Virgin soils make Kajiado ideal for crops, says young farmer who has overcome the odds to succeed in agriculture
By News Team
A natural spring of water on his father’s land combined with ample acreage for farming and sheer determination was all it took for Patrick Masago to become the envy of many farmers far and wide — a success story that provides hope that with the right support, semi-arid areas can indeed be turned into breadbaskets.
Now in his early 30s, Masago is encouraging the ballooning population of unemployed youth to try their hand in agribusiness, which he says pays handsomely.
Today, Patever Green Fields — as Masago calls his farming venture – is a well-irrigated enterprise separated into four one-acre blocks planted with tomatoes, onions and maize for the local market.
The farm in Sajiloni, a remote area in Kajiado Central, was started way back in 2011 after Masago returned from a benchmarking mission in Loitokitok, in Kajiado South. A majority of the population in that sub-county belong to the Maasai community, a people well-known in history to be predominantly pastoralists, yet the area is now the main producer of cash crops in the county.
“In 2009, I was transferred to Loitokitok, where I saw farmers using irrigation from the waters of Mt. Kilimanjaro. My father has five dams, yet there is minimal use of water. So, I asked my father to allow me use the water, and he agreed,” says Masago.
All this was thanks to his posting in Loitokitok, which gave Masago the opportunity to interact with fellow Maasai who had made a fortune in agribusiness, inspiring him to begin his own small irrigation scheme.
The youthful farmer spent about Ksh700,000 to widen a natural spring of water on the land to create an unending reservoir of water, which he pumps to two 10,000-litre elevated plastic tanks. The water is then controlled in its flow to the various blocks of land. The dam’s overflow during heavy rains is directed to a nearby stream.
Apart from farming, the water from the dam — estimated to be 20 feet deep — benefits the neighbouring community. It is an investment that Masago is proud to talk about, and which encouraged him to purchase three acres nearby that he also hopes to put into farming.
“In November, some designers will come to design the farm for zero-grazing. I plan to use one acre for an orchard, another for my home, and the third for dairy farming. Part of the irrigated farm will be used for growing napier grass,” he says.
He is particularly encouraged by the ongoing tarmacking of the road linking Kajiado and Sultan Hamud, and which passes by his father’s land. “This road will be a game-changer. It is what has made me think of going into dairy farming in the near future. I will easily sell my milk in Kajiado.”
For now, Masago is still testing the waters to find out what crops will bring the most revenue. He has tried French beans, which he sold to Finland and Germany through the firm Woni Exporters, but stopped. He now sells his produce in Nairobi, Kajiado and Bisil.
His humble beginnings were not without hurdles. He did not have enough capital to start off, and did not know where and whether he would get a market for his produce. Nonetheless, he moved on. “I have learnt in life that fortune honours the risktakers, and that it is far better to try and fail than to sit back doing nothing for fear of failure.”
It took him about half a decade to break even. It was during this period that he came to have a better understanding of the market. He says that the harsh realities that characterised his entry into the market, high production costs, transport costs, low market prices, and lack of a ready market almost made him lose hope.
However, his confidence was renewed when an agronomist introduced him to Woni Exporters, a firm that exports fruits and vegetables that meet international quality standards.
After meeting the company officials, he signed a contract. Apart from providing a ready market for his produce and stable prices throughout all seasons, a technical team from the company would inspect the farm at least twice a month and give advice.
Young farmers throng Masago’s farm to do benchmarking. He is confident that with the experience he has acquired since 2011, he is destined for even better, large-scale farming.
Masago says the idea that Kajiado is not a good place to do farming was misplaced. The exact opposite was in fact true, he says, since most of the land in Kajiado has never been put into agricultural use and so the soil is still very productive. Moreover, most people can access organic manure right at their homesteads.
To encourage more people to do agribusiness, the farmer says the government should facilitate awareness programmes that promote the agriculture and agri-foods sector, as well as provide information to county residents on the benefits of agricultural development. He also calls upon the community elite to spearhead the development of their immediate localities.