The poverty level in Busia and Siaya counties is at 64.2% and 47.56% respectively compared to 45.9% at the national level. In both Counties, poor agricultural practices is a key contributing factor to this situation. To address this, the Nzoia Flood Protection Structures (NFPS) and Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project (LNIP) are working towards improving irrigation agriculture in the counties on 4,000 hectares with over 2,100 households. This will lead to increased food security and commercial horticulture farming.
Vincent Odumu from Bundana village in Bunyala is one of the 50 farmers being trained on production of high-value crops. The National Irrigation Board (NIB) through Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project (LNIP), trains and supports project farmers in good agronomic practices to produce higher-value crops and link them to markets. The farmers are also linked to agribusiness companies, local banks, NGOs, associations and service providers.
The training sessions are conducted at selected demo farms to facilitate farmers to transit from current rain-fed subsistence agriculture to commercial horticulture farming. The sessions are organized by LNIP in partnership with the Departments of Agriculture in Busia and Siaya Counties, and other stakeholders. After the training, the farmers transfer the learnt skills to their farms. With this support, Vincent has planted 800 tomato plants. He expects to earn a net profit of Kshs 42,000 compared to Kshs 6,000 before the training. The NIB is working closely with him to achieve the desired quality and quantity of tomatoes.
Additionally, through linkages to ARIMS holdings Company, an agent of Davis and Shirtliff, Vincent acquired a Kshs 80,000 solar water pump on credit. He made an initial deposit of Kshs 8,000 and he will pay off in installments of Kshs 6,000 per month from the tomato sales. The water pump will help Vincent to start reaping early benefits of the technologies being promoted by LNIP before the launch of the main irrigation system.
Currently, the project is establishing linkages for farmers with local and regional markets.
To ensure that the farmers can meet the regional market demand, twenty of the farmers in Vincent’s group are growing tomatoes which will all be ready for the market at the same time. The farmers will soon sign sales and purchase contracts for tomatoes, vegetables, herbs and spices. Besides, they will also sell the yields directly to the local markets.
“The opportunity the project has provided will benefit others in the community too. Currently, I work alone on the farm but I will employ some youths when I scale up farming”, says Vincent.
Monica Aror Onyango is one of the People Affected by the Project (PAPs) in Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project in Ulawe village, Umala sub-location. Her family’s land that stretches into River Nzoia was one of the parcels acquired to pave way for the construction of the canal. Monica, her four sons and their families had lived in one gated homestead for decades. Culturally, a completely established Luo homestead has the first wife’s house directly facing the main gate. If the family is polygamous, then the second wife’s house is erected on the left side of the first wife’s house, and the third wife to the right. Monica is the only wife, her first son’s house was to the left of her house and the other three alternatively to the left and right with the youngest son’s house near the main gate. After their land was acquired, Monica’s family had to put down the homestead and relocate further away, on their land, from the canal site. This affected the size of their land and they could no longer resettle in a homestead again, thus breaking a culture they had held onto for years. Additionally, they had to clear crops and trees to rebuild new homes. Each family member has now resettled in a separate compound because the land left would not accommodate the previous homestead as they have to maximize on the remaining land for farming.
After their houses were compensated, it took Monica about three months to rebuild her new home. Despite the loses because of the resettlement, Monica likes her new home. “My house is more modern with solar lighting and spacious compared to the previous one. I succeeded in building my new home which is well fenced and gated because I was more focused and less extravagant with the compensation money,” she says.
Like her other family members, Monica’s expectations of the project is still blurred. “Although we are yet to get compensation for livelihoods, we are eager to see how the project will roll out. We are looking forward to farming some vegetables and fruits for own consumption and sale”, she adds. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is in the process of analyzing the soils from the PAPs farmer to advice on the suitable crops to grow.
In the same neighborhood, Joseph Lang’o and his family comprising of a brother Julias Onyango Lang’o, Joseph’s son Ouma and Julias’s sons Willam Onyango and Charles Odera had to resettle elsewhere on their land. “We are lucky we did not have to move to another area. Although we lost our ancestral homestead, each family now has its own gated home, more spacious and more privacy as compared to when we all shared one compound. However, our farming areas has also been reduced but we look forward to being trained in farming high-value crops so that we can increase our farm productivity and profitability. We normally harvest twice a year but with the new irrigation scheme, we will be able to harvest three times a year and also farm vegetables and fruits for consumption and sale,” says Joseph