MODERN TECHNIQUES

Firm helps farmers thrive through irrigation

Farmer driven by the collapse of the Mumias Sugar to seek solutions

In Summary

Eric Bosire and partners started Irrihub to tend to 'neglected' small-scale farmers.

The company provides irrigation, market structure and the right crop variety to grow

Farmers plant using Irrihub techniques
Farmers plant using Irrihub techniques
Image: MELANIE MWANGI

Brought up in Mumias and experiencing the collapse of the Mumias Sugar company, Eric Bosire grew anxious to help farmers.

He and his partners started Irrihub in November 2017, a company that mainly focuses on irrigation and consultancy. Speaking to the Star in an interview, he said he was always passionate about farming because his father used to be one.

“Farming is my passion. What really pushed me to start this was the fall of Mumias. That farm raised us. After it collapsed, a lot of farmers there who were relying on sugarcane didn’t know how to farm other products, yet they had to diversify to survive,” he said.

“We started Irrihub to tend to small-scale farmers because they are neglected in the industry. We come up with solutions that tend to them, from irrigation, market structure and the right crop variety to grow.”

The young CEO, who studied lab science in campus, said it is about time farmers stopped relying on traditional methods of farming and focused on modern farming technologies.

 

ENDING RAIN RELIANCE

Bosire emphasises on irrigation instead of relying on rainfall.

“When I first started farming in Kitale, I wasn’t using irrigation. But with time, I learnt that I was working so hard instead of working smart,” he said.

“If we are not going to turn into irrigation and modernise our farming techniques, it will be hard, especially with our changing climatic patterns.”

“Any horticultural crop does well under drip and sprinklers, but I highly recommend drip irrigation to small-scale farmers because the weather pattern right now is wanting. There’s little rain. Drip irrigation sustains water and minimises use of water,” Bosire said.

He said drip irrigation allows farmers to tell the amount water required for every crop. It also allows them to calculate the amount of water used by the drip line, so they can know the specific amount of time required to open up the tank or pump.

 

EXPENSE HURDLE

However much irrigation is the best solution to the water crisis facing farmers, the main challenge is the cost.

Bosire said putting up irrigation kits is costly because the raw materials are expensive. They include drips, drip lines and a pump if necessary.

“Even before we set up the drips, a farmer needs to have a tank or a storage system in place or, if it’s from a river, pumping is necessary, so costs are so high. Not many people can afford this. All the rain that will pour for the few months to come, if you don’t have a way of harvesting it, will go to waste,” he said.

Another big challenge he faces is trying to change the perception of farmers. He said some are reluctant to embrace change.

“Farmers need to understand that a major population of Kenya at least needs them three times a day. In the morning for breakfast, lunchtime and evening. They feed the nation. If they are looking at farming as a business, it’s about time they embraced new modern techniques of farming,” the Irrihub CEO said.

“It’s all about getting the right mechanisms in place, they need to invest. Spend money to make money.”

He believes if the water crisis is dealt with accordingly, it will help Kenya sustain its population.

WAY FORWARD

Bosire, who also conducts trainings for farmers in mashinani together with his colleagues, urged the government to zero rate farm inputs to make them easily affordable.

He also urged it to ensure public participation in policymaking, industrialise agriculture, invest in good modern technologies, train farmers and improve the market structure, especially as regards brokers.

“Agriculture contributes a lot to our GDP, but the saddest thing is the amount being spared is little compared to other sectors. Agribusiness can create a lot of jobs for our young guys; we just need to equip them well with all the relevant tools,” he said.

Irrihub is currently trying to develop an app that can enable a farmer to control and monitor water via a mobile phone. They are also working on a text alert system to tip farmers.

“We’ve not been in the industry for long, but it feels like we’ve been here for 10 years because the impact we have had is so much. Some try this for the first time and realise this is what they have been missing big time.”