A mention of Mpeketoni Town, flashes images terror and lifelessness in many Kenyans, and indeed the world.
But one farmer, Julius Kimotho is making at least Sh320,000 from his groundnuts from his farm in this evergreen area, which he describes as a ‘town in the garden’.
In 2011, Kimotho grew a handful of groundnuts he had carried from central region’s Kenya Nuts Company.
He grew them for domestic consumption, but the harvest made him think twice.
“I better know the variety as ‘Kenya nuts’, because that is where I got it from. The harvest was tantalising. We did not eat them; I curved out half an acre from the maize field and grew more in the next season. The taste of the money from the groundnuts has gradually lured my desire to grow more,” he said.
He has since increased land under groundnuts to two acres, from which he draws at least 3,200 kgs per season.
The market at the Coast region is still wide; most small-scale traders ‘import’ the groundnuts from upcountry. But he has captured traders from Lamu Island, Malindi and Kilifi towns.
Each kilogramme goes for Sh100 although sometimes it reaches Sh110 or more depending on the supply.
The variety is bulky and ‘heavy’, therefore, a few seeds have more weight that the slim types, which are common.
Given that this town was a settlement area, soil nutrients have not been depleted, therefore, he spends little on fertilizer. Crop rotation is also helping his deal with groundnuts pests and infections.
As he sets to reduce the size of land under maize to increase groundnuts production, Kimotho says the market in the region is still hungry and he has no fear of shifting to this less crowded farming.
“When items are brought to the Coast region, the residents say the goods have been ‘imported’ from up country. I want to be part of those covering this market. I want to supply more and more to the people as others remain in maize and vegetable farming. Being a lone ranger or in the game of few means less competition and more profits,” he said.
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Although he lost his son in the 2014 Al Shabaab attack in the town in which more that 60 people perished, he is not shaken.
“I cannot go back up country. Death can find you anywhere. I want to be where I have been for more than 50 years. Farming has supported me this far. I am confident farming will change the lives of my two children in college and those of my three grandchildren left by my son,” he says.
As opposed to maize which takes about six months, groundnuts are yielding more because of short maturity period of a maximum of four months. This gives him room for rotation with other vegetables.
Mpeketoni is a metropolitan town, supported by mixed farming.