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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Experiences in Vegetable farming by Noontoto Women Group

By Faith Kisiangani and Monica Soila

On the bottom of Oldonyo-orok mountain in Maili Tisa, Kajiado County, there lays a two and half acre land owned by a vibrant women group called Noontoto. Noontoto Women Group is made up of 25 women who grow tomatoes in a green house for food security. 
Green house and elevated tank

The group was formed in 2003 as a mary-go-round with the main objective of supporting each other economically.  Among one of their successful activities was buying and selling cows. This was a very profitable venture and many group members benefited from the profit. They would collectively contribute a given amount of money, buy and fatten cows for sell. They then used some of the money to pay school fees for children, buy household items for themselves and save the rest of the money.
Inside the green house

 In 2013, the group was lucky to get some support from Dupoto-e-maa, an NGO that works in Kajiado County. According to Mr. Simon Sitelu of Dupoto-e-maa, the project objective was to empower women in the county with relevant skills and tools so as to improve their livelihoods. So far they have supported 13 other women groups in the county. 

Underground water tank

The package to the women groups include; a green house 5m x 16m, a solar powered water 
pump, a tank with capacity of 2000 litres and drip liners. The group opted to farm tomatoes and sell them because of their high demand in the region. The area experiences inadequate rainfall and most community members are pastoralist, keeping large herds of cattle. This fact has ultimately affected the groups’ tomato farming green house project because the first time they planted tomatoes, the plants failed due to lack of water. The group then employed drip irrigation on the greenhouse by using water pumping technique. Despite this fact, the tomatoes failed the second time after being affected by a disease. Regardless of the two failures from the tomato project, the women are very resilient, hopeful and hardly discouraged. 

The group's solar panel

“This is the third time that we have planted the tomatoes in the greenhouse. We are very hopeful and we trust God that the plants will not fail us again. The good thing is that we have learnt where we went wrong the first and second time and made the necessary corrections. Water is the hardest problem to tackle right now though we still trust God for the rains to fall soon. The reason why we cannot change what we plant in the green house is because of the high demand of tomatoes in our region compared to other plants. More so, Tomatoes are more profitable compared to kales…” Mrs. Joyce Nairraba, the group chairperson told ALIN staff who had gone to assess the group. 

The group has untapped potential to undertake many projects on their farm. They are endowed with two and half acres of land on which they have a green house project initiated by Dupoto-e-maa. The group got support from some Swedish donors hand put up a house that is leased to people for various activities. 

Noontoto’s main source of water is from a natural stream from the mountain nearby. This source is not stable since area experiences prolonged dry spells therefore affecting agricultural activities. The water collects into an underground tank and then solar pump is used to thrust water into the elevated tank then into the drips.
Solar powered water pump system has saved the women a lot of hustle and time. They were initially using donkeys to fetch water for the farm. At times they would use generator to pump the water; which was quite a challenge given the price of fuel. The introduction of this technology has lessened the burden especially because solar energy is free, clean, readily available and plenty in the area.
Building used as a store and also for leasing

The group has big plans for the future. They plan to keep dairy cows on their peace of land. They also plan to start a chicken rearing project.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The good ‘dirt’

By Monica Soila

Agriculture is not highly regarded as viable source of financial stability, especially by the youth; who would rather hawk their papers looking for white collar jobs. For them, farming is dirty and time consuming.

Mrs. Rose Bowen however, knows how that ‘dirt’ can be fine. She is a full time farmer who says life has never been so fulfilling.

“You know most people prefer swinging on chairs in offices, while real money is on the farms”, she said

Fish pond
To be an established farmer in this region is quite expensive due to the climatic condition. One requires a lot of money to sink borehole for irrigation because of unreliable rainfall. Purchasing of farm equipments and meeting general farm maintenance expenses can also be costly. Some of these factors keep many from venturing into agriculture.

Preparing an omelette using biogas

 “This is a business like any other, you have to invest a lot of time and money so as to achieve good results”, she says.

One of her most considerable achievement was biogas installation, which cost her more than a hundred thousand shillings; but says it was so worth it. She is an all round farmer, from crops, pigs, poultry and fish. Nothing at all goes to waste, for instance she uses pig slurry in the biogas.

After less the 3 minutes

“I was spending 3000 shillings on cooking gas every two weeks, but now that’s a story of the past. I am saving a lot of money”, she adds.

Finding a ready market especially for pigs is the biggest challenge she faces.


“I know i have to start from somewhere even though it can be very slow, for now i get comfort  in the fact that pig waste will keep my biogas project going”, said Mrs. Bowen.

The county government has been on the fore front in encouraging people to venture into agricultural activities. This brings about the issue of marketing the surplus produce. If farmers are linked to markets, then farming will be everyone’s hobby; hunger and starvation will be history.