Life took an unexpected turn for Amos Morori after he completed secondary school. His dreams of becoming the first engineer from his village were put on hold due to financial constraints. Undeterred by adversity, he found an alternative path that would eventually lead him to becoming a millionaire farmer, changing not only his own life but also the landscape of his village.
Leaving behind the classroom and textbooks, he stepped into the role of a herder, tending to his family’s livestock on the sun-soaked plains of the semi-arid Kerio Valley in Elgeyo Marakwet County. To supplement his income, he began cultivating kales to help cover school fees for his younger siblings.
Yet, the unforgiving heat and unpredictable weather patterns prompted a shift in his agricultural pursuits, and thus began Morori’s journey into the world of watermelon farming. Watermelon, a fruit perfectly suited to the Kerio Valley’s conditions, became Morori’s crop of choice. With its high yield, rapid maturation, and robust market demand in the region, watermelon proved to be a wise selection.
In the span of two years, Morori transformed from a hopeful farmer to the sole millionaire in his village, raking in over Ksh1.5 million from the venture, making him one of the millionaires in his Chepsigot village.
With a modest starting investment of 40,000 Kenyan Shillings, Morori persuaded his father to sell a few cattle to fund his new venture. Armed with determination, he turned their land along the banks of the River Kerio into a watermelon haven. Beginning with a single acre, Morori’s ambition led him to scale up his efforts, expanding his farm to an impressive 10 acres.
The Kerio Valley’s volcanic soil, coupled with the high temperatures and easy access to water from the nearby river, provided an ideal environment for his watermelon crops to flourish.
Morori’s innovative approach included using trenches to hold water from the river, reducing the need for excessive fuel consumption for irrigation. His choice of the Sukari F1 watermelon variety, recognized for its sturdy rind and resilience against pests, paid off as he consistently reaped 30 to 40 tonnes per acre, translating into significant profits.
“After two-and-a-half months, I harvested 30 tonnes of the fruits, fetching over Sh800,000. Depending on the season, we sell the fruit at between Sh14 and Sh30,” he says. After deducting costs, he had over Ksh500,000 profit. Financial success in the watermelon business came as a result of Morori’s prudent management. Balancing expenses—ranging from seeds and labor to chemicals, irrigation, and fertilizer—amounted to around 50,000 to 70,000 Kenyan Shillings per acre. Impressively, Morori’s disciplined approach ensured he never experienced a loss in his farming venture.
Beyond the financial gains, watermelons stood out for their high water content and nutritional value. Comprising over 92% water, the fruit’s refreshing nature is an excellent way to quench thirst. Packed with vitamins A, C, and B6, along with potassium, amino acids, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients, watermelon’s appeal skyrocketed due to its associated health benefits.
However, Morori faced challenges posed by diseases like leaf spot, powdery mildew, and blight, necessitating careful management. In the unpredictable world of farming, market prices are often influenced by external factors. Morori’s biggest hurdle came in the form of fluctuating watermelon prices, controlled by middlemen who could exploit desperate farmers. Prices varied widely, 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.