Recently, a visiting dignitary toured a Kieni East sub-county village and to a gathering of the locals, mused: “I was told this region is considered an Asal (arid and semi-arid lands). I am looking around and cannot understand why.”
A deceptive cover of green, with the heavily pounding rains resuscitating vegetation, made it like an insult to the real Asals to regard this place as one of them. Land sellers in this, and many other areas, could be taking advantage of the rainy season to make a quick sale.
Often, it doesn’t end well for buyers who are not keen on their due diligence.
Sat on the leeward side of the massive Mt Kenya, this region is relatively cold and dry.
Many other places that experience the same climate look like the ideal agricultural lands with recent downpours that have given the entire country a lush green appearance.
Swindlers are alert.
While real estate firm Denver Group advises that the best time to buy land is during the rainy season for a myriad of reasons, people looking for huge chunks of agricultural land hurt most when shopping for ideal farmlands when it rains.
In some of the vast, dry lands where nothing grows for the majority of the year, mushrooming plants in the rainy season make for good convincing to unsuspecting buyers and because the land is cheaper than most places, the sellers make a quick buck.
And when the rains subside and the conditions change for the worse, many duped buyers now start hunting for the next victim, their own prey.
Denver argues that in the rainy season, a buyer will know if the land they buy is accessible.
“You will know if the roads leading to the plot you are interested in feature overflowing bridges, or if they are cut off by floods. Also, you will establish if the land is vulnerable to erosion, something you cannot tell during the dry season. If the roads remain in good shape during the rainy season, you have nothing to worry about and can make a purchase of the land,” it writes.
The buyer is also able to identify how well drainage systems are in an area at such times, and also the level of the water table. “If you notice that the land is in a depression, there will be water collection and floods in a particular area and this is something you cannot notice during the dry season,” Denver says.
John Wambugu made this unfortunate miscalculation two years ago and regrets a hasty decision which cost him a fortune.
A man was selling his half-acre piece of land in Kieni for Sh500, 000. Here, onions are the most common cash crop. As an enterprising young man who happened to have the money at the time, Mr Wambugu rushed in for the quick buy of a piece of land he had only seen on Facebook.
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He planted his crop in what looked like a harmless stretch of low-lying land in the dry season. He watered diligently but, about a week to the harvest, he received a call on a morning he had travelled back home to Eldoret.
“I was told that it had rained heavily and my onions had been swept away. Just as I was readying for the market, floods decided to help me harvest,” he chuckled.
“I do not know to what market my produce was taken.” Apparently, his farm was a watercourse which in extreme rains roared with flood water.
Denver also says that there is less competition for land during the rainy season. The prices, with reduced demand, are therefore not excruciatingly high.
“Very few people think of buying land during the rainy season. Cold weather makes them not desire to get in the fields and struggle with mud.”
And while this template is perfect for some areas - there is a danger in building and realising the house is literally set on a pool, or swamp, when the rains finally come - for a majority of people seeking land to lease or buy in the countryside for agriculture ought to be careful when entering into deals during the rainy season.
Such a time, however, these people could also be at an advantage, for they get to know waterlogged areas and also sloping lands where flood water could erode the soil. But when the rains subside, their crop could also be gone.
And while many may agree that the best land buyers are those who go for this property when it is raining, sellers of agricultural land in some far-flung countryside areas will take advantage of this belief and make quick sales as soon as the rare rains fall.
When buying a house, however, or land in areas not necessarily intended for farming, the rainy season beats the dry one.
You are able to assess the quality of materials used to construct your house in the rainy season, writes Radarr Africa.
“Most new buildings tend to look nice and beautiful under normal weather conditions and it is always advised to have a look at them after rainfall to see if they stick to the quality we admire,” it writes.
This includes the roof, which may appeal aesthetically during normal weather but which may conceal many other maladies beneath it.
“Heavy rainfall gives us the perfect opportunity to know the strength of the roofing and confirm if it is leaking or not. You can walk around the house after the rainfall to check the ceiling and look for traces of water flow on the wall and floor,” Radarr Africa advises.
In a past interview, Timothy Mburu, a farmer in the generally dry Naro Moru, in Nyeri County, said that the main consideration to be made when buying a piece of land is the use one wants to put to the land.
“You cannot have sustainable farming here if you don’t have your own storage of water. The rains fail and you cannot depend on them for your farming- at least not all year long,” he said. He has dug up a half-an-acre reservoir to supply water to his six acres of land.
He collects runoff water during the rainy season. He always has a crop to harvest even in the driest of seasons.
Many companies advertising land in his neighbourhood sell to people who wish to construct living spaces. If it were purely for farming purposes, it would be far from the ideal location.
This is the experience of Samson Karanja who, born in Limuru, had visited Nanyuki twice in his youthful days and decided to invest in the Laikipia town later in life, for farming.
And when he realised that the rainy seasons were inconsistent, he remembered how rushed the seller from whom he had obtained the piece of land had been in letting go of the property.
“He certainly wanted to let it go when the rains were still aplenty. It was a trap,” he says.
Depending on the purpose, and location, of the property one wants to buy, the rainy season could be the best or the worst, time to make a purchase. Prior to every transaction, buyers should be committed to thorough due diligence, failure to which they will run into a mess that could hurt them forever.