Eng. Charles Muasya is currently the Ag. Deputy General Manager, Infrastructure and Irrigation Development Services at the National Irrigation Authority. He has a Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of South Australia (UNISA) and a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering from Egerton University. He has practiced engineering for 22 years now. We engage with him to get a sneak peek of his work life, work-life balance and accomplishments.

How was it like growing up?

Very interesting. I grew up in a small village in Machakos in a close-knit family comprising of my father, mother and four siblings. I attended catechism which helped cement my relationship with God and guided me to always be prayerful, faithful and trust in God at all times.

In my free time I would be in the field herding goats and cattle, playing football, knocking down birds from the sky with a slingshot, swimming in the clear, cold streams and fighting with the other boys of the village (of course I never won, thanks to my height).

Catching fish with twine and sharpened bits of wire, seeing bulls fighting by the river, hunting gazelles and antelopes with bow and arrows are some of the memorable childhood events. Actually it was a major achievement to hunt down any of these animals, but sadly I never attained this satisfaction. On a brighter side I thank God for growing up in this environment it gave me a lot of formative years that has shaped my life. I learnt how to take opportunities and push forward.

Did you have a nickname?

He laughs. I have had so many nicknames throughout my childhood, one in particular was Kwikia. (this is a Kamba word in this context meaning gear engagements whereby the aspect of speed comes in). I earned this for being a very fast kid. Whenever my mother would send me to the shop I was already running there, in many instances I would get to the shop and realize I didn’t get the money or the full details of the items to purchase.

Having grown up in the village, did you ever dream of living in the city?

No. I loved it in the village. We believed children in the city were ill-mannered hence bad company. No one wanted to be identified as a spoilt kid or associated with them. It was also easier to find genuine friends in the village.

However, I occasionally visited during the school holidays since my father was working here. He would take us to Sarit Centre to play and it was fun.

Tell us about your schooling and getting to employment?

Being a performer in primary and high school I earned a spot at Egerton university to study Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Engineering.

After graduating, I joined the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and was posted to work in Migori before being transferred to Taita Taveta, Kitui and Nairobi respectively.

From the Ministry I was nominated to study Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of South Australia (UNISA). From here I joined the National Irrigation Authority as a project engineer.

How was the experience studying in a foreign country?

Some of the key things I noted is that universities abroad have tailored courses to put more emphasis on the discipline one is dealing with. The courses are also more practical and classes very interactive. Studying abroad gives you exposure to different technologies, new cultures and learning how to embrace all these is an important life skill.

In my time studying in UNISA, students were not given room to miss classes. I also appreciated projects and assignments being submitted online. This created the discipline of timeliness and ensured that students did not submit plagiarized work. Luckily, I did not experience any form discrimination there.

Tell us about your journey since joining the National Irrigation Authority?

I joined the National Irrigation Authority, by then National Irrigation Board, in 2013 as a Projects Engineer. Since then I have worked under Engineer Richard Kanui currently an Engineering Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Engineer Michael Thuita currently the CEO of Athi Water Works Development Agency and Eng. Raphael Ogendo the Authority’s outgoing Deputy General Manager, Infrastructure and Irrigation Development Services (DGM, IIDS) from whom I have learnt much. They have been very instrumental in helping me grow my career. Working as the projects engineer exposed me to more irrigation projects in the Country.

In 2017 I was charged as the Chief Engineer with the task of coordinating and managing the planning and design of irrigation systems and infrastructure until 2020. During this time, I have planned and coordinated the implementation of projects notably the Galana Kulalu Food Security Project, Mega dams such as Thuci, Radat, Lowaat, Thiba and High Grand Falls and the National Expanded Irrigation Programme. I was recently appointed the Ag. DGM, IIDS.

As an Engineer, what are some of the works you have undertaken that you take pride in and did you face any challenges?

In the year 2006, I was posted to work in Taita Taveta where there is a lot of potential as most rivers are recharged from Mt. Kilimanjaro which is nearby. Together with the team I was working with, we were able to develop, construct and/ or rehabilitate ten (10) irrigation projects putting more than 6,500 acres under irrigation. These were Njoro Kubwa Canal, Njukini, Marondo, Kasokoni, Chala, Majengo, Lumi, Kamleza, Taita Clusters, Gitobo, and Kimorigo, irrigation projects.

Initially, insufficient funds was a major challenge we faced. However, the success of the initial projects made it possible to attract more donors. Additionally, while Lower Lumi had enough water, Upper Lumi did not hence the need to create supplementary water storage. We excavated small dams to achieve this.

I was later posted in Kitui. The area was semi-arid and having no permanent rivers. We initiated technologies for harnessing and harvesting water to curb the challenge of water scarcity. We drilled boreholes, constructed sand dams, and introduced greenhouse farming and drip irrigation systems. As a result, we were able to put more than 1,000 acres under irrigation through Kavisuni, Ngomano, Tungutu, and Mutune irrigation projects. I was also the design engineer for Usueni Irrigation Scheme which is one of the projects the Authority initiated and supports to date through the office of the Deputy General Manager, Operations and Irrigation Services to ensure that the farmers uptake irrigation. The scheme covers 1,000 acres.

You have done so much in opening up land to irrigation in the Country. Are you undertaking any farming activities?

(Chuckles) Yes I do. I am a farmer. I am rearing livestock and growing some vegetables, bananas and pasture. I am also a bee keeper.

But engineer, based on your sharp dress code and taste in style and fashion, nothing is any close to the mud in the farms and the frustrations in getting the perfect irrigation development design…

(Laughs) You remind me about a time when the CEO was telling me that he hopes that I don’t spend all my money on designer suits and curl-kitting my hair and that I also invest. I am a firm believer in looking presentable and taking care of oneself.

I do encourage people to save and invest as well but I don’t think it is wise to invest everything. Treat yourself with the little you have while you live. Be clean. Dress presentably. Smell good. This shows how responsible you are. It doesn’t require so much money; you only need to be intentional about it.

How do you balance work and personal life?

People know that I am a “workaholic”. What they don’t know is that I also exercise and rest a lot. My day starts at 4:30am when I hit the gym for an hour then get ready for work. Exercise is important because it helps with blood circulation.

This helps me actively function throughout the day. I also walk from office to office from time to time hence I am not glued to my chair throughout the day. This is very important for good health. Also, who knows? You might just meet your life partner walking into different offices. This is not to say that is how I met my wife but I met her in one of the places I’ve worked in.

How are your weekends?

My weekends are set aside for family and relaxation. Some of the activities that keep me occupied are swimming, sauna, massage, football and game drives. It’s always refreshing. Sometimes I travel with them but my son and daughter are always in a hurry to come back to Nairobi. I still don’t understand why your young people don’t like being in ushago.

Parting shot?

All dreams are valid. Opportunities will come, work hard, take yours and push forward. Things will not always work your way. Either way, trust in God.