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I will never despise the farm again

Last Wednesday, someone from my bank called me. I don’t like kind of calls because it hints at a serious money anomaly. “Is there any problem with my money,” I quickly asked breathing restlessly.

Oh! no! Mr Mkulima, it is actually some cheque deposit that seems yours but whose details we want to confirm,” said the caller. I heaved a sigh of relief.

The cheque is from Dynasty Hotels Ltd. Although the name on it is yours, the  account number  given is slightly different,” explained the lady. “Instead of 96 at the end, it is written 69. We want to confirm if you were expecting such a cheque,” she continued.

“How much is it ? “ I queried. “It is for Sh242,260,” she said. I quickly  remembered my deal with the hotel two years ago when I supplied them with eggs and vegetables. I would end up pursuing payment for three months. I left it to the Lord to fight for me. It has also been a prayer item for Tabitha.

My farm was quite new then and since I had been warned about giving farm produce on credit, I was keen on prompt payment. Dynasty Hotels kept promising me payment but never honoured promises.

“Yah,  they owed me some money. Please contact them and clarify the right digits,” I almost jumped in joy. Yesterday, the same lady called to report that the matter had been solved.  “We have credited the amount. Have a good day,” she curtly said and hang up. What she didn’t know is that I would not just have a good day, but a good month as well.

My account is now Sh242,260.00 fatter. So agriculture can actually put some serious money in my account? If I was employed, then this is an amount I can only access through a loan!

PUNISHMENT

Since my childhood, I never considered agriculture. Where I grew up, anything agriculture was supposed to inflict pain or punishment. I remembered lyrics of  Habel Kifoto & Maroon Commandoes which swept across homesteads early in the morning.

Uvivu ni adui mkubwa wa ujenzi wa taifa. Kwani ndicho kiini hasa kisababishacho njaa. Ewe ndugu yangu amka kumekucha. Kamata jembe na panga.....
This song encouraged even farmers to work hard. However, none of us thought they would go all the way to university and end up as farmers.

Yes, we did it as a hobby, not as a serious money-making venture. Personally, I bought a male rabbit from Makanya, my classmate at Mashambani Primary School. Makanya was one of those boys talented in business at a tender age. No wonder he is now a successful entrepreneur!  

The  buck he sold me was to become the best in my village. Every boy wanted its breed and so this was an opportunity for me as I would charge Sh2 for the service. I would soon use the income to buy three bare-neck hens and a cock. Later, I bought a milk goat then a heifer whose generational calves were part of my current stock at Mkulima Mixed Farm.

However, despite the effort, this agribusiness talent was not appreciated nor nurtured -- in my case. It was even more discouraging as my strict Christian parents wanted nothing to do with rabbit meat. I had to wait for Sunday when they are away for church when I would cook and clean up the utensils before they returned.

Those days, the society encouraged us to work hard in school so we don’t become farmers.

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS

“If you don’t pass examinations, you will join me in farming,” this was a common phrase my parents used on me. To them, farming was for failures. During school holidays, parents would be waiting for us to till the land.  

From visiting my aunt in Ukambani –- where we spent days in the scorching sun chasing away birds from her sorghum farm — to my uncle’s farm in Kinangop, who woke up at  4 am to milk cows, farming was a  torturous affair.

My high school experience was worse. The admission letter required me to have a jembe and a slasher. These were punishment tools – which seemed definite! I had this agriculture teacher, Mr Ngugi aka “Famu” who doubled as a teacher and the farm manager. 

He made a name for himself for giving manual punishments. I remember the day he said, “Mkulima am not punishing you as a teacher but as a farm manager!” 

My joy of passing exams and being admitted to the university for ‘a serious course’ was short-lived when  I was admitted for an agricultural course. Most of those I was admitted with changed to other popular courses such as business, I was unable to change. But by the third year, I was suffering enough for it. 

I was required to wake up as early as 4 am to go for livestock duties - which was part of the course. This included milking the cows, cleaning the poultry battery cage, feeding calves, cleaning and feeding the pigs. 

This was done for a whole semester! The only benefit was that we had access to eggs. We would steal the eggs, hide them in our gumboots and walk like robots so they don’t break!

“Did you manage to sneak some eggs?’, Adenya my room mate would always whisper inside his blankets every morning. Adenya was always boastful that he is studying a popular course -Bachelor of Arts in Economics – which they branded ‘MathsEcon’ – good for white collar jobs. This is where I realized you will always need a farmer three times a day.

Even girls avoided those studying agriculture course.

But today, I don’t regret all this. With Dynasty Hotels’ cheque, I can pay myself off this agony. I hear they are opening a new hotel a few kilometres from Mashambani. I could supply them with foodstuff again. And Mkulima Mixed Farm continues to remain a hot bed of opportunities.