Although I did not mention it in my New Year’s resolutions, one of the things I intended to do this year was to make money from farming. Good money. If you remember, my plans to make some good money from maize farming last year were thwarted by my brother, in close collaboration with my parents.
For those with a short memory, I prepared our piece of land and as I was still looking for money to buy seeds and fertiliser, my brother Pius travelled home and planted. And because he had bought my mother a leso and my father some airtime on top of a full week’s dose at Hitler’s, they all said that was his piece of land – and I was left high and dry.
It is no wonder the harvest was so dismal. Mungu sio Athumani!
I planned to show them this year how these things are done. Rather than wait for my father to finally divide the piece of land between us – just as he was given the land by our grandfather, I decided to do it in my own way. I talked do Alphayo — one of the luminaries of Mwisho wa Lami — to lease to me a piece he never used. It was very fertile land.
Soon, I hired an oxen to dig up the place. I then employed some boys to collect cow dung from everywhere and drop it in the farm.
But I soon realised that farming is not a cheap venture when I sat down to calculate how much I would need to harrow the land, and particularly the cost of seeds and fertiliser. That was before I added labour costs. But since I was keen to do a good job, I did not despair. I got a sample school fees structure and quickly got a school fees loan from the Sacco.
As usual, it would be unreasonable to just take all the money to farming without saying a word of pole to the body that toils. I did some good shopping – that included juice and unga ngano – for Fiolina and proceeded to enjoy life at Cosmos Bar and Rest.
I then went to our county headquarters and bought enough farm inputs, and waited for the rains. The skies opened up three weeks ago, and I was one of the very few ready farmers in Mwisho wa Lami and beyond. I quickly harrowed the land ready to plant. But there was a problem. I must have miscalculated. For I did not have enough money left to pay for labour – having used quite a tidy sum at Hitler’s and at Cosmos.
IDEA STRUCK ME
Then an idea struck me. I remembered how Lutta has over the years used pupils to help him with farm work. All he did was cook for them. There was nothing illegal about that. If anything, he saved lots of cash. I, therefore, selected the best pupils from Class 8, 7 and 6 and two weekends ago, it was planting day.
The 15 boys and girls arrived at my place early that Saturday morning. I had talked to Lutta a day before and he told me that all I needed was to prepare good food for them. “If they eat well, they will do fantastic job,” he had said.
To this end, I bought two loaves of bread the day before, and Fiolina had prepared good tea for the boys and girls. The really enjoyed it.
I divided them into three groups. The first consisting of boys to make the holes using a string so that the lines are straight. These were the most energetic and also somehow smart boys. The next team consisted of my brightest boys and girls. Their role was to drop in fertiliser, maize and beans since this needed some arithmetic, you could not just entrust the job to anyone. The last group consisted the energetic boys who, however, were not very talented in brainy matters. The job of filling the holes did not require a lot of thinking.
I spent the first hour showing everyone what to do. I had put Clinton in the first team, of making holes in straight line using a special string. Clinton was Rasto’s grandson. He mistakenly cut the string as early as in the second line. While other pupils laughed at him, I joined the string, and showed him how to avoid cutting it.
He did it again in the fourth line. I once again showed him what to do. When he cut it again on the seventh line, I could not take it anymore. The boy needed some punishment. And although Matiang’i fully banned corporal punishment, I was not in school and therefore not accountable to Matiang’i. I got a good cane, ordered him to lie down, and gave him eight solid ones – in the middle of the farm as all others watched.
From then, he became alert and all the boys and girls who had been lazy got serious, as no one wanted to go through what Clinton had gone through. Seeing all was fine, I walked home to go take a rest and ensure their lunch was ready. I had bought 2kg of beef and some rice. It was 8.47am when I left the shamba and briskly walked home.
I found Fiolina preparing the meal and I went to the bedroom to rest. It was a few minutes past 11am when Fiolina, Branton and I carried the food to the farm. Although I had expected the work to be completed by noon, I was not surprised when I arrived to find the pupils finishing the work. They must have been very fast, after learning the drill.
We washed the hands after which we feasted on the meal. I dismissed them shortly afterwards and was happy that I had saved over Sh3,200 by using pupils.
And luckily for me, it rained that evening, proving that God was on my side. It also rained the next few days. But by the fourth day, only a few beans on the upper side where we had started had sprouted. I ignored this but got worried when by end of the week, only a few maize seedlings had sprouted as well.
“Labda ni shamba,” said Fiolina. “It is only fertile on the upper part,” she suggested. I stopped going to the farm after Lutta told me to relax.
But shock awaited me when I went there on Friday. Very healthy and green maize and beans had sprouted in the first few rows, but nothing in the other rows. But right in the middle of the farm, hundreds of healthy maize and beans seedlings had sprouted at the same spot; and were growing so fast like they were competing to go to heaven. I could not believe my eyes.
I went to school and called one of the girls who had been involved. She didn’t take long before spilling the beans. “After you beat Clinton, we were all angry and wanted to go home,” she said. “But some boys suggested that we punish you instead. So we dug one big hole, and put in all the fertiliser, maize and beans, and covered it with soil. We them proceeded to dig the other normal holes in straight lines but covered them without putting anything in,” she was crying as she spoke this. Despite my efforts, the girl refused to tell me who came up with the stupid suggestion, just saying that they all agreed to do so.
That was my Sh24,000 gone down the drain. I could not do anything to the pupils as it was not a school activity, and could not even complain outside as I had not paid them. But you can be sure that all the 15 are marked people. I won’t take this lying down. Watch this pace!