For Masago, nothing beats farming

Virgin soils make Kajiado ideal for crops, says young farmer who has overcome the odds to succeed in agriculture

By Jonathan Teikan

The story of Patrick Masago is one that provides hope for arid areas — that they can indeed be turned into breadbaskets.

Now in his early 30s, Masago is encouraging the ballooning population of unemployed youth to try their hand in agribusiness, which he says pays handsomely.

While leaders and policymakers are racking their brains and trying to come up with ways to make agriculture more attractive to young people, Masago is an early convert to farming whose three-acre farm supplies the international market with a quality yield of French beans.

The farm in Sajiloni, a remote area in Kajiado Central, exports its produce mainly to the United Kingdom and Spain.

As other youngsters sought formal employment, the young farmer began his journey into agriculture way back in 2011 after returning from a benchmarking mission in Loitokitok, in Kajiado South.

A majority of the population in that subcounty belong to the Maasai community, a people well-known in history to be predominantly pastoralists. The region is now the main producer of cash crops in the county.

It was during that mission that he got an opportunity to interact with fellow Maasai who had made a fortune in agribusiness, and got the inspiration to begin his own small irrigation scheme.

His humble beginnings were not without hurdles. He did not have enough capital to start off, and did not know where and whether he could get a market for his produce.

Nonetheless, he moved on. “I have learnt in life that fortune honours the risktakers, and that it is far better to try and fail than to sit back doing nothing for fear of failure.”

It took him about half a decade to break even. It was during this period that he came to have a better understanding of the market.

He says that the harsh realities that characterised his entry into the market, high production costs, transport costs, low market prices and lack of a ready market almost made him lose hope.

However, his confidence was renewed when one of his employees, a plumber, introduced him to Woni Exporters. This is a company that exports fruits and vegetables that meet international quality standards.

After meeting the company officials, he signed a contract. The company offered technical advice, besides relieving him the cost of transportation and the task of looking for markets.

Today, Masago has a ready market for his produce and enjoys stable prices throughout all seasons. A technical team from the company inspects the farm at least twice a month and gives advice.

He has gained financially, and his farming has created job opportunities to a number of people from his immediate locality and beyond. Young farmers throng the farm to do benchmarking.

Masago is confident that with the experience he has acquired since 2011, he is destined for even better, largescale farming.

Masago says that the idea that Kajiado is not a good place to do farming was misplaced. The exact opposite was in fact true, he says, since most of the land in Kajiado has never been put into agricultural use and so the soil is still very productive. Moreover, most people can access organic manure right at their homesteads.

To encourage more people to do agribusiness, the farmer says the government should facilitate awareness programmes that promote the agriculture and agri-foods sector, as well as provide information to county residents on the benefits of agricultural development.

He also calls upon the community elites not to renege on their duty to spearhead the development of their immediate localities.

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