Mama Wanja Prosper through farming

Rays of sunlight elongate the Aberdare Mountain to usher in a new blossoming day, in a diminutive village; Karaneatha–, deep in the heart of South Kinangop, Nyandarua County.
Here, we meet John Chege an agronomist working with Amiran Kenya Ltd in the region. Amiran has been a major driving force behind the horticulture and floriculture industries in Kenya and throughout the East Africa region. Through decades, Amiran has partnered with Kenya’s large and small scale growers and it has become a “one stop shop” for all of Kenya’s agricultural needs.
Chege eventually leads us to a palatial home where we meet a self-composed lady; Lydia Wambui Karanja popularly known as ‘Mama Wanja’ who has been cultivating potatoes for over 30 yrs. Mama Wanja is of full smile as she welcomes us to her splendid house which she reveals she has built solely with proceeds from farming.
Apart from the palatial house, she has managed to build a day and boarding primary school in the area known as Jolly Hope Academy which runs from kindergarten to class 8 with proceeds from farming. She has also educated all her children to university level through farming
“After my A level education, I didn’t secure any form of employment and eventually got married to my husband John Karanja. I stayed home as a house wife taking care of my 4 children. I later tried my hands on farming on a 3 acre piece of land which I had leased from neighbors. My first harvest was 240 bags of potatoes which I sold at Ksh2,000 each. Since then, I have never looked back,” Mama Wanja joyfully narrated.
In 2013, she heard of a new breed of potato (Shangi) which had been introduced by the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK). She bought the Shangi seeds at Oljororok where they were being sold and since then it has been potato farming escapade.
Currently, Mama Wanja has leased several lands totaling to 13 acres. She reveals that cultivating potatoes is not labor intensive. First, she sprays Glyphogan chemical from Amiran to kill weeds before tilling with a tractor.Ploughing aims to turn over the topsoil and loosen the compacted soil below to achieve a fine tilth for forming ridges, and providing a soft, uniform medium where potato tuber growth is not impeded. This she achieves thorough plowing several times depending on the soil condition of the leased land.
“Loosening up the soil increases the oxygen content, which favors the development of micro-organisms that decompose organic matter. Good land cultivation also helps control weeds,” Chege the agronomist averred.
After the potatoes have sprouted, she applies a post emergency herbicide Linganto to control weeds. “I usually weed once when earthing up the plants to provide the stability to the crop, cushion it against strong winds and for better potato growth in the soil,” Mama Wanja explained.
According to Chege, potatoes can be grown in 3 season per year as they take 4 months to maturity. Mama Wanja on the other hand plants only once that’s in January and crop rotates with cabbages to avoid pests and diseases build up. She avers that going by the current market price, her 8 acre farm cabbage will fetch close to a million shillings in a month’s time.
“In other places like Rift-Valley, most potato farmers plant in March and April after the onset of the long rains. I avoid planting during March-April period as there is influx of potatoes in the market hence a reduction in prices,” she opined.
Planting is accompanied by good management practices which are fundamental for achieving bumper harvest. Lydia says that one major practice is pest and disease control.The area is vulnerable to fusarium wilt which is brought about by abundance of water and frost. She controls it by drenching with Goldazim.
Leaf miner and cut worms are pests that potatoes are susceptible to. She does a regular scouting of pests and does timely spraying to control them. She uses Lambdex to control cut worms and Aster Extrim for Leaf miner.
Marketing her produce is not a challenge. Buyers frequent the area with lorries to buy farmers produce. For her, having been in the farming industry for long has enabled her identify reliable buyers. She notes that most buyers are middle men who take advantage of farmers’ inability to transport their produce to the market hence fleecing them their hard worked earnings.
As inspiration glowed all over her face, it is evident that Mama Wanja is among the few individuals who have succeed in farming. Driven by her mantra, nothing good comes by itself; one has to work for it. She advices all people to develop positive thinking and desire to succeed to alleviate poverty in the country.

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