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    Anne at her onions farm

    By George Munene

    Upon her graduation, Anne Muriithi was among a select few who got a chance to work for Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development in March 2014 under contract.

    In two months, however, the research contract which paid her Sh1500 a day ended leaving her jobless. The 2013 Agriculture Economics graduate from Moi University would not have believed it then that in a few short years she would be selling Sh450,000 worth of tomatoes.

    ‘’I grew up in Mwea, Embu County and farming was our family’s primary source of livelihood; with job opportunities hard to come by in Nairobi, I headed back home with the savings from the job to chance my arm at farming,’’ said Anne.

    As a newbie in agribusiness, she spent the better part of 2014 researching and gaining practical commercial farming knowledge through consultations with experienced farmers and agronomists. In January 2015 she leased five acres of land in Mwea for Sh25,000. On one acre, she grew Sukari F1 watermelon and had three acres under onions.

    She harvested eight tonnes of the bulb onions which she sold to traders at Sh30 a kilo. This earned her Sh240,000 while watermelons raked in Sh150,000.

    Related News: Garlic farmers earn six times more than regular onion farmers

    ‘’Though I didn’t quite earn as much as the ideal agronomists’ projections, I got encouraged that it was doable and gained invaluable experience,’’ said Muriithi.

    In the succeeding 2016 season, she decided to move on from ordinary onion seeds to hybrid varieties planting Red Tropicana F1 and Red Creole on two acres.

    She more than doubled her yield to 19 tonnes. After selling her produce to traders at her farm, she earned Sh0.5m.

    In 2017, she opted to grow French beans for the export market. Sowing in June, she harvested 1.5 tonnes in less than three months. This earned her Sh75,000 after selling at Sh50 per kilo to an exporting firm.

    Heavy loses

    Just like any other business, farming has its own share of challenges. Diseases, unpredictable weather patterns and market downturns are just a few of the challenges growers face; especially new entrants such as Muriithi.

    After successive good harvests, the 29 years old’s desire to clinch the coveted export market made her bite more than she could chew. She invested over Sh300000 to grow snow peas and sugar snaps on a three-acre piece of land away from home in Tharagua, Laikipia County.

    Horticultural produce is water-intensive and with no piped water on the new farm, she had to ferry in water for irrigation which ate into her expenses. Frequent visits to check on the farm from Nairobi—where she had since moved—also proved costly.

    Just when she thought she had weathered the storm, frost attacked her crops and she lost everything. This led her to abandon the farm and lease it to another farmer for the remainder of the season.

    Bouncing back

    After the blow, Muriithi again returned home to Mwea. Her parents gave her 1.5 acres of their land to grow French beans as well as covering her cultivations costs.

    A downturn in the export market meant she wasn’t able to get as much as she’d hoped, but the little she had accrued was still enough to enable her to lease an acre in the neighborhood.

    Related News: Cabbages, kales and tomatoes earns graduate Sh120,000 in profits in three months

    Related News: 25 Muranga farmers earn Sh20m a year from French beans through group export contract

    “I did not want to squeeze my parents on their small piece of land; with the little I had, I leased land to grow French beans and also try out tomatoes,’’ said Muriithi.

    Since then, she has been specialising in the two crops which she says have become her top earners and she has been growing from strength to strength.

    September last year she says she harvested 120 boxes from a two-acre piece of plot in Mwea selling each box at Sh3500-4000, earning her between Sh420,000 and Sh480,000 gross income.

    Her advice to the young people who wish to venture into agribusiness is that they perform exhaustive market research and to engage well-known agriculture experts as well as experienced farmers before sowing a single seed.

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    By George Munene

    James Kibuku, owner of Kibuku Rabbit Farms in Nakuru is encouraging youth in Nyandarua County to take up rabbit keeping as a source of income by giving them a free pair of starter rabbits and free construction materials for their own rabbitry. 

    “Due to Covid-19 these kids are at home with nothing much to do, rearing rabbits will at least keep them engaged and hopefully they will keep at it and earn some income,” he said. He will also help them in finding a market for their rabbits if this proves challenging.

    Related News:Factsheet: Selecting the best breeding rabbits for meat – Part 1

    With a pregnant doe and unrelated buck, they can use the buck to father the first batch of kits when they are mature. James normally sells a rabbit for Sh750 to Sh2500, and he is hoping the country’s youth may now experience the economic potential in rabbit keeping, instead of holding onto the notion of rabbit keeping as a pastime for small boys.

    Formerly a poultry farmer, Kibuku dropped chicken for rabbits because the poultry birds were far more expensive to keep. He now has some 250 pedigree rabbits on his farm, and thanks to his advertising on Facebook, he says, he has never lacked for buyers.

    He also constructs metallic rabbit cages and offers consultancy to farmers looking to get into rabbit keeping. Every Sunday, he holds free training to budding rabbit farmers at his homestead located a ten-minute drive from Nakuru Town along Bahati Road.

    Related News:Caging stops double pregnancies per month for healthy rabbits

    Related News:Man builds rabbits empire single-handedly despite financial challenges

    Kibuku also organises drives across the country to sensitise people to the benefits of rabbit meat. He argues: “Kenyans do not have an aversion to rabbit meat, the problem is most people have not had the opportunity to taste some; I am seeking to change that.” 

    Kibuku Rabbit Farm: 0722 741827

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    DSC 00311

    By George Munene
    Latia Farm located at Seising, off the Isinya Kiserian road, sits on some 60 acres, 38 acres of which are currently under use, in a grand, private-sector adventure of agricultural training and innovation.
    The farm has lecture halls, dormitories and a restaurant to offer six month apprenticeship courses to some 1000 form four leavers yearly— a quarterly intake of 250 students. The apprentices are given practical farming experience on almost every facet of farming; crop farming, specialized horticulture and animal husbandry. The program, which is part sponsored by Kenya Commercial Bank, offers loaned training, feeding and board, which the trainees pay off from the produce they grow and is sold outside the farm. On completing the course, Latia, also helps them get internship placements. Recruits for the program are sought from across the country with the help of county officials.

    Related News:KCB sets out to launch 28,000 greenhouses for youth to earn a living

    Practical farming experience is also offered to farmers who are looking to learn intensive/innovative farming methods. This is given as a four day Thursday to Sunday crash course at a Sh1000 daily charge.
    Consultancy and marketing services, especially to first time farmers looking to avoid the pitfalls many agripreneurs endure when starting out are also a part of their offering.
    The farm is compartmentalised with areas offering open field and greenhouse farming as well a 7 acre Agritech section which serves as an innovation hub. David Kimwaki, an agronomist at the farm, says they have worked out ways of using earthworms to decompose manure used as organic foliar. They are also refining the use of shade nets, which are much cheaper, as a stand in for greenhouses.

    Related News:Nairobi’s Karen farmer bets on unpopular snail farming for cash

    Related News:Nairobi-based mobile commerce agriculture startup receives $627,000 in seed funding

    They are stretches of maize fields as well as French beans which grown for the export market. The farm is replete with greenhouses used to house tomatoes. Majoring in horticulture; sukuma wikis, cabbages, onions, capsicums, broccolis, butternuts, cucumbers and cauliflowers are a fixture on the farm. They also grow indigenous veggies such as the spider plant, black nightshade and managu. The farm has 10 cows, pigs, milk goats, chickens and has just gotten into rabbit keeping.
    Latia Farm: 0716 431054

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