Over a decade ago, 66 years old economist John Magaiwa made a huge step when he quit his 40 years of city life and receded back to the village.
For a life you have known and lived in for three-quarters of your entire lifetime, taking such steps often goes south to people of his age.
However, having felt like he has had enough of the lights, hooting and inhaling enough factory emissions, Magaiwa knew it was time to go home.
With vast experience in economics from two-master degrees in the field and currently pursuing a PhD, agriculture is not a thing not worth trying.
“I have lived my entire senior life moving from one town to another while changing companies working as an accountant,” said Magaiwa.
He continued; “However, it reached a time when I felt I have accomplished all I wanted in the city, and home was calling.”
When he shifted to rural life, his admiration for politics grew, as he was trying to gain relevancy.
Although, despite a warm reception from electorates, he decried betrayal and disappointments in the field, which he terms dirty.
In 2013, Magaiwa contested for the Migori Senatorial seat under the ODM party, but he felt short-changed by the party’s bigwigs.
He recounts how the then-senator, the late Dr Wilfred Machage was favoured at his expense.
“I was disappointed and betrayed by my party when they gave my competitor a nomination ticket at my expense.
I defeated Dr Machage in party premieres, but I was not the favourite according to some people,” he narrates.
Hailing from Kuria, a region deemed most fertile in Migori County, he ventured into farming activity to keep him occupied.
Adding that he did not want any form of employment whatsoever due to his old age.
During my working days, I spent almost all my money on educating my children, but majorly, I bought landMagaiwa
Although he states that his decision was in contrast to any skill he had.
This is specific to farming, where he admitted having no idea.
“When the thought of farming struck my mind, I had no idea in the agricultural field, except the basic childhood knowledge,” he recounts.
In addition, having a vast land posed a challenge as he could not tell which crop performs well on which side of his land.
At the same time, the cost of farming was rising steadily, something he said almost made him change his mind about leasing the whole land.
The father of nine states that land purchase was his biggest investment after educating his children from his three wives.
In his massive 20 hectares piece of land, he decided to do mixed-crop farming. This, however, he did without any scientific intervention.
“During my working days, I spent almost all my money on educating my children, but majorly, I bought land,” he said.
Through trial and error, he started growing banana plants. From his saving, he hired youths to dig 3000 banana holes.
Milestones in farming
While expectations would have been for him to rush to the agriculture department to get certified seeds, he opted to borrow seeds from locals.
He moved from one village to another collecting different seed varieties. This was to test the best-performing variety for the farm.
“This variety you are seeing here, I got it after several trials. I got my seeds randomly from local farmers. The same goes for other crops in the entire farm,” he explained.
Magaiwa said that certified seeds are mostly genetically modified (GMOs), which compels a farmer to use inorganic fertilizers.
This was costly for him as he had large farmlands to utilise.
Instead, he opted for organic manures, which he also purchased locally at fair prices.
“One bag of fertilizer costs between Sh6000 to Sh7000. Yet on this farm, I will need hundreds of bags,” he narrates.
“I opted for organic manure, which I purchased at Sh2000 per tipper. It is much cheaper and last long in the soil. It also conserves my soil fertility,” he added.
Apart from the banana plantation, the farmer also boasts of wide varieties of locally grown crops.
I have lived behind the desk handling the same task for decades. This farm allows me to have different approachesMagaiwa
Types of farming
His farm is divided into several sections having different crops.
On the same farm, Magaiwa has a five-hectare maize plantation, a hectare of sweet potato vines, cassava, yams, beans and different varieties of vegetables.
On the other side, he has ten fish ponds, a sunflower garden, and a hectare of sorghum crops and over 3000 pineapple plants.
While still walking on the farm, the sweet scents of honey filled the air. There is a section set aside for beekeeping where he had 100 beehives.
When asked why he could not stick to one type of crop, his response was amazing.
Magaiwa states that he wanted to utilize his vast land fully for agricultural purposes.
In addition, modern farming restricts farmers to one crop that over time exhausts soil fertility. He wished not to waste his land.
Magaiwa outlined that different crops presented him with different life experiences.
This fulfills his desire for a different life from the one he has lived.
Hence he enjoys the dynamics.
“I have lived behind the desk handling the same task for decades. This farm allows me to have different approaches,” states the economist.
Although many do farming intending to sell to gain profit, ironically, he says all that he grows is for family consumption.
However, he admits that the lack of food in the community and nearby surroundings leaves him with no choice but to sell at an affordable price.
His banana plantation receives customers daily from the nearby Mabera market.
Magaiwa views city life as captivity where one is programmed to similar things year in and out. This is in contrast to the life he is having.
In future, he aims to fully venture into large production of honey, sunflower oil and pineapples for commercial purposes.
Feeding the community
For the last two years, Magaiwa has been the main contributor to food that is consumed by his villagers and even to the nearest market.
The community members from Kiomakebe village in Tagare ward visit his farm to get vegetables for small consumption.
On the other hand, weekly traders from the nearby Mabera market flock to the farm to purchase bananas.
When I started farming, my view was for full consumption that is why I mainly sell to consumers. Although weekly I do sell bananas to traders from aroundMagaiwa
Although Magaiwa insists that his product is not for sale, he only farm for consumption, hence he barely does marketing for his produce.
“When I started farming, my view was for full consumption that is why I mainly sell to consumers. Although weekly I do sell bananas to traders from around,” said Magaiwa.
However, his main source of the market comes from his fellow villagers who buy in less bulk.
He anticipates larger markets in the future when he fully goes commercial.
At the moment, a bunch of bananas from his farm ranges between Sh300 and Sh1000.
To give back to the community, the farm has given employment opportunities to eight members of the community on a long-term basis.
In addition, daily, he hires members of his village to help in farm operations, especially the ones who come knocking.
The majority of his workers are youths whom he inspires to work hard and embrace agriculture as formal jobs are hard to come by.