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Priest powers dry-land farm with solar panels

By Jeckonia Otieno

A main feature rural Kajiado is known for is dry and hot weather, which hinders crop farming.

But one clergyman is tapping into this heat by turning it into an asset for his benefit and that of fellow farmers. Using solar power panels, Reverend Joseph Oloimooja has created an admirable food haven in an area that is significantly dry.

“Instead of complaining about how dry this place is like everybody else, I decided to do something about it. I invested in solar power to make a difference,” says Oloimooja.

Owing to the lushness, Oloimooja’s 200-acre farm in Maili Tisa, near Namanga, is now a stark contrast from the neighbouring land, that is dry and abandoned.

Here, he grows onions, tomatoes, kales among other vegetables which he hopes to take to the market in the next two months.

Markets strategy

The priest decided to tap into solar energy because of the prohibitive costs that come with being connected to the national grid.

“If you want long-term cost saving, solar power is the way to go or any farmer who lives in a place with plenty of sunshine,” he says.

Previously, he would spend Sh60,000 each month on energy alone – this could translate into Sh720,000 a year.

“I realised how costly energy from the grid is and decided to think out of the box.”

His solar power system cost Sh725,000 and it was a gamechanger as it cut his power costs by about 80 per cent.

Now that he has a constant water supply, business is good. Between April and May, Olimooja harvested tomatoes worth Sh2 million.

Tomatoes being harvested at Olaitotioni Farm in Maili Tisa, Kajiado County. [Jeckonia Otieno 08 May 2019]

The journey

Lucky for him, the harvest was good and his tomatoes were spared attacks like tomato blight.

“I am lucky my tomatoes came out healthy. I must say the secret was close monitoring of the crops to arrest any problem before it got out of hand. For instance, it is important to check leaves so that they do not get wet and pick infections,” he says.

For those keen on investing in solar panels, he says they need an environment impact assessment conducted in line with National Environment Management Authority rules.

Oloimooja says what determines the number of panels used for solar power is the amount of water intended for pumping. He has set up 36 panels.

Long-term

From the borehole, he gets 14 cubic metres of water every hour which is stored in a raised water tank.

The water, which he fetches from the borehole, using solar power, is not used on his farm alone but also serves the local community especially when there is drought.

Pastoralists from as far as Loitokitok come with their livestock to his farm to use the water.

For those struggling with power costs, Oloimooja encourages them to embrace solar power.

He also advises pastoralists to reduce number of cattle and invest in crop farming.

“I had 225 cattle but I reduced the number to 15. I went to crop farming full throttle and that has made a difference; if our people can settle and invest in less livestock, then they would definitely see more produce,” he adds.

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