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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Youth farmer not deterred by water scarcity

By Rosemary Wanjiru
Engaging the youth in agriculture has been cited as one of the ways of creating employment and uplifting the livelihood of youths. Despite this there is a growing concern that most youths are disenchanted by agriculture.
James Mwangi, 20, a student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and a resident of Naiborom village in Laikipia West is determined to succeed in farming despite the dry spell currently being experienced in the area.  
James tending to his crops

 James came home for the long holiday in April hoping that the long rains experienced in the region during this period would still continue but to his surprise the maize and beans which his parents had planted had not even germinated.
 “The weathered crops that I encountered meant that schools fees for the next semester was going to be a problem since there would be no crop products such as beans to sale, “said James.
He had to formulate a way of getting his school fees. He had the idea of teaching in the local secondary or primary school. However he did not get vacancy in any of them because almost all the schools had enough staff. The remaining schools were either very far from his home or offered to pay him a month salary of below Sh. 4000.
He finally came up with the idea of planting kales and spinach. His aim was to establish enough seedlings to plant in a half acre piece of land and also some for selling as seedlings. He intended to make more than Ksh 10,000 in the project.
“I was being driven by the need to find my own pocket money for the next semester as well as paying for my tuition fees,” said James.
In mid May he prepared two nurseries. One nursery was for spinach while the other one was for kales. He sowed collard from Simlaw seeds for kales and Swiss chard seeds for spinach. He also purchased five (5) kilograms of DAP fertilizer.
“Every morning and evening I would visit the nursery to water the seedlings. As time went by the seedlings nourished and many who saw them admired them and promised to buy some once the rain set on,” said James.
James tending to his crops
He was so motivated nursing the seedlings but it never rained. Crops started weathering because of lack of water. A nearby well where he used to draw water also dried up. His seedlings were soon ready to be transplanted but he could not do that due to water shortage.
James is now remaining with two months to go back to the University for the next semester but so far he is still weighing up his options on what he can do to ensure the kales and spinach do well.
“It is clear that water harvesting innovations would really help farmers here. This problem would have been avoided if I had learnt about different water harvesting techniques,” said James.
James hopes that soon the county government will build a dam in the area so as to eliminate the farmers dependency on rain. He still wishes for the rain to start so that he can transplant his seedlings.
Youths are critical to the future of the agriculture sector. Attracting youths to this sector would go a long way in addressing lack of employment opportunities among the youths.
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