Seven years ago, Nicholas Mati gave up on dusting his hands with chalk, opting to get them soiled on the farm. Now, Mr Mati is counting his gains after ending his 27-year career as a teacher.
The full-time farmer in Meru County says his four-acre farm has turned into a moneyspinner and he doesn’t struggle any more financially.
On his four-acre piece of land where he grows bananas, onions, butternut, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, he says he easily pockets about Sh500,000 every three months.
“I am able to meet all my daily needs through farming, three of my children are currently pursuing their university studies and I use the proceeds that I get from my farm as to pay the fees” said Mr Mati.
‘‘I no longer strain to pay my children’s school fees as I would when I was a teacher. In fact, since 2008, I have never entered a banking hall seeking for a loan,’’ he says.
After every three weeks, the farmer harvests more than 4,500 kilogrammes of onions which he sells at ease given the availability of ready market at his doorstep. From onions alone, he makes Sh360,000 by selling a kilogramme at Sh80.
Every Thursday, he harvests 100 kg of pawpaws which gives him more than Sh7,000 on a single harvest.
“What I earn from the pawpaws is like free money because once this crop has attained the production age, they do not require any close supervision and at the same time they are not labour intensive,” he said.
Mr Mati is among the small-scale holders who have benefited from the irrigation project initiated by the National Irrigation Board (NIB). NIB is supporting a number of farmers in the region, in a move aimed at boosting food security in the country.
Mr Mati also plants maize and advises farmers to grow a number of crops if they want to be successful.
He urges farmers to diversify their farming activities, noting that many of them are stuck to one farming activity, hence denying themselves maximum returns from their farms.
“Farming can only become profitable if farmers diversify to other crops with the view to increasing their revenue stream, many of us give up on farming, citing losses, because we only plant one crop at the expense of others,” he said.
Mr Mati also advises farmers to conduct proper timing on a given crop before planting in order to earn handsome returns. He said farmers should stop the tradition of relying on rain-fed agriculture and instead embrace irrigation to maximise their earnings.
He said crops that are grown during the dry season fetch more money given the shortage in the market, as opposed to planting when the rains are pounding because the market will be flooded as majority of farmers would be planting at that time.