A few years ago, Isabella Paul, a widowed mother of two from Muruguma village in Eastern Kenya, considered farming an inadequate way to earn a living. This was because all her previous endeavours to make profit from farming carrots and cabbages had proved futile. However, two years after joining the Domestic Markets Regional programme implemented by Farm Concern International and funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, she has been able to pay school fees for her daughter from onion and Irish potato farming.
“We surely attest that onion farming has been a good source of income for us. The income from sales enabled me to send my daughter Nkirote to Ruiri Girls where I comfortably paid her school fees until she joined Egerton University,” says Isabella. Onion and Irish potato farming has now improved her income and raised her family's standard of living.
The programme was designed for domestic market mainstreaming with a focus on Traditional Africa Vegetables (TAVs), bulb onion and Irish potatoes. FCI has been implementing the Programme with the aim of empowering farmers such as Isabella, through enhanced market access for smallholder farmers. The selected crops were primarily based on relatively high market share potential, growing demand, higher returns on investment and relatively easy agronomic husbandry requirements for the crops. The Programme predominantly targets domestic markets in Maua, Gakoromone, Isiolo, Laare, Nkubu and Nanyuki.
Isabella has a four-acre farm within the busy and commercially active Muruguma village on which she planted onions and Irish potatoes on two acres. She attributes her success to the knowledge received from FCI staff that horticulture farming is a viable enterprise.
She planted Irish potato in the last season and sold 182 bags at Ksh 2,500 per bag at farm gate price to Makena Christine and received Ksh. 455,000 within the month of May. She was able to secure the fair price as a result of market linkages by FCI.
Her journey to opulence started with a visit to Kisima Farm, Nanyuki, Kenya, where she saw how Irish potato enterprise was changing fortunes of farmers. “Use of certified seed is something I thought only belonged to the class of rich and wealthy,’’ Isabella remarked. She added that, "Derek Roulston taught us the importance of using certified seed, and I came to realize clean seed pays. Look at me now,” she says.
As the Irish potato enterprise flourishes, Isabella and other members of Muruguma Commercial Village recognize that Irish Potato farming can bring newfound prosperity to their community. They have learned to grow quality varieties and have become competitive suppliers at the Meru Slopes Hotel, West Wind Hotel and Continental hotel within Meru town.
“Going forward, our target is to seek certification from KEPHIS and other regulators to enable us commercially produce potato seed for the Meru County and beyond,” avers Isabella.
Isabella intends to continue cultivating Irish potato for the rest of her life now that through DoHoMa programme, her life has been transformed.
FCI VISION : To have commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond