Kinango constituency in Kwale county is relatively dry throughout the year. However, some youth in Viburungani area are reaping big from irrigation projects.
Kinoi Kavuti, one of the pioneers of irrigation farming in the area, says despite the area being dry due to minimal or no rainfall, his irrigation project is doing very well.
“I started doing farming in this area seven years ago and at first it was challenging but currently I am doing fairly well,” he says.
He plants capsicum or bell peppers (pilipili hoho), kales, tomatoes, paw paw, lettuce among other vegetable crops.
This year, Kavuti also ventured into sugarcane and banana growing. “I heard about the coming of El Nino and I decided to take advantage of the rains. I hope that my crops will give me abundant yields than the previous years,” he says.
Kavuti uses water from a nearby dam, which was dug by the locals to collect water during the rainy seasons that will be used for farming and household use.
Kavuti says when he started farming, people mocked him saying he was a joker. “They told me I was crazy, but after seeing my success they now want to join me. I have now been able to buy a cow, some few goats and I am also rearing chicken and all these achievements have come from my irrigation project,” he says.
He also bought his own water pump that he uses to pump water from the dam, which is about 100 metres from his farm. Previously, he used to carry water in buckets from the dam.
Kavuti says he sells his produce at the nearby markets. “The locals, especially women, also buy vegetables directly from my farm.”
Kavuti now plans to expand his two-acre piece of land so that he can grow more crops and sell them in Mombasa and other major towns.
Kinango, which has a population of about 200,000 people, has always been known for drought and famine.
In 2011, reports emerged that over 100,000 residents faced starvation following the drought that had hit the area.
The areas hit hard by famine included Kasemeni, Nyango, Busho, Kilibasi and Silaloni.
Kavuti says this can only be changed once the locals have been empowered to practice both subsistence and commercial farming.
“We need to be supported by the government; to be given water pumps, tanks for water storage and financial assistance,” he says.
He adds that when the youth are supported in agriculture, Kinango and the entire Kwale county will be food-sufficient and will become the food-basket of the coast region.
Last year, Kwale county government bought 42 tractors — two tractors for each of the 20 wards in the region — to support local farmers.
Governor Salim Mvurya says the tractors will mechanise agriculture and eradicate poverty among locals.
“This will also reduce dependence on relief food among residents,” he says.
Mvurya says his government is committed in ensuring that the locals do not languish in poverty and starvation while the region is blessed with vast resources.