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Former financial analyst bets on new methods of farming for income and food security

Shirley Kingotho
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Born, raised and worked in areas that experience extreme dry weather conditions in Kenya has shaped Shirley Kigotho to champion resilient farming methods such as aquaponics and hydroponics among youth and women groups in the areas for food security.

The former Turkana County financial analyst decided to resign from her job and start Jangwani Farms Limited a company that focuses on growing crops using the latest technologies that are fit for crop and fodder production especially in arid and semiarid areas.

 “After getting better information on the two methods of farming and I had to embark on learning and perfecting the art of farming these techniques. Luckily enough my parents helped me with a piece of their land in Trans Nzoia to help me perfect the concept of Hydroponic method of farming. When I first started, my parents gave me a loan of Sh200,000 which I added to my savings of Sh130,000 to be able to set up my prototype farm in Trans Nzoia,” says Shirley.

 She first got the concept of alternative methods of farming back in 2015 while she was working for the Turkana county government as a financial analyst. After a lot of online research on how developed countries are able to grow crops in arid and semi-arid areas in their countries that is the aquaponics a method of growing crops in a moist area by spraying plant roots with plant food nutrients and hydroponics where one uses liquid, sand, gravel, and other materials to grow plants away from a soil environment.

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The main type of farming method she uses is the hydroponic method of farming, which she uses to grow tomatoes in her green house. She also grows capsicum, skumawiki, cabbages, cucumber and coriander among other vegetables outside the green house. Out of the produce she gets from her green house, she sells them in the local markets in Trans Nzoia.

She gets 10 crates of tomatoes which she sells at Sh5,500 per crate. Out of the rest of her quarter acre piece of land, where she grows cabbages and skumawiki. She able to get two sacks of 126kgs of cabbages which she sells at Sh3,000 and three sacks of 90kgs bags of skumawiki which she sells at Sh3,000 at the local markets.  The cucumber and coriander are mostly used for domestic purposes.

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Aside from growing of vegetables, Shirley also installs green houses and set up the hydroponic systems for people in the area. For instance, installation of a greenhouse cost Sh97,000 and installing the hydroponic system coast Sh23,000 meaning if one would want to have both the green house and the hydroponic system it would cost one Sh120,000. 

“When I first started, I had problems selling my produce to the local markets since most of them believed my produce was mostly GMO but with time that has changed. I also had problems in getting the material for constructing greenhouses but I have been able to sort that one out by recycling of polythene bags and using wooden poles instead of the metallic ones, “adds Shirley.

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When she first started Jangwani her main target groups were women and the youth in the area. This is because they are best placed to take up new farming techniques also the youth and women make up a big percentage of the population in Trans Nzoia. Currently Shirley is working with two youth groups in the area and has a staff of three, a farmhand, an agronomist and a technician.

Shirley is presently working by herself and is looking for investors to help her expand Jangwani Farms to the areas of West Pokot and Turukana counties to help combat the challenge of food security in these counties.

“Last year Jangwani Farms won the award of the most sustainable business by Blaze Safaricom and it got incorporated in September 2019. I have high hopes for Jangwani with it expanding to West Pokot and Turkana. I am looking for investors from both the financial intuitions like banks and farming sectors such as exporters and local farming corporations to help in marketing farm produce,” says Shirley.

“With time, I aim to start training young farmers in the arid and semi-arid areas in Kenya to be able to fight food shortage in the country and also help in getting high yield crops,” adds Shirley.

She can be reached on +254 714 562102

Caption: Shirley Kigotho at her greenhouse farm. Photo courtesy.

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