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Meet the yams banker

Elijah Matumbi M’Irura demonstrating how weeding is done on yams plants.

Elijah Matumbi M’Irura says he keeps his money under the soil in form of tubers called yams.

Elijah Matumbi started his yams project more than 25 years ago. “I got married in 1990 and as part of my preparations to being a family man, I invested in my ?nancial security by planting 100 yams plants,” Elijah tells the MT. KENYA STAR.

 “It was the best decision because two years later, I was harvesting my yams. The proceeds have seen all my three sons through school and my ?rst born through college,” he says.

“Every time I need money; I ask a yams buyer to come over. I show the buyer a yam plant from which he can dig out the tubers. I just sit down and wait for the tubers to count, and the money,” Elijah Matumbi says.

From 100 yams in 1990, he has grown his plants to 300 today and does three local varieties commonly found in Meru.

“I have three types of yams on my farm and they are all locally available. I have M’Ikinyoni, Mbeu Mpuria and Karukwacii,” he says.

 From each yam he is able to harvest a 50 kgs bag that goes for Sh4,000 at farm gate price.

 “I am a yam expert; I know how to make my yams produce through managing the plant after harvest. A farmer must clean out all the hardened parts that look like dead yam shoots that stick to the upper part of the yam plant. Go down the plant and remove all those dead hard parts with a panga,” Elijah advises.

 “The tubers will grow in abundance and the farmer will always have his money ready though buried underground,” Elijah says.

Yams is one of the traditional foods of the Meru people. With the advent of modern foods though, most farmers have abandoned the crop. Yams though remain a very popular food among the Meru people.

Yams will take two years before the first harvest and the production increases gradually over the years. It has no known pests or diseases affecting it. The only management needed is weeding.

This is where Elijah cautions farmers “Weeding of the yams should only be done with a stick to avoid any damage to the young shoots called in Kimeru ‘imunto’. A yam should never have a scratch or tear,” he cautions.

Living on a ?ve acre piece of land Elijah does tea, potatoes, agro-forestry and dairy but it is in yams that his bank lies.

With 300 plants of yams the farmer makes over Sh500,000 per year. “I have really not harvested all my yams in a single harvest because they are my security. I only harvest mostly when I need money. If I need Sh100,000 for personal use, I know the yams I will harvest and raise the money,” Elijah says.

The yams market is readily available making them one of the best-selling food crops in Meru County.

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