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In Ndaragwa’s Ngamini village of Nyandarua County, Tabitha Gathecha is on her third week of harvesting chamomile, a venture that has created employment to four ladies. “Since harvesting began, I have been creating employment for four ladies. It goes on for a very long time. The more you harvest, the more fruitful and merrier it gets. It is like these ladies have permanent jobs,” Gathecha explains.

“I am farming this lucrative chamomile courtesy of a water pan from the National Irrigation Authority. Before 2019, when the water pan was constructed, life was hard. Extremely hard. Maize would fail due to the scorching sun. Vegetables withered so often. We depended on rain, which is very scarce. We basically survived on relief food. I have so much joy now because I can comfortably feed my family on a balanced diet and meet my children’s education and other expenses,” she adds. Ms Gathecha expounds that without the water pan, she would have stopped farming years ago.

Chamomile has both relaxing and healing properties. “I was introduced to chamomile by Saumu Empire, an agribusiness company, who supplied me with the seedlings to try them. Chamomile has no much expenses. No inputs. It is pure organic. All I need is manure and labour,”

Chamomile is a herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. Rich in vitamins A and C, it contains essential oils and antioxidants. Once the flowers are dried, they are infused into hot water to make chamomile tea. Many people enjoy chamomile tea as a caffeine-free alternative to black or green tea, for its earthy, somewhat sweet taste that helps to relieve stress and promotes relaxation.

Construction of small water pans is under Household Irrigation Water Storage Project done by the Authority now in its fifth phase. Its aim is to put forward measures to boost farming activities and changing the narrative of food security under the Big Four Agenda across the country.

The water pans store surface runoff during the rainy seasons that once full can provide enough water for irrigated agriculture for up to four months to six months until the next rainy season.

On another piece of land, Ms Gathecha has grown horticultural crops such as oranges, Hass avocado, vegetables, bananas, sugarcane, and maize.