, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 7 – Looking at the healthy maize and vegetables sprouting, it is hard to believe that we are in Northern Kenya, an area infamous for persistent drought and food shortage.
It is an area known for its aridity and the least one would expect to see is hectares of land producing healthy food crop.
The Weiwei irrigation scheme in Sigor, Pokot central is a 275-hectare project where farmers grow seed maize for the Kenya Seed Company.
The project is run by the Weiwei farmers association and the Kenya Voluntary Development Association, KVDA.
“We practise irrigation, we use sprinklers, overhead irrigation and we get water from river Weiwei (Turkwel river),” explains farmer Leonard Kedi.
The first phase of the project started in 1990 through funding from the Italian government and they are now implementing the third phase.
“The land has been divided. There is 225 hectares that has been allocated to the farmers, each farmer having one hectare and 50 hectares was retained for demonstration purposes and at the time we developed the farmers association 10 hectares was added to them to be part of their income generating,” Peter Nazegira, KVDA Project Manager tells us.
In an area where rain is largely elusive, this could be described as a timely project. The farmers use water from the Turkwel River which they call river Weiwei. It is a permanent river that flows into Lake Turkana.
“Farmers were given all the necessary equipment to farm and in a one hectare plot can irrigate in three days,” the project manager says.
All the maize grown by the farmers is taken to a warehouse for weighing before it is transported to the Kenya Seed Company headquarters in Kitale, which is about 100 kilometres away.
“In the initial stages we were supposed to divide that plot into halves – one part could be used for production of legumes and the other cereals like sorghum and maize,” he explains.
“We have entered into the contract to produce seed maize because of the high demand of seed and farmers are paid well,” he adds.
He tells us that a farmer can get up to Sh120,000 from one plot depending on how hard they work. This translates to Sh240,000 a year because they have two seasons.
“When we produce seed, we have the male and the female, so the female is what the company (Kenya Seed) takes to sell to the other farmers outside this area and the male lines are left with the farmers to use it as food,” Mr Nazegira says.
The farmers produce about three million tonnes of maize per season which translates to over 300,000 bags of seed maize.
“This project has helped me educate my children, build a house, others have bought livestock with the proceeds,” says Boon Maron, a farmer.