Residents of Homa Bay County have for long depended on food supplies from the neighboring counties like Nyamira and Kisii. The two counties have been major suppliers of vegetables, onions, potatoes and even maize due to the poor yields attributed to the unpredictable weather in the region.
The trend is however set to be reversed, thanks to the Sh4 billion Kimira Oluch Smallholder Farm Improvement Project that has been funded by the government with financial assistance from the African Development Bank.
Farmers are already enjoying the fruits of the project and no longer depend entirely on food supplies from Kisii but instead enjoy their home grown food.
Michael Ochieng, who now supplies the neighbouring schools with kales, says the project is a blessing from God.
“At first most of us could not see the benefit of the project and some even resisted but since the water started flowing across the villages, we are now realising the benefits,” said Ochieng.
He has a mixed plantation of kales, onions, tomatoes and other traditional vegetables in his five-acre farm which he supplies to the neighbouring secondary schools and to customers in Homa Bay town.
Ochieng said thanks to the irrigation water he can now pay school fees for his five children comfortably —one is in a local university while the others are in secondary school.
“I don’t need to pay the fees in cash for my children in secondary schools as I only go for orders and they deduct the fees from what I was to be paid. The project has made me my own boss and I do not look for markets but clients look for me,” said the 44-year-old farmer.
Fredrick Owino, 25, who recently finished his secondary education says he won’t take up a white collar job in town, even if he was offered.
Owino first planted watermelons a year ago which he sold for Sh70,000. He leases a two acre piece of land which costs him Sh40,000 annually.
He has planted tomatoes, onions, butternut, watermelons and kales which earn him more than Sh10,000 every three days.
Phoebe Adhiambo, a widow who takes care of her nine children, says the irrigation project has totally changed her life and that of her children.
“Farming is now part of my life which helps me educate my children and provide all their basic needs,” she said.
Water for the project, which comprises Oluch and Kimira schemes, is tapped from rivers Kibuon and Tende.
According to project engineer Benedict Juma Magero, the construction of the major civil works is already over but only minor civil works are ongoing.
“I am happy that farmers have started using the water since major civil works are over. What is remaining are minor works which include construction of minor ditches to the farms,” said Magero.
He said the project’s goal is to improve the livelihoods of about 3,000 smallholder farmers in the area.
The project will lead to the development of two irrigation schemes for the production of staple and high value crops through gravity flow, provision of extension and market services and establishment of two farmer organisations that will own and manage the irrigation schemes.
Kimira irrigation scheme, which is being implemented in Rachuonyo North sub county, covers a gross area of 1,790 ha and will directly benefit 1,616 households. Oluch scheme in Homa Bay sub county covers 1,308 ha, benefiting 1,334 households directly.
Magero says besides crop farming, farmers will also get an opportunity to engage in fish farming in the 10 night water storage reservoirs.
“There are 10 night water storage reservoirs in the entire block and farmers will get an opportunity to practise fish farming. The project aims at reducing poverty and boosting food security,” he said.
“Apart from the irrigation, the project has also opened up 88km of feeder roads to allow farmers access markets for their produce and for the maintenance of the scheme. Already a number of farmers have been taken to exchange visits to various regions within the country,” Magero said.