Francis Oronje, Ebushirika Group

Francis Oronje
Ebushirika Group
Khwisero Sub County
Telephone 071 484 7174

Francis is 33 years old, married, with 3 children in Primary School. Francis attended one of the Agriculture Education Training Programs organized by SOFDI in 2014. A neighbor who had been trained earlier by SOFDI had invited Francis to visit his farm. Francis was very impressed by what he saw and decided to also attend the free 5 day SOFDI training which was held in a nearby church.

At the time Francis was jobless and desperate and planning to look for a job in Nairobi because he was unable to feed his family farming his ¼ acre plot where he only planted maize on depleted soil. He sometimes would find work as a casual worker doing menial work to earn some cash. Often the family would go to sleep hungry.

After the training he immediately implemented what he had learned at the training and used the African Leafy Vegetables (ALV) which he was given for free after the training as starter seeds. 5 month later he not only harvested vegetables but also harvested enough seeds for replanting.   He uprooted all his maize and immediately started off “going into business” as he called it by choosing his own ALV’s seeds and 13 improved banana plantlets which he obtained for free through the SOFDI’s tissue cultured banana project. In the meantime his compost had matured and he applied it in his small “chamba” (farm) where he had already established raised beds for planting ALV’s and for the bananas he had prepared the   “Conservation Agriculture” technique for planting. Two years later Francis has 32 stools of improved bananas and enough African Leafy Vegetables to have an income; this enabled him to lease a ½ acre of land on which he planted soya in the first season and sorghum in the second. His wife takes the bananas to the market for sale. The family now has an average monthly income of Kenya Shilling 15 000,- (about 150,– US Dollar) through the sale of their cash crops alone. In addition, they grow a variety of vegetables for a healthy diet. They only have to buy meat and fish. The family is completely food secure after only 2 years.

Francis’ family’s life has now changed completely. With the money earned he constructed a kiosk where they sell different African Leafy Vegetables to the many customers who come to buy. They also operate an Mpesa transaction business (Kenya mobile phone payment system) and raise rabbits. They were able to buy a simple maize mill which they also use to grind soya. All this was possible through the sale of the cash crop.

His farm is now used by the Ministry of Agriculture as a learning site for other farmers.

When SOFDI started to collaborate with the World Vegetable Centre, Francis’ farm was one of the farms chosen as a learning and trial site for the organization.

He has impressed his fellow farmers, for whom he has become a role model. Francis is also one of the lead-farmers of SOFDI. As Francis pointed out: “green pastures (wealth) are never donated but created by yourself”.

When asked about his dream for the next years his answer was: “buy one acre of land and expand my agri-business”.

This report from the field has been edited by SOFDI