Young Webale reaps huge profits from horticulture farming
Written by Edwin Namasaka
This article First apeared on West fm Website
When one mentions Chwele market in Bungoma County just kilometres from Mt. Elgon, Kimillili and Bungoma South Districts, what rings in their minds is agriculture which is the backbone of the region’s economy.
When you visit the market, among the well known farmers is Mr. Amos Webale Wekesa, a farmer from Londo Village commonly known to locals as Mukulima which is a Swahili word for farmer. Webale introduces us to some farmers and brokers who trade in horticulture, whereby he appreciates the role they play when it comes to marketing their produce despite them getting big profits compared to farmers who do a lot of work yet earn little.
During our visit to the busy agricultural market, everyone seems to be going on with their daily business as usual, mingling with them freely, and sharing with us their experiences and why they depend on farming.The five feet tall farmer in his late 20’s , wearing a white hat ,a blue t-shirt with muddy wellington boots offers to take us to his farm where he practices horticulture farming dealing mainly in various varieties of hybrid red pepper, water melons , coccumbers and also cabbages.His farm has red soil which he says is good for horticulture and which has made many people acquire small pieces of land for farming around his neighbourhood.
Webale ventured into farming way back in 2007 after quitting his job in Nairobi as a sales assistant at an import and export shop.‘‘My salary wasn’t enough to sustain me in the city as a sales assistant and also I had escaped death twice after robbers raided our shop. One day I told my boss who was Hindu about my resignation, of which he couldn’t believe since we had a good working relationship, He added, my boss gave me a good send off package and that’s how my long story in farming began, ’’ explains Webale.
The young entrepreneur is quick to point out that he has no regrets about quitting his job for farming since he can provide for himself and his young family the basics needs.“In my house I never buy any food since I grow different kinds of crops and also keep chicken, may be when my family needs fish or meat,” he said.
What I realised as we move around in his one acre piece of land is that he mainly relies on hybrid seeds from various seed companies and he explains that they produce a lot and also they are of high quality when hence good to be taken to the market.
As we continue with the interview, on the other side of the homestead I see Webala’s wife covering his maize, green grams (ndengu) and beans using a polythene paper since the clouds had started showing signs of rainfall.Webale who has planted red pepper on a quater acre piece of land explains that it only takes 75 days before harvesting of which for his case he harvests four bags every week each selling at Sh1,500 at Chwele market while also supplying to major supermarkets in the region. Before he started farming while in Nairobi, Webale who has turned out to be a role model in Bungoma West District says he used to visit Nairobi International Trade Fair Show yearly and that made him to give it a try and up to date he has a story for the community.
Upon returning home, Webale planted hybrid cabbages which in return gave him Ksh40,000 profit and this gave the locals a reason to nickname him Mukulima. And as he continued with his farming, lady luck smiled at him whereby he got a rare opportunity to be trained at the Mabanga Agricultural Training Centre, him being among four farmers from every district in Western region to have been selected.
During his stint at Mabanga, he trained in entrepreneurship, farm management, developing in life through Agri -business, avocado and watermelon management and also planting banana as a business.On his farm, he has planted different types of hybrid water melon namely , Sukari , sugar baby and he hopes when it will be ready for harvesting the market will also be readily available.He is well known to brokers and farmers for his quality admiral sweet pepper and also carlifonia wonder which are available in most of the Agro-shops.
He advises farmers to use Diamonium Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) or compost manure while sowing their seeds into drills with little soil on top then covering the nursery with dry grass or banana leaves to avoid loss of moisture. For 14 days, he explains, one needs to water the nursery bed every morning and evening using water can and after 35 days the seeds will have germinated.While trans-planting in the evening, Webale tells farmers to ensure they space their plant 45 centimetres by 60 within rows using a small tea spoon full of DAP in each hole then covering the plant with soil firmly.He says the only challenge is fighting with diseases like early and late blight not forgetting pests like red spider mites, leaf miners and cut worms. He adds that what makes his produce to stand out among the rest is him using fruit and flower stimulant after 14 days then the red pepper will be ready for harvesting.
Webale urges farmers to grow the crop since you can harvest for six months if well maintained by use of Calcium Ammonium fertilizer (CAN) after every four weeks.He tells young men who finish school not hassle daily looking for well paying jobs which are hard to get but instead urges them to get into farming by equipping themselves with modern farming techniques.
His main goal come next year is own a green house and also buy a dairy cow as he expands his interests in farming.The young farmer, who took a risk of quitting his job as a shop assistant to venture into farming is all smiles as he harvests the fresh green red pepper outside his house. He says ‘’ Its’ paying, I will continue working hard till I reach the destination.’’