MAGIC THAT BROUGHT LIFE IN A « DESERT » EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE !!
INDUPA FERME D’ABONDANCE
Sukuma Wiki Shamba in Kajiado County. Chocking dust. Blazing sun. Withered vegetation. That is the rude welcome one receives as they drive to Mama Phylis Matampash and her husband Kenny Matampash’s farm deep in Kajiado County.
The journey to the farm in Indupa village, 34 kilometres from the main road is so torturous due to the harsh terrain and the hot climate, that the question you keep asking yourself is: what good can come out of this barren land? Plenty indeed. And this is evident from the signs and wonders going on at the Matampash’s vast farm which is a stark contrast to the surrounding wilderness. The couple has perfected the art of agricultural diversification, blending cattle-rearing with horticulture so brilliantly in a dry region. It’s simply amazing. One of the reasons crops are bursting with is because the land is virgin (no crops have ever been grown there). So whatever is planted thrives because the soil is packed with nutrients. They started the farm five years ago and it is now a Garden of Eden.
From the healthy Sahiwal and borana cows, to the rich sukuma wiki that is almost ready for harvest, to the lively tomatoes that are sprouting fruit, to the green tissue culture bananas, this is a wonder of sorts in an area that is so dry, locals have never dared grow crops. They have always played it safe, opting to stick to good old pastoralism.
How they did it “What is happening here is a testimony that good can come out of this neglected land. We are proving to the community that crops can grow in this virgin land,”
Mrs Matampash tells the Smart Harvest team as she takes them through the farm. So how did this magic start? Mrs Matampash, a former teacher says when she realised the potential of that area, she decided to quit her job in 2010 to focus on farming. “I got tired of buying green produce from the market. Ninety percent of the traders in that market you passed through on your way here are outsiders from Kiambu, Karatina and other parts of Central.
« Every Saturday, they bring mboga, potatoes, beans, green peas, bananas to the market. I was tired of buying crops from the market,” says the mother of four.
Every Saturday, they bring mboga, potatoes, beans, green peas, bananas to the market. I was tired of buying crops from the market,” says the mother of four.
To test the waters, she started with a small kitchen garden where she planted a few sukuma wiki, managu, terere, dhania and capsicum which did very well. Having seen the potential of the farms, she spoke to her husband about the idea of putting more acreage under crops for commercial purpose and he was for the idea. But there was a bigger river to cross: Water. “Water is a big problem here and the dam that we depend on plus all the seasonal rivers had dried up. So for us to make it, we had to have a consistent and constant supply of water,” she says. To solve that problem, Mr Matampash used his savings and sunk a borehole at a cost of Sh3.5 million.
When that problem was sorted, it opened a floodgate of possibilities in horticulture farming.
On top of the hundreds of cattle they were keeping, they started growing various crops, keeping chicken, rabbits, geese and the farm burst into life. “I stopped buying mbogas from the market. I think I am the only local here who brings fresh produce to the market. For now I sell mbogas, but in December I will bring tomatoes and fruits such as water melon and in future, mangoes and oranges,” Mama says with enthusiasm. Farming has opened numerous doors and opportunities for Mrs Matampash, and she cannot stop talking about its prospects. She bought her first car with money from goats and has travelled far and wide because of farming. “I think quitting teaching and going into farming is the best decision I ever made. Look at all this abundance. I should have done it earlier, don’t you think?” she asks breaking into her infectious laughter.
While cows in the area are so emaciated and waiting to die, her bulls and heifers are full of life, they would be an envy of many at the annual Brookside Breeder’s show.
Her heifers produce several litres of milk which she supplies at the local dairy. Her remarkable success with dairy farming has landed her a position of secretary general of Masaai Dairy Cooperative that has members from the vast Kajiado County. Of all the projects that she runs, the most fascinating is the rabbits. “Masaais are associated with cattle and not rabbits. So it is a unique thing here and people wonder why I keep them,” she says. What the naysayers do not know is that the rabbits are ready money once you secure a contract with a supplier like she has done. Indeed the Matampash project is a model farm with a sea of lessons and even when it was time to leave, I kept feeling that I wanted more.