World steeplechase silver medallist shares his love for farming pineapples

Monday, May 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Leonard Bett celebrates winning a gold medal in the boys’ 3,000m steeplechase during the 2017 Under-18 Championships in Nairobi. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

Ericson Kiprono

Six kilometres along the Litein-Cheborge highway sits Cheptendeniet Centre, a busy urban centre in Bureti sub-county and some 35 minutes away from Litein town.

Sparsely spread homesteads are the hallmark of Cheptendeniet Village, enabling active pineapple and tea cultivation.

From the centre a left turn to an earth road that leads to World U20 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist Leonard Bett’s farm.

People Sport caught up with him and his wife tending to their pineapple farm.

Opening up in this exclusive interview with, the young athlete says he retreated to his village a few days before March 13 when Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe popped up on local televisions to announce Kenya’s first case, and is now enjoying the tranquility of the village and the sheer volume of farm work that come with it.

“This is the only opportunity to be with my family and share good moments unlike other days spending most the time in the training camp,” he told People Sport.

Bett urged sportsmen and women in Kenya to venture into farming and charity works during this period adding that the pandemic has taught him how to be ‘bold.’

“Engaging in farming activities is a way of keeping fit at this period and by so doing you will also realise you have killed two birds with one stone,” he said.

Bett ventured into pineapple farming in 2019, planting over 500 seedlings in an acre after purchasing the suckers for Sh10 from a neighbour. 

He applied 10 wheelbarrows of farm yard manure and planted using the double row system which makes it easier to manage and also gives higher yields.

“Before planting, sorting should be done to separate slips, suckers and trash, only healthy suckers should be used for planting and the defective ones removed to ensure uniformity,“ he said.

Bett tending to his pineapple farm in Cheptendeniet Village, Bureti in Kericho County.  Photo/PD/ERICSON KIPRONO

He also sells pineapple suckers to prospective farmers at Sh10 per sucker. Bett also has three-acre under tea plantation.

The World U20 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist is not letting go of his dream after the coronavirus pandemic moved his chance for a debut at the Olympic Games by at least one year.

He is worried after the postponement of Tokyo 2020 Games due to Covid-19 as he has to shelve his lofty dreams to next year.

The world has come to a standstill. It is frustrating but it’s something beyond our control.

I have to wait for another year to realise my dream to represent the country,” Bett added.

He is one of the brightest youngsters currently transiting to the senior ranks and recounts how disruptions to sport have affected him.

I would have loved to continue making appearance in the senior category especially at the Diamond League, which I have been competing since 2018.

I know most of the athletes whom we competed together at the junior level are also transiting to the senior category whose progress may be hampered by the current situation,” he said.

 “It has actually been very difficult for us athletes since the outbreak of the virus. Right now, I cannot train with my coach we only communicate on phone.

But since there is hope at the end of this challenge I am still trying to train and keep fit as I wait for the championships to return,” he added.

After his successful career launch at the 2017 world U18 championships, he went ahead to win silver at the 2018 world U20 3,000m steeplechase when he was beaten on the line by Ethiopian Takele Nigate (8:25.35) as Bett was second in 8:25.39.

Besides athletics he has a special gift of singing away from what most people know him for.

“One thing people do not know about me is that I can sing and I have done some songs with my sister,” Bett said.

He says he takes his musical talent as a spiritual gift which he uses to reach out to people and give them hope in life.

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