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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Youth farmers journey in green peas production

By Bob Aston
Youths are the future of food security in Kenya. Despite this, few young people see a future for themselves in agriculture. In Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia West Sub County, attempts to integrate youths in agriculture have started to bore fruits as interest amongst youths has increased.
Mr. Peter Nderitu, 24, graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor in Psychology from Egerton University. Instead of travelling to Nairobi to look for white-collar jobs, he decided to request his parents to give him a two-acre piece of land so that he can engage in agriculture.
Mr. Nderitu has been a frequent user of Ng’arua Maarifa Centre. He started seeking for information at the Maarifa Centre about different agricultural enterprise that can succeed in Naibrom area.
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) founded the Centre to enable farmer’s access information related to agriculture, natural resource management, and climate change among others.
Researched information on growing green peas at the centre equipped him with knowledge that enabled him to start his project. Equipped with Kshs 15,000, he started a journey that few graduate youths contemplate.
Mr. Peter Nderitu harvesting green peas at his farm
“I decided on green peas as I learned that they mature fast and also do well in this region. I initially targeted the December market but this was not possible as I planted in late November,” said Mr. Nderitu.
He noted that peas produce best yields and quality in moist growing conditions while the well-drained soil in the area is also ideal for peas. He said that peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetables. They contain phyto-nutrients, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
He said that he used 6 kilograms of seeds per acre thus investing Kshs 1,800 in seeds alone. Mr. Nderitu noted that the limited knowledge in best agricultural practices has affected his production, as he should have used around 10 kilograms per acre.
He used a spacing of 45 cm between plants and 1 metre between rows. Later on after researching at the Maarifa Centre, he realized that his spacing was not ideal. He is now planning to improve on the spacing during the next season.
Although he did not stake the crops, he said that he learned that staking is important for good quality fresh market peas. Due to the high cost of fertilizer, he has not been using recommended quantity as he only used one bag of DAP in the two-acre farm.
He has been taking his green peas to Sipili market. He had expected the peas to retail at Kshs. 100 per 2 kg tin but due to oversupply in Sipili, the price is not good as a 2 kg tin currently retails at Kshs. 50. 
He noted that lack of a stable market is a major hindrance. On a good day, he makes Kshs 1,000 per day by selling 40 kgs of the peas.
Mr. Peter Nderitu  at Ng'arua Maarifa after collecting mango seedlings
He is now looking for an alternative market. Initially a buyer from Nairobi had promised to collect all the produce from his farm but as this took long, he decided to start selling the peas before they lose their nutritional value. He said that he expects to continue harvesting for the next one month.
Pests and diseases particularly Aphids have been a major setback. Despite spraying, the aphids still caused distortion and wilting of the plants thus leading to stunted and smaller pods and seeds. He had to spray the peas twice to get rid of the pests.
He said that the notion held by some youths that farming is old fashion and those involved in agriculture are normally peasants are inaccurate.
“I have learned a lot and I expect that I will be a better farmer during the next season. I realized that embracing new agricultural technologies can go a long way in ensuring that one succeeds as a farmer,” said Mr. Nderitu.

He believes that support from the Kenyan government in addressing challenges faced by youths in agriculture particularly difficulty in accessing credit facilities and markets can help entice more youths to embrace agriculture as a profession.

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