting that there was growing demand for fresh produce which couldn’t be met even as more farmers continued with the banana obsession it was time for Ronald to diversify. He started with cabbages which gave him impressive returns and inspired him to try his hands in various crops. “When I first did banana farming and I saw how easy it was to make money in farming i started toying with various ideas on what I would do to with the two acres. I knew relying on bananas alone was dangerous,” said Ronald.

He would later subdivided the land to accommodate 2 high grade cows, 50 indigenous chicken, 10 beehives and two fish ponds. The success of his venture has transcended Kisii boundaries and has seen his farm used as a model to train other farmers. “I get visitors from far and wide who are keen on the importance of mixed farming. The hallmark of it all is when a farmer I have trained return to thank me having seen it work on their farm,” Ronald said.

And as climate change interferes with harvesting and planting seasons, Ronald’s mixed farming venture has been hailed as the perfect example of how farmers can insulate by getting yields and income throughout the year.

And although Ronald never had the privilege of completing his education, he is using proceeds from his farming venture to educate his children hoping to give them the best education he can.
The highlight of his farming journey he says, was when he was announced the National winner in the Elgon Kenya National Farmers Awards in the youth category.

He was feted by President Uhuru Kenyatta during this year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair. “I am still yet to come to terms with shaking the President’s hand and receiving a trophy from him. It was the most fulfilling moment of my life. There I was, a class four dropout, doing farming in a little village in Kisii, and the next minute I am shaking hands with the president who constantly kept telling me hongera kwa kazi mzuri,” recalled Ronald nostalgically.

Ronald who has now become a celebrity in his hometown is all praises to Elgon Kenya for organizing and introducing initiatives like the Farmers Awards which he says will go along way in encouraging especially young people to try their hand in farming.

According to Ronald Elgon Kenya understands the link between a country’s food security and smallholder farmers. “Since being announced winner and people seeing my name and pictures very many people in Kisii have actually intensified farming. They say, if Ronald can do it and we have grown together, why not me? With one award, I have inspired hundreds mostly youth that there Is joy and pride in agriculture. Imagine if we did this consistently,” he concluded.