My day out with a crew from Africa24 Media covering a story I had only heard from people gave me the opportunity to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Their contact Sam Kairu introduced me to them when they were on assignment to Nyeri for story about a man who might be considered to be the Wright brothers all rolled into one.Morris Tito Gachamba was born in 1932 at a place called Magutu location, Mathira division in Nyeri County. He is 84 years old and resides in Nyeri where he works from. Growing up he attended Magutu Primary school up to class two.He was asked by his then teacher to add four and six but was unable. He would then receive a thorough beating, the reason he swore to never go back again. Luckily his parents had a workshop where he assisted in making things like sufurias, bicycles and other metal works.
He later acquired the skills and took up the trade. His interest in aircrafts started when he was a young man after a Briton, Bobby, found him fishing with his friends and noticed how well he could fish. Bobby took him to Lake Turkana using his plane. After the experience Gachamba was inspired to own an aeroplane and since his pockets weren’t as deep, the only option was to build his own. Bobby would allow him to practice on his land and sometimes on his plane. He started designing his airplane in 1948 and Finished building it in 1959 which he named Kenya 1. During his first test the aircraft developed complications and crashed into a tree leaving him wounded and was later admitted to hospital. He received a lot of recognition from the government for his innovation and was even allocated a portion of land to practice his trade in Kiawara ,Nyeri county. According to the locals, the name Kiawara means ‘Place for cunning people.’ He was also invited to tour Wilson Airport by the then president, Jomo Kenyatta.He later acquired another plot in Solio where he took his home made plane. From that crashed he dismissed the thought of ever flying again and took to building a motor vehicle which he said was easier to repair in the event of a complication. His inspiration for the design of his car came from the Land Rovers that were used by colonialist back then. He took a chassis from a Volkswagen beetle and started building a Land Rover type of body from scratch. At one time he declined to sell his home made car for a lot of money saying that his dream was to get on the road in his car. At 84 he is still strong and says he’ll only stop working when his body ‘tells’ him. When I accompanied a crew from Africa24 Media we found him at his workshop working on a power saw brought in by one of his clients. In his workshop he has recruited two artisans whom he took from the streets. They both consider him as a mentor and father figure as he gave them a sense of lively hood. He trains many young men who come to visit him and has impacted positively in the society through his creativity.
In the afternoon we met Waweru Gikunju from Nyeri Light Industries Organic Fertilizer Company which makes fertilizer from organic materials such as animal waste, animal bones and animal blood among others. In science we say energy cannot be destroyed but converted from one form to another. This is what this man does.He started using organic fertilizer after an analysis of his soil showed that it was too acidic and was advised to stop using DAP. Neighbours noticed how well his crops were doing and started asking for his advice so he showed them and word got out. He first made it using 7 organic components then with time he went to JKUAT where he acquired more knowledge and began looking for more input. He worked with the ministry of agriculture one time but they failed to pay him after he had packed and delivered the product to them. His daughter has also followed in his footsteps.” My dad paid my school fees with what he got from this job and since he could afford it, I saw that it’s a good business.”Stella Njeri his daughter helps around. She carries out research in books from her library and on the internet. When she sees anything they can do to increase the quality of fertilizer they discuss with her father how to go about it. They take samples of the organic fertilizer for analysis at JKUAT where they get to know how much nutrients it has and in what percentages. “This helps know how much of the input is needed and the ratio of the components.”The components are locally available because the works place is near a slaughter house where they collect most of them. The reception of the product is good, though a lot farmers still use artificial fertilizer. She grew up in town thus she didn’t know much back then but now she has acquired a lot of knowledge about farming. “I didn’t even know how to hold a jembe.” She said. People usually regard that work as dirty so people don’t expect a girl could be involved in this kind of job but every day she wakes up at 5.00am to go to the slaughterhouse to get animal inputs. She said challenges are learning tools and are there to make you better. Nyeri Light Industries has demonstration centers where they grow crops using the organic fertilizers. They show case the benefits of organic fertilizers. The main challenges they face are the reluctance of farmers to adopt organic fertilizer and the level of awareness of their product. Currently they have shops in Nyeri, Nyandarua and Makueni. I support my daughter so that she may take over at one time.
By the end of the day I had a headache the size of the sun but it was worth it. I learnt a bit about journalism and the hardships they endure to bring you stories and how hard they work. As Jeff Koinange says. “You’re only as good as your last story.”