Joseph still remembers when the Budalangi floods engulfed his one-acre land of passion fruits, destroying all his crops and losing his investment worth Sh 700,000. This ordeal crushed his dream to farm passion fruits, a venture he says made him quit his business as a supplier.
However, after losing all his passion fruits, he didn’t stop at that, he hit on rice, and the rest is history. Joseph tried farming rice and now earns about Sh 120,000 each season from his three-acre rice farm.
“When I lost all my passion fruits during the flooding season, I had to struggle very hard to maintain my finances. My interest in farming, however, did not die with the floods. I researched what crops can best adapt to this kind of weather and decided to grow rice. Rice farming has ended my struggle and made my dream come true,” he says.
Around Budalangi’s flood-prone area, farmers who can no longer grow their regular crops in the flooded fields are now turning to rice, which thrives well in wet areas and brings in more money than most other staple crops.
“Rice is more profitable than any other crop in this area,” says Joseph. “As the impacts of climate change continue to be experienced in Budalangi, turning to a crop that is more adaptable is a relief to most farmers.”
Joseph says that he earns up to Sh 50,000 from one acre for a harvest of 44 bags of paddy rice, about 20 per cent more than he would earn growing maize, as is the culture in the area.
The now full-time rice farmer says riverbank erosion and flooding have become increasingly common problems in Budalangi, and farmers need to shift to more adaptable crops.
“I am delighted to have discovered that rice can be cultivated in these flooded fields. My first trial with rice produced a decent yield. I have therefore decided to scale up,” he says.
Joseph’s rice farm has also provided a modest income for ten casual labourers who work in the fields when there is need. “I employ ten workers who prepare the fields, weed, irrigate, collect and cultivate the paddy. With training, financial assistance and incentive, the government can cushion small-scale farmers in Budalangi in a bid to move away from less thirsty crops and help families meet their household needs,” he adds.
This thriving rice farming is not without its share of challenges. Joseph says finding a market for his paddy here in Kenya has not borne any fruits. He now sells to middlemen from Uganda, whom he claims do not pay him so well.
“When my trials to get my paddy to the Kenyan rice manufacturers hit a dead end, I resorted to selling my paddy to Ugandan brokers. These middlemen do not pay so well, but to survive the hard times, it was a better option than destroyed crops on the farm,” Joseph explains.
With the partnership with Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, Joseph hopes that things will get better. “I am optimistic that this partnership will grant me an opportunity to access a good market and grow my enterprise,” he says.
To young people wishing to venture into farming, the former business man says, “Farming is profitable and more fulfilling than waiting for a white collar job. I am able to work hard for my own money as well as get food for my family direct from my farm.”