Amos Morori’s life took an unforeseen twist upon completing his secondary education. The aspirations he harbored of becoming his village’s inaugural engineer were postponed due to financial limitations. Undaunted by adversity, he charted an alternative course that eventually propelled him to the status of a millionaire farmer, reshaping not just his own destiny but also his village’s landscape.
Transitioning away from the confines of classrooms and textbooks, Morori embraced the role of a herder, overseeing his family’s livestock on the sun-drenched plains of the semi-arid Kerio Valley in Elgeyo Marakwet County. To supplement his income, he embarked on cultivating kale, a means to support his younger siblings’ school fees.
However, the unyielding heat and capricious weather patterns led him to pivot his agricultural pursuits, marking the inception of Morori’s venture into the realm of watermelon farming. Watermelon, a fruit perfectly suited to the conditions of the Kerio Valley, emerged as Morori’s crop of choice. Its high yield, swift maturation, and strong market demand in the region validated his decision.
In a span of two years, Morori’s evolution from an aspiring farmer to the sole millionaire in his village unfolded, reaping profits exceeding Ksh1.5 million from his endeavor, positioning him among the affluent in Chepsigot village. With an initial investment of 40,000 Kenyan Shillings, Morori persuaded his father to liquidate a portion of their cattle to fund his innovative pursuit.
Fuelled by unwavering resolve, he transformed the land bordering the River Kerio into a thriving haven for watermelons. Commencing with a solitary acre, Morori’s ambition impelled him to scale his operation to an impressive expanse of 10 acres. The volcanic soil of the Kerio Valley, coupled with its elevated temperatures and convenient access to water from the nearby river, fostered an optimal environment for his watermelon crops to flourish.
Morori’s ingenuity was apparent in his approach of employing trenches to harness water from the river, curtailing excessive fuel consumption for irrigation. The selection of the Sukari F1 watermelon variety, lauded for its robust rind and resistance to pests, proved fruitful as he consistently reaped 30 to 40 tonnes per acre, translating into substantial earnings.
“After two and a half months, I harvested 30 tonnes of fruit, yielding over Sh800,000. Depending on the season, we sell the fruit at prices ranging between Sh14 and Sh30,” he recounted. After deducting expenses, his profits exceeded Ksh500,000.
Morori’s financial triumph in the watermelon enterprise was a product of his astute management. Juggling costs—encompassing seeds, labor, chemicals, irrigation, and fertilizers—averaged between 50,000 to 70,000 Kenyan Shillings per acre. Impressively, Morori’s disciplined methodology ensured he never encountered losses in his farming venture.
Beyond fiscal gains, watermelons stood out for their elevated water content and nutritional value. Constituting over 92% water, the fruit’s hydrating attributes made it an exceptional thirst quencher. Laden with vitamins A, C, and B6, alongside potassium, amino acids, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients, watermelon’s allure soared due to its associated health benefits.
However, Morori grappled with challenges posed by diseases like leaf spot, powdery mildew, and blight, mandating vigilant management. In the capricious world of agriculture, market prices are often swayed by external influences. Morori’s principal hurdle manifested in fluctuating watermelon prices, governed by intermediaries who could exploit vulnerable farmers. Prices exhibited significant variations, with a kilo of watermelon fetching as high as 35 Kenyan Shillings during peak seasons and plummeting to as low as 10 Kenyan Shillings during off-seasons.
Morori’s saga of success extends beyond his fields. He champions a paradigm shift in societal attitudes toward farming, especially among the youth who may perceive it as a vocation for the less educated. His call for amplified government investment in agriculture aspires to transform farming into an appealing and lucrative career choice.