Once a desert, now lush green vegetable farm

Saturday January 7 2017

Ahmed Bashir Abdille in his vegetables farm in Wajir.

Ahmed Bashir Abdille in his vegetables farm in Wajir as a farm employee sprays the vegetables in the background. He grows tomatoes, collard greens and onions on one-and-a-half acres. PHOTO | BRUHAN MAKONG | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By BRUHAN MAKONG
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Deep in the semi-arid Wajir County sits a farm that shocks many due to its lush vegetables.

The farm that belongs to Ahmed Bashir Abdille hosts sukuma wiki (collard greens) tomatoes and onions, among other crops.

Abdille, 55, a resident of Habaswein town ventured into farming about a decade ago without much success until he sunk a borehole on his farm last year, and installed a drip irrigation system.

The borehole with a capacity of 15,000 litres has turned around his fortune as a horticulture farmer.

“I grow tomatoes, collard greens and onions on one-and-a-half acres. Dhania (coriander) occupies half an acre and maize an acre.”

He grows all the crops under irrigation but last year, he was not able to harvest any maize because the variety he got from the county government does not grow under the drip system.

“I have set up nurseries so that immediately after harvesting, I plant new seedlings. This ensures we do not run out of produce,” says Abdille, who farms under the name Zaitun Farmers Group, comprising of his family members.

The public health officer harvests about 10,000kg of tomatoes a season earning some Sh500,000, 300kg of sukuma wiki every day and six tonnes of onions per harvest, the two offering him up to Sh300,000. More money, up to Sh3,000 per day, comes from selling dhania.

“I sell sukuma wiki at Sh40 per kilo to traders and consumers in Habaswein and Wajir towns and also supply to Daadab Refugee Camp. I want to produce more so that I can take control of the local market.”

Abdille says he was inspired to turn around his farm following a visit to India for treatment.

YET TO BREAK EVEN

“During my stay early last year, I visited several farms and saw how farmers had greatly invested in technologies like drip irrigation. It is then that I realised that drip irrigation would help me turn around my farm,” says Abdille, who has now placed all his three acres under drip irrigation.

It cost him Sh160,000 per acre to install the drip system. “I imported the system from India, thus, clearance at the port, transport and labour resulted to higher costs. In India, the system is cheaper, with farmers spending Sh50,000 on an acre. This is because the Indian government has subsidised the cost of drip system by 50 per cent,” says Abdille who adds he has invested millions of shillings in the business with the money going to the irrigation system and sinking of boreholes.

He is yet to break even.

Lack of labour is one of his major problems as he has to get youths from other counties to work on the farm.

“Sometimes we end up selling our tomatoes at a low of Sh50 instead of Sh150 and sukuma wiki at Sh20 per kilo because traders from other counties flood our market.”

Wild animals and cattle also occasionally invade his farm destroying crops as they search for pasture, especially during dry season.

Elijah Lwevo, an agricultural officer in the county, says besides tomatoes and onions, paw paws and watermelons perform well due to the high temperatures.

“The level of productivity can be improved through irrigation, investment in boreholes and training of farmers. We are happy the country government has stepped in strongly to help farmers.”