Eng. Edwin Manyonge is the Bunyala Irrigation Scheme Manager. He has a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. We sat down with him for a candid talk about his work, profession and life. Here are the excerpts of the interview.

How would you describe yourself?

I am an ambitious person, team player and a responsible person with more than 15 years experience in the engineering field.

How was it growing up?

Wow! Growing up! My first recollection that comes to mind is in 1984. I was four years old, however, it was a sad event when I saw a neighbour being carried in a bed to hospital before he died. On the bright side, I was born on July 25, 1980, being a middle child in a family of 11 children. My father was a military man, hence spent most of his time in the military camp. My mother was a social worker who loved education and was very strict about school. I remember when I was transferred to a different school because she thought I had zero competition, and feared I would make it to university but without the right grade. At that point after topping all through my school life, I suddenly dropped to position 38 (laughs). I did not know what to do, what and how to tell her because she was so adamant about excelling in school. Let’s just say what happened next is history.

Your schooling…

I joined nursery school at Matumbufu Baptist Primary in 1985 and sat for my KCPE examination in 1994 in the same school. I scored 479 marks out of a possible 700 in seven subjects. However, I could not join Form One in first term because school fees was a big deal at the time. I joined Bungoma Town High School (not existing now), a day school, in second term instead of having to stay at home the whole year to get school fees for my school of choice. I then transferred to Kimilili Boys High School, which is now known as St. Luke Kimilili Boys High School in Form Two in 1996. I sat for my KCSE exam in 1998 and scored an A- (minus) of 86 points, topping my class. I later joined the University of Nairobi in the year 2000 to study Civil Engineering for five years.

Best memories growing up?

When growing up, my siblings and I were always in the top three positions for which we were awarded packets of milk (Maziwa ya Nyayo, as the supplies were known). The first position got 27 strips of milk, the second 18 strips and the third placed got nine. We would go home carrying cartons of milk (tulikuwa wengi [we were many in the family]).

How did you join the job market?

After university, I stayed with a friend in Kawangware for a few days while looking for a job. I distributed copies my CV but got no response. I called my friend James Muturi, now an engineer at Maji House and asked him to lend me some cash to print more CV copies. Muturi instead offered to print as many copies as I wanted from his office since he did not have the money. While there, his boss came in, we had a chat and he asked me to help his messenger deliver some documents within the city centre; I did. He asked me to return the next day. To my surprise, that was an interview and that’s how I got my first job as a graduate engineer in September 2006. My first project was the Mariakani-Kilifi road where I was part of the design team with a company called Strotel Afrique.

While working there I got a call that I had been shortlisted for a job through my details at the University of Nairobi. The call was from the National Irrigation Board, now the National Irrigation Authority. I reluctantly dropped my papers and after two weeks the board interviewed me. My interview was the shortest but got the job after the second interview. My biggest challenge was how to break the news to my employer then, as we had a cordial working relationship. However, he released me diligently. I worked at the head office and then transferred to the Western Schemes in Ahero. In October 2014, I came to Bunyala Irrigation Scheme (independent from the Western Schemes) as the Scheme Manger up to date.

Your experience as a scheme manager in Bunyala Irrigation Scheme.

I have worked in Bunyala Irrigation Scheme for eight years now. When I reported here, the scheme had 1,300 acres under irrigation. We have expanded to more than 3,100 acres. When I came, the scheme was managed from Ahero until it was separated on July 1, 2015. Six months from my reporting in Bunyala, I was working alone without technical staff and a few offices. We now have 10 permanent staff and 30 casuals. When I started up in the scheme, the canal was carrying 0.8 cubic metres of water; we have expanded to 1.2 cubic metres. There was one crop per year, which made sections of the scheme to have one crop in 18 months. One crop would be grown in Phase 1 until harvesting before moving to phase two of the main scheme. We have developed mechanisms to ensure farmers have continuous cropping throughout the year.

How has your growing up moulded you into the person you are today?

When growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. I looked up to Amos Wako, the former Attorney General of Kenya and the first Senator of Busia County. Actually, my law dream affected my grades while in school since I barely focused on sciences, but I took a turning point in Form Three. My dad had warned me about going to university to study teaching. “You will never get a coin from me to do teaching!” he would say (Laughs). My other option was medicine that I missed by a point; I had 45 points, the requirement was 46 points. Imagine just one point! I opted to re-apply and chose civil engineering. Engineering has become so dear to me.

Advice to the youth?</p>

Be patient to go through the process. The youth in this generation want to skip all the steps. They want to wake up one day and find themselves rich. Life is a process and for you to be at the top you must work and work to reach the top. There are no shortcuts in life.

Typical working day

My programme is basically a straight line. I go to the office, the house and then church. Very straight.

Challenges encountered along the way.

I do not like wasting time glorifying challenges. If there is a challenge, I normally find ways of going around them. I go to church, and I have a personal spiritual motto that says I will never amplify what the devil is doing. I do not amplify challenges.

Anyway, as a manager, of course, I have had challenges, one of which has been the community understanding what you are doing. For example, in areas like Rwambua, the community resisted. It took a lot of sensitisation to make them understand that the expansion was for their own benefit. Resistance delays project implementation.
Another challenge has been the machinery. We do not have enough machines in the Scheme. We have one excavating machine, which is not enough. As we continue to expand, we require more.

As I came in, I did not know how to manage stakeholders’ interests. Every stakeholder has an interest, which needs to be managed well. If you do not manage their interests, the farmer will not benefit.

Apart from being a successful engineer…

(He interjects) I am many things. A husband, a father, a farmer but, most importantly, I am a fisher of men; winning souls for Christ. I was recently commissioned as a Pastor in Deliverance Church Race Course on September 4, 2022. (

(He plays the keyboard too… (

Your mantra?

Let my job speak for me and if it gets to a point where I must explain myself, then I know I have not done enough.