- From Kitengela to Ngong, Rongai, Namanga and Loitokitok, farming using new technology that include greenhouses and drip irrigation is the in-thing in Kajiado as the county becomes Nairobi’s new granary.
- Kajiado County has become the new granary for Nairobi as people troop to the county to earn from the soil it in essence is the new food basket for Nairobi.
- Finding market is not a problem for the farm as mama mbogas from as far as Nairobi, Ngong, Kitengela and Rongai, urban settlements with swelling population, visit to buy.
- The county should however invest in cold storage facilities to support the horticultural farmers.
Three trucks honked as they made their way into Wakulima market in Nairobi.
Two of the small trucks were loaded with tens of crates of tomatoes while the other red onions.
It was a big relief for the four young farmers who had ferried the produce from their farms in Loitokitok, Kajiado County.
Looking at the four that Saturday, their scruffy look perhaps displayed the hustle they had gone through to deliver the produce to the market, but they were all smiles.
Over an hour later, they started the journey back to Loitokitok, where they grow the crops in the open field.
The four are among tens of people who are flocking the semi-arid county to farm, thanks to the availability of huge arable land.
The county has not only attracted real estate developers in droves but also agriprenuers eager to make money from the soil.
From Kitengela to Ngong, Rongai, Namanga and Loitokitok, farming using new technology that include greenhouses and drip irrigation is the in-thing in Kajiado as the county becomes Nairobi’s new granary.
Onions, tomatoes, capsicum, traditional vegetables, French beans and fruits are some of the popular crops, with those opting for livestock keeping chicken, pigs and dairy cows and goats.
At Kimana in Loitokitok, huge tracts of land teem with tomatoes, onions, sukuma wiki (collard greens) and beans.
Most of the plots are owned by individual small-holder farmers who have leased the land while others have bought them.
From Sh5,000, one leases at least half-acre, enabling people to farm on huge pieces.
Titus Wamalwa, a manager at Maiyana Farm in Kimana, cites the area’s rich black cotton soil and affordable cost of hiring land as major reasons that make the county a farming destination.
Dragging a bag of onions onto a pick-up, Wamalwa’s face beams as he says:
“We might not be experiencing much rainfall but with technologies such as greenhouses and irrigation, one is good to go.”
READILY AVAILABLE FARM MANURE
And with residents being pastoralists keeping huge number of cows and goats, he notes that farm manure is readily accessible, cutting reliance on inorganic fertiliser.
Their five-acre farm is sub-divided into five portions to accommodate beans, onions and tomatoes at different growth stages, all grown under an open field irrigation.
They have sunk a borehole on the edge of the farm whose water is pumped into a 10,000-litre tank using two solar panels. Once in the tank, the water flows by gravity to the farm.
“Our planting is systematic such that we have tomatoes all-year-round,” says Wamalwa adding they irrigate the farm twice a week and rotate tomatoes with beans, which they harvest after three months.
They plant onions in furrows with a spacing of 1 by 1ft while the tomatoes in 30cm or 45cm spacing.
Finding market is not a problem for the farm as mama mbogas from as far as Nairobi, Ngong, Kitengela and Rongai, urban settlements with swelling population, visit to buy.
New farming concepts that encourage agribusiness are also taking root in the county. Edwin Khiranga, a sales and marketing director at Diamond Property Merchants, the firm behind Bethany City, a gated farming community project, says they have put up more than 5,000 greenhouses in Kajiado in the last one year.
The concept involves prospective farmers buying an eighth-of-an-acre at Sh500,000 and investing in agribusiness by adding Sh320,000.
The farming project comes with 8 by 15m greenhouse, labour, inputs, agronomic support, insurance, management, and a ready market for the yields.
“After selling land in the past five years, we realised that it no longer made sense to continue with the business practice because most of the land remained idle yet if farmed could bring income to investors besides providing food to growing population,” Khiranga says, adding demand for food is so huge that small-holder farmers cannot meet it.
Farmers in the gated community grow tomatoes, capsicum and cucumber, which they mainly sell to supermarkets in Nairobi.
“We harvest 70 tonnes of tomatoes every week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from our 3,000 farmers,” says Khiranga.
TECHNOLOGY AND PROFFESIONAL GUIDANCE
Margaret Kianduma, a nurse in Nairobi, is among farmers under the agribusiness project. Margaret says she bought into the concept because of the professional guidance she is getting.
“Myself I could not go to Kajiado to farm alone, but I liked the fact that someone else is doing it for me. So far I am happy with the project and being a farmer. My tomatoes are doing well and I’m hopeful I will get my first harvest in March.”