By MY Correspondent
Kyuso-Ngomeni in Kitui County is a semi-arid area that is perpetually dry, only receiving rains countable times.
But this has not stopped Josiah Safari, a policeman from the region who works in Kisumu, to grow various horticultural crops on three acres out of his 10.
Amid the desert conditions, the traffic policeman has turned his farm into a horticultural haven growing watermelons, capsicum, pawpaws and also keeps fish.
Safari, a security management graduate from Mt Kenya University and a holder of a diploma in public relations and diplomacy, tells Mkulima young that started farming out of passion.
“I always dreamt of running an agribusiness that would have a positive impact in my life and encourage people in this dry part of Ukambani.”
But he did not start with farming; his first foray into business was a small café in the village where he sold tea and doughnuts (mandazi).
Soon, the water challenge in the region took a toll on the business and he decided to dig a shallow well.
“To my surprise, the facility produced plenty of clean water than I had expected. I decided to pipe the water and supply at the local shopping centre,” he recalls.
While doing this, he also piped the water to his home, about 2km away from the shopping centre and supplied the commodity to his neighbours.
“The water was still in excess and that is how I ended up getting into farming four years ago to maximise its use. I established an irrigation system on the farm and started growing watermelons and capsicums,” he says.
These crops were rare in the region, but demand was high making traders from nearby towns like Mwingi come for them.
“I was doing all this from far away in Kisumu and I still farm over the phone. I use my smartphone to monitor and communicate with my three full-time workers and sometimes 30 labourers that I hire on need basis,” he says, noting WhatsApp comes in handy.
Safari says he researches on the internet a lot to get agricultural knowledge.
“I Google, check YouTube videos and follow social media users with similar interests. I recently came across Mkulima Young and it has come in handy in marketing my produce and interacting with other farmers,” he says.
However, his farming journey has not been all smooth.
“It's hard to instil the passion you have in something like farming to other people, especially those who work for you. Given that I am in the disciplined forces, I am a perfectionist, and when I try to instil such passion to my workers, they think it is a sort of punishment.”
The distance between his workplace and his farm also curtails him to do many things.
“From Kisumu to my farm it is exactly 936km, coupled with work commitments I can only manage a maximum of one visit per month.
This makes it hard to expand and invest in other technologies such as greenhouses,” he says.
He advises those who want to get into farming to first start with market research.
“If you know the market trends and what is needed by the time your crop grows, you will not go wrong. In my case I have farmed the capsicum for the last four years continuously. This is my primary crop but over time I have added the others like pawpaws of the Malkia variety and fish.”
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