Kajiado farmers find success in farming in spite of drought

Sylvia Naserian a farmer at her farm in Ildamat ward Kajiado central constituency on January 27, 2024. 

What you need to know:

  • Sylvia, 34, says she sells a kilogramme of vegetables at Sh40.
  • She has divided her one-acre piece of land to grow vegetables, onions, tomatoes and maize.

It’s Saturday morning and businesswomen are busy harvesting indigenous vegetables on a farm in Ildamat Ward, about 10 kilometres from Kajiado town.

The vegetables will be sold later at Kajiado market.

The Climate Action team meets Sylvia Naserian, who comes from a pastoral family that has embraced farming.

Sylvia, 34, says she sells a kilogramme of vegetables at Sh40. She has divided her one-acre piece of land to grow vegetables, onions, tomatoes and maize.

She has hired a number of workers who help with the weeding and harvesting. “I have been passionate about farming since I was young. When I got married, I learned that my husband also enjoyed spending time at the farm. Before we started farming, we shared ideas, dug a borehole and installed solar power to pump water for irrigation,” says Ms Naserian.

Together with her family, they have embraced farming to mitigate the impacts of climate change, which for decades have seen them move from one region to the other in search of pasture for their livestock.

With only two years in farming, Ms Naserian is happy that what began as a simple idea is now a big project.

“I have a lot of vegetables on my farm that feed many people in Kajiado. My life has changed because farming is not like keeping livestock that die during drought. Crops thrive even with drought because I have harvested water for irrigation when rains fail,” she says.

She says that with enough water to irrigate her farm, she is confident that her farming initiative will be a huge success and enable her to construct a permanent house and mark the end of migration in search of greener pastures.

Some schools in the region are also venturing into farming, thanks to the recent El Nino rainfalls. Some harvest water in tanks that they use to water the crops when the rains fail.

Mr Jayson Maina, the head teacher at Olepolos Primary School, says the impact of climate change is a significant challenge for local learners.

“These children come from poor communities and their families depend on animals. Last year and the previous one, we experienced severe drought and most of the families lost almost 90 per cent of their livestock,” says Mr Maina.

He notes that the school has set aside half an acre, where they grow food crops to feed learners.

The school has a population of 500 students. The head teacher says based on the success of their first farm project, they are looking forward to expanding the school garden in the future. “Locals are pastoralists and some of them have never planted maize. We are now helping learners cultivate interest in farming. We hope that this can extend to their homes, and they start practising mixed farming as this will guarantee them food security,” he says.

Mr Maina notes that the farming initiative is supported by all learners, who, due to witnessing the effects of climate change, have developed interest in becoming members of the environmental club. “We have fenced the school compound to ensure that whatever we plant here is not destroyed by wild or domestic animals. The maize plantation is thriving, and we hope that we will have a bounty harvest,” he says.

The school is also planting trees, and its efforts recently got a boost from Braeside Lavington’s Year 12 students during their community service.“We have planted 67 tree seedlings that are adaptive to this environment. One of the things we consider for our community service is a school with students who desire to learn and probably lack support,” said Wellington Andati, a teacher from Braeside.