By Nanjinia Wamuswa | Updated Saturday, August 8th 2015 at 00:00 GMT +3
Gated communities have largely been synonymous with real estate where they are enclosed by perimeter walls or fences to restrict movement but have shared services.
Gated farming is a new concept billed as a response to rapid urbanisation, which has seen real estate developments kill agriculture.
It is also seen as a way of addressing fears over future access to and affordability of food in the cities.
Such is the Kajiado Meadow Gated Agribusiness Community; an innovative farming project and brainchild of Safaricom Investment Cooperation which is currently being implemented in Ildamat, Kajiado County.
The project sits on 80 acres of land, which would be sub-divided into one and half-acres, all meant for commercial farming.
According to the cooperative chairlady Mackrine Abukah, this business model of developing and selling agricultural land together with a standard package of agricultural infrastructure and professional farm management services is fairly new in Kenya.
“The flagship farming project in accordance with our agribusiness strategic plan, was officially started last month (July), and it involves buying a huge chunk of land, subdividing it, providing relevant infrastructure and selling to people. It is the first of its kind in Kenya,” says Abukah.
We visited the gated agribusiness community farm, and found various activities going on.
They were finalising ploughing of the land. Labourers were busy building and erecting the fence, while experts mapped out places where they were going to drill bore holes to provide water on the farm. Potential investors were at the farm too. Stephen Njuguna, who had traveled from Upper Kabete, plans to purchase one acre of land for horticulture farming.
Easy to handle
Njuguna, who has practised crop and livestock farming for over 17 years, lauds gated agribusiness saying it is easy to manage.
“I am busy with other farming activities, and since everything including labour, is going to be managed by themselves, it will give me enough time to attend to my busy schedule,” explains the 42-year-old.
He adds that unlike at his rural home where he’s forced to employ workers, the gated agribusiness farm is easy to handle.
Even the over 100km distance to the farm does not worry him. He notes, “Although it is far, l would be coming to check once, or twice a week.”
A resident of Kajiado County who rears livestock is excited about the new farming project.
Mark Kapalei says he has been longing to venture into farming, but he has no knowledge of the same, and the project has ignited his desire.
“I have always wanted to try my hand in farming, but didn’t know how to go about it. I have been further discouraged because there is not enough rain in these areas,” he explained.
After learning about the gated community agribusiness, Kapalei wants to dispose off part of his over 500 acres land and buy two acres of the gated farm.
He states: “Although they will manage everything, l would however try to learn as much as possible from the project, so that l can practise on my own in other areas.”
Arcadius Anubi, the Cooperative Programme Manager, says the project targets all people who have interest in farming but may not have the time or expertise.
“Today, many people realise the importance of farming. However, they are restricted by their busy work schedules. This project would be convenient for them because they don’t have to be present all the time,” explains Anubi.
He says one can even own a plot, or several while abroad and still reap the benefits.
Anubi discloses that already they have started engaging local and foreign markets and exporters for the produce from the farm.
Abukah explains that they have been dealing with property in the past but they resolved to invest in the agribusiness and capitalise on the rising demand for commercial farming.
The land will remain for agribusiness, and will not be used for anything else. “If it has to be changed into something-say for livestock or people houses, then there must be good reason and which involves consent of the majority,” she says.
The farm will have greenhouses-of various sizes depending on size of the land one purchases and open fields irrigated farming. Here, they plan to invest in horticultural crops.
Abukah says this process will ensure the crops planted are sold at competitive pre-negotiated rates and through the collective bargaining, help maintain optimal value for their buyers.
For those who would like to identify and grow their own crops using provided infrastructure, the management will offer that in the next phase.
The project will apply modern farming techniques in the management of commercial farming such as soil and water analysis, use of green houses, drip irrigation, among others to optimise production.
They are also in talks with institutions such as the Agricultural Financial Corporation (AFC) to sponsor individual buyers and make the purchase process easier.
They will also train the owners in basic farming management practices such as crop production, pest and disease control.
Price to pay
The cooperative will sell the serviced plots to members at a subsidised price of Sh5.3 million per acre and Sh2.9 million per half an acre land.
Non-members will buy the serviced plots at Sh5.45 million and Sh3.1 million for an acre and half an acre respectively. Professional farm management services will also be part of the package.
However, there are others who laud the project and would wish to have a piece but claim the prices are high.
“This is a good idea, and I would want to buy even half an acre. But to raise such amount is the problem,” says Alex Waruinge, a trader located in Kajiado town.
After Kajiado, the management plans to replicate the project to other areas across the 47 counties.