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True Leadership Lies in the Willingness to Decide

A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.
— Tony Robbins

Kwale County is home to Shimba Hills Natural Reserve which is rich in biodiversity. The region is characterized by hot and dry weather between January and April and cool weather between June and August. Kwale County is endowed with rivers and streams, many of which are seasonal. Therefore, the County has a huge agricultural potential. However, with a population of 496,133 residents, the County is yet to fully exploit the agricultural potential thus leading to over 64% of the population leaving below the poverty line. In a County with a young population of over 55%, the situation at the moment clearly threatens the future of the otherwise productive environment. Additionally, the region suffers from lack of mechanized and innovative forms of agriculture with the capacity to grow crops and sustain the economy of the growing towns and population. Agriculture, it has been noted by researchers from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, is the most significant activity that Kwale County can thrive in. However, as extension officers in the ground note, the situation is a far cry from the potential that the region has. This reality, coupled with our passion and strong desire to increase the impact of agriculture as a business, led us to make a decision to make the County the bread basket for the region.

In July 2013, we (Dr. Esther Ngumbi and I) took a journey down the Coast of Kenya. One of us was born and raised there; the other was just getting to know this part of Kenya. However, speaking the language of action got us started. We started with Greenhouse production for four months, then open-farm production for another three months. Learning lessons sometime come from the daily experiences we have as a team. In our first operational Greenhouses, we learned that construction can have a monumental impact on production. The Coastal region of Kenya is generally a hot and humid region and Greenhouse production had to follow certain delicate procedures. Lessons learned from our first operational greenhouses have led us to erect greenhouses that take into consideration the hot and humid weather. From greenhouse production, we proceeded to experiment with open-farm production. The basic idea was to follow through our plans in an organized business-oriented manner as our vision was to promote farming as a business and not a development activity. For our open-farm production, we decided to get ten farmers to work with and went through the county structure until we got the most effective, aggressive, and willing farmers who would engage in production of food for our markets. We also decided to gain insights into the market through rigorous research.

In 2014, we will begin large scale open farm production. We will utilize 72 acres that our farmers have for vegetable and fruit production. The production officially begins in January and we plan to expose our farmers to different sources of information and good extension services in order to provide a model approach to farming in the Coast region. Our farmers are also being exposed to a training curriculum on current technologies that would enable them produce high quality produce for our market. The focus shall be on high impact crops. We believe that our greenhouse/open-farm production initiative when scaled up will contribute to developing Kwale County in so many ways including 1) Improving food security and nutrition, 2) Creating employment opportunities for women and youth which will lead to economic empowerment and poverty alleviation. We also believe that our initiatives can make the Kenyan Coast be the next hub where agriculture, greenhouse/open-farm technology, entrepreneurship, and smart marketing using technology intersect to produce an everlasting change.

The journey has not been an easy one and like those who have had to make such decisions, we do not credit ourselves with originality in approach or thought. Remember, food security was solved decades ago, theoretically. The only challenge is that the failures to make decisions to spread the knowledge on farming and provide access to farming technologies have disenfranchised farmers who become beggars whenever they experience financial and/or environmental shocks.

J.F.K. argues that there are risks and costs to action; but they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. Our action may only be covering a small part of this world, but we believe that if everybody got serious about taking action, then in the near future our children will go the museums to look at how poverty and hunger once WAS.