‘Covid-19 forced me to give away my unsold seedlings’

John Imunya waters his seedlings at Bula village in Bulapesa ward, Isiolo county on April 18, 2021.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu/Nation Media Group

Mr John Imunya, a farmer in Isiolo who has been relying on his tree, fruit and flower seedling business to provide for his family for more than 15 years, is a troubled man.

All was well until the country reported its first Covid-19 case in March last year.

“I used to make at least Sh4,000 daily from selling seedlings, but things changed when coronavirus struck,” Mr Imunya said.

The father of three from Bula village in Bulapesa ward on the outskirts of Isiolo town was doing so well that he had constructed rental rooms at his home from the proceeds of his business. Restriction of movement, among other measures announced by the government to curb the spread of the disease, he says, saw his sales dip to Sh200 a day.

“Life has become hard and I am now struggling to provide for my family,” the father of five, who is popularly known as Bula Flowers (the name of his business), lamented.

Mr Imunya had to reduce the price of seedlings to less than Sh30 but people would still not buy. He also reduced the price of fruit trees from Sh100 to Sh50, but sales did not improve.

His main customers were from neighbouring Samburu, Meru, Marsabit and Laikipia counties, where he would send the trees via public service vehicles.

Things got worse when the water level in a borehole he uses to farm started falling due to the prevailing dry spell.

“I intended to buy an electric water pump but I have been doing it manually,” he noted.

Donate seedlings 

With no alternative source of income and concerned over the drastic drop in sales, Mr Imunya has resolved to donate some of the unsold seedlings to villagers and planting some on his quarter-acre farm.

“I’m doing this for a greener environment and to increase forest cover. It will also reduce the burden of watering the seedlings at a time when there are no customers,” Mr Imunya told nation.africa at the farm.

Besides giving out seedlings, the farmer is teaching the villagers how to sustain the plants to maturity.

A customer buys a seedling from John Imunya's Bula flowers farm in Bulapesa ward, Isiolo county on April 18, 2021.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu/Nation Media Group

Mr Imunya hopes the current economic situation will not last long as he is not considering quitting the venture.

“I love the work I do and I am hopeful things will get better. I am not considering quitting and want to teach my children how to manage the farm after they complete their secondary education,” he says with a smile.

The farmer has appealed to the government to cushion small traders from the economic shocks occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures so that they revive their businesses.

He also appealed to Governor Mohamed Kuti’s administration to provide small and medium traders with loans and grants to cushion them against the harsh economic times.

“The county should promote local farmers by buying their products and giving them funds to boost their businesses, which have been hit hard by the pandemic,” he said.

He said if enough boreholes are sunk, residents will be able to comfortably venture into farming, be self-reliant and food secure.