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How passion to serve others birthed a lucrative catering business for former nurse

How passion to serve others birthed a lucrative catering business for former nurse

As a practising nurse in Australia with up to eight years of experience, Michel Alusiola had always felt rewarded when she would lift the spirits of both the sick and their family members by serving them.

During her service, she noticed that one of the things that lifted the spirits of her patients on some days was the type of food that was being served.

“The mood was always good for most of my patients on Tuesday especially when we served hot chocolate and there was always a dip in the mood on beef stew and mashed potatoes day. This pattern fascinated me a lot,” said Alusiola.

Her career took a turn when she had challenges balancing her time between work shifts and being a new mum, she then opted to be a full-time mum and relocated back to Kenya. 

As she took care of her children, she noticed a similar pattern to the one she had experienced with her patients in terms of their mood when it came to preparing meals for them. 

 “My children would get excited and in a good mood before and after some meals and in bad moods when it came to other foods,” said Alusiola.

With her nursing career behind her Ms. Alusiola still had the desire to achieve the same satisfaction she had in the past from serving others and this drove her to start her enterprise PinkPurple a catering service in 2016.

 “I started with no capital, all I had was my kitchen. I received one order and from the down payment made, I started growing my business. I started catering for weddings and private functions during the weekends and then expanded to breakfasts and lunch orders for offices during the week,” said Ms. Alusiola.

PinkPurple started with four to five orders a day and one additional member of staff making small wedding and private function food. As they introduced breakfasts and lunches, the business progressively grew its orders to 15. With its customization of meals and the introduction of dinners PinkPurple currently employs three additional members of staffs and receives 30 to 35 orders a day. 

“I do have a menu but I primarily focus on listening to customers request and tailor-making the meals according to their requests. Once, a customer requested an evening meal with specific servings and he made it a daily routine. From that order, I began doing weekly dinners for customers and it has made a major impact on my catering service,” said Ms. Alusiola.

She says her interest in making weekly dinners was driven by her assessment that most working-class people arrive late from work and find it difficult to prepare proper meals on a daily basis and the cost of eating at restaurants may be high for some people. 

“I had a challenge at the beginning with setting up the rates for the meals at a completive rate to the restaurants but still have the customers enjoy the meals at the comfort of their homes. I decided to range my dishes between Sh250 and Sh350,” she said.

She explains how she sets up her weekly dinners and how she contributes her expertise to the customers’ orders.

“I receive orders at the end of the week with customer specifications on the type of food, the number of servings, and when they want to eat the food in the course of the week. From my experience with patients, I have always believed there is a link between the type of diet someone has and their physical and mental health. There is no superfood for better health so we try to create a whole dietary pattern through the food preparation and inform the client of its importance “said Alusiola

“I make some deliveries on my own to give me an opportunity to engage and receive feedback from my customers. Sometimes I engage courier services such as SafeBoda Kenya and Glovo to make fast deliveries” she added.

Her biggest challenge has been to market her business. With major players seeking the expertise of marketing specialists to promote their food service she still relies on word of mouth and tried to progressively learn how to use some social media platforms.

“I get recommendations from my clients and I keep trying to put video tutorials of the food PinkPurple cooks on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram but I hardly find the time to consistently do the marketing for myself.


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How delaying small farmers’ payments led youth into starting own fresh export company

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Delaying small farmers payments by companies dealing mostly in fresh produce for more than a month leading to the farmers’ worries has been a problem by most growers in the country.

This is the gap in the market that led Eunice Mutua, 35, into starting her own company, Select Fresh Produce Kenya Limited, a company that deals in the export of fresh produce such as pineapples, chickpeas, green grams, groundnuts, and sesame (simsim) among others.  

According to the 2015 GlobalFood report on the Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems, linking small farmers to global markets through contract farming and other means has become an important policy recommendation aiming to increase farmers’ income and foster rural development.

However, the report further indicates that some of the arrangements involving the small farmers have been reported to lose participants or collapse over time due to a lack of trust in payments among other reasons.

This is one of the main reasons behind Eunice’s decision to finally start her own company in 2014 after working for different companies which gave her the opportunity to interact with farmers of all levels and agro-dealers.

“I had a chance to study what works and what doesn’t when dealing with clients besides knowing how various agro-companies were dealing with farmers. Most of such companies could pay farmers their dues very late, at least a month after produce delivery something which was laming farmers’ production and this was a gap that needed to be filled,” said Eunice.

Nevertheless, her journey was not that easy. Two years after graduating from Banking from Kampala International University in 2004 with a degree in Bachelor of Science, Finance and Banking, she secured her first job with Wells Fargo Limited at Cashing Transit Department between 2006 and 2008.

She then joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Kenya as a Strategic Manager in 2009 where she was exposed and discovered most of her business ideas, thanks to the team she worked with and her immediate boss then.

“Other than exposure, I got the chance to interact with many people and made business connections. I learnt some international market regulations and how to source for clients by positioning myself in a way that makes it easy for prospective international traders can spot me,” said Eunice.

After around two years at PwC, she resigned and while she was thinking about the next move she teamed with her sister, Caroline Mutua to start trading in secondhand clothes (mitumba) in Kileleshwa.

 

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“We decided to visit Gikomba Market in Nairobi with Sh2,000 which we used to buy some clothes and took to Kileleshwa estate to sell. That one day we made a gross income of Sh8,000 and we got encouraged to continue in the business saving along,” said Eunice.

After six months, Eunice who is also an MBA Strategic Management graduate from Daystar University joined her father, Mr. Boniface Mutua Musyoki who is an agropreneur and runs a twelve-acre mango farm at Syokimau in Machakos County where they began My choice Company which used to export mangoes.

“I persuaded my father and we started a company to capitalise on the huge and far profiting export market as compared to local markets. We started exporting mangoes to Dubai and we could trade in over 27 tonnes of mangoes a month,” said Eunice.

Exporting mangoes was not that easy as she recalls a case where their partner in the business got away with of money that a client paid upon delivery of the goods only for the partner to claim there was no such payments.

“Sometimes I wonder why some people can be so selfish even on matters like fresh produce export market which is so big that no single person can ever exhaust. However, I have since learnt to help others who want to venture into the business on exports requirements besides connecting them to such 

After one and a half years, Eunice left My Choice Company for her father and brother who changed the name of the company to My Choice Flower Limited majoring in the export of summer flowers, single head roses and spray roses flowers.

She moved on to start Select Fresh Produce of which she is the CEO. The company is currently exporting cereals and fresh produce sourced from different parts of the country especially Machakos , Uganda and Ethiopia.

This has also given her a lot more exposure. In 2016 she got a chance to be part of a Kenyan delegation that went to Ireland for a benchmarking on matters agribusiness and agriculture production in general.

“I was overwhelmingly impressed to be part of the government sponsored team to Ireland. I discovered the country (Ireland) has a lot we can borrow beginning from their agriculture vision to the strategic plan, Foodwise 2020, which we found to be so simple that every citizen in that country including the small-scale farmers can easily master making it easy for implementation.”

Select Fresh Produce Kenya Limited is now exporting its fresh produce to Europe, Netherlands, Ireland, and Middle East countries. The company is also currently looking for avocado farmers to grow the crop on a contract basis as it aims to expand its export reach.

The company invests in training the farmers on how to grow crops to meet international standards and they have trained many farmers who supply then every season.

“Other than the over 8,000 farmers whom I have trained on how to grow the crops for export, I also have connections in Uganda and Ethiopia where I get the produce collected then I export from there. This cuts my transport costs as I do not have to import the goods to Kenya then export again.”

Eunice has so far employed five employees on permanent basis and the other five casually in her company. She also trains on export global gap certification, branding and finding clients.

“I love sharing my experience, market reach and knowledge among other things with people as I believe that by so doing I grow, others grow too and we build a strong economy for our country together,” said Eunice.

 


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Community Based Agribusiness Advisors Turning Meru Peasants into Commercial Farm Producers

Certified potato seeds uplifting Molo farmers to agribusiness stardom

When Kibet Rotich started farming potatoes within a quarter-acre piece of land in Molo, Nakuru County in 2009, the former carpenter had no knowledge about the potential certified seeds in boosting yields.

For one year Rotich, 36, and other 18 youths in the area who had just started trying their luck in potato farming relied on recycled seeds that had no quality output.

In fact, according to the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), despite the various potato seed varieties in the market production of the crop is still low in the country at only seven tonnes per hectare against a potential of 40 tonnes on the same measure of land.

This has been blamed on the shortage of certified potato seedlings and the lack of knowledge about the varieties available and where to source them.

To change this narrative among Rotich’s group members and other growers in the region who were recycling what they have been using, the Ministry of Agriculture in 2010 conducted training for the farmers and since then things have improved.

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“After the training, I decided to source six bags of 50kg potato certified seeds of Shangi variety from Molo’s Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) at Sh1250 and made sure I planted according to the specifications given,” said Rotich.

He planted these within his quarter piece of plot and after about three months he would start harvesting.

To his surprise, he realised seven big bags of potato which he sold at Sh1,800 each to get Sh12,600 which was double what other farmers who were still stuck with the uncertified seeds got that season.

His good harvest and earnings attracted the attention of the other farmers who started asking him for seeds. This was an opportunity for Rotich to invest in seed multiplication and make more money.

“I started sourcing more certified seeds from Molo to grow and sell other farmers. A kilo of the seeds sells at a constant price of Sh55 -60 in contrast to a kilogram of ware potatoes, which can fetch as low as Sh10,” said Rotich.

In 2011, his network of farmers grew to 25 and another business opportunity came by sourcing potatoes from the growers and transporting to the local markets using a bicycle.

In the following year, following his wide network of farmers, he was picked by the Ministry of Agriculture and German federally-owned international cooperation enterprise, GTZ for more training on ware potato production so that he could in turn teach other farmers.

The training was so beneficial that in 2013, many farmers in the region started increasing the acreage under the crop to between 2-5 acres.

In 2017, because of the increase of members, they decided to form and register Yator community-based organisation with 234 members drawn from several smaller farmer groups in the area.

Other farm input companies such as Syngenta and Yara Kenya started developing interest in the CBO by coming into partnership with the growers. Since then the companies have been providing free training to the farmers and selling to them farm inputs at affordable prices.

 

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“Today, we are able to order farm inputs directly from the manufacturing companies and because they offer free transport for our bulk buying, it has really reduced our production costs,” said Rotich.

As if that is not enough, towards the end of Cereal Growers Association (CGA) trained the farmers in best agronomical practices introducing them in grains production.

In the subsequent year, they diversified into maize production with Rotich as their Agribusiness Advisor (AA) having been registered by CGA as an AA.

The CBO has really advanced since its establishment. Last year, the members bought a half an acre piece of land at Sh150,000 and they have since erected an Sh600,000 well-furnished aggregation centre with officers, stores and washrooms.

Here, the farmers will be collecting their ware potatoes and cereals for the market as well as receiving their farm inputs.

“If it were not for this coronavirus pandemic, we could have already launched it for official use by farmers,” said Rotich.

He is now looking forward to having an improved marketing system where member farmers will be benefiting full profit of their labour.


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Youth championing climate smart farming in West Pokot and Turkana counties

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West Pokot and Turkan counties are among the counties in Kenya which experience extreme weather conditions with sweeping floods during the rainy season and ravaging drought in the dry season.

This has been causing dire food shortages among the communities living in the areas that have been classified as arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL).

It is for this reason that there is a need for interventions with the climate-smart approach in food production to cushion the residents from hunger.

Shirley Kigotho, 29, is one such agro-entrepreneur who has been championing resilient farming methods such as aquaponics and hydroponic among youth and women groups in the areas for food security.

She says she first got the concept of the alternative methods of farming back in 2015 while she was working for the Turkana county government as a financial analyst. 

She then embarked on online research on how developed countries are able to grow crops in arid and semi-arid areas using the aquaponics method which entails growing crops in a moist area by spraying plant roots with plant food nutrients and hydroponics where one uses liquid, sand, gravel, and other materials to grow plants instead of sowing crops in soil.

“After getting better information on the two methods of farming, I needed now to go practical to perfect the techniques,” said Shirley.

Luckily the parents offered her a piece of family land in Trans Nzoia to practice the two concepts. 

 

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“In addition, they gave me a loan of Sh200,000 and added Sh130,000 part of my savings to enable me to set up my prototype farm in Trans Nzoia,” she said.

Since then she has been using the two methods to grow tomatoes within a greenhouse. She also grows capsicum, kales, cabbages, cucumber and coriander among other vegetables outside in the open field. 

She now works with two groups of over 320 youth and women drawn from Trans Nzoia where she was born, West Pokot and Turkana counties training them on how to use the two methods of farming to produce their own food and some for the market.

In this, she installs greenhouses and set up hydroponic systems for people in the areas. 

For instance, together with the youth, they install greenhouses at Sh97,000, hydroponic systems at Sh23,000.

Meaning if one would want to have both the greenhouse and the hydroponic system it would cost them Sh120,000, money that goes directly to the group account.

On her personal account, she has been riding on aquaponics and hydroponic to grow and earn from different crops.

She gets 10 crates of tomatoes which she sells at Sh5,500 per crate.  She is also able to harvest two sacks of 126kgs of cabbages which she sells at Sh3,000 and three 90kgs bags of kales which she sells at Sh3,000 at the local markets.  

To facilitate her agenda of bringing the youth and women together in resilient farming methods, Shirley has started her own company, Jangwani Farms Limited that focuses on growing alternatives in arid and semiarid areas and got incorporated in June 2018.

Currently, her firm has employed three staff members, a farmhand, an agronomist and a technician.

She is also looking for investors to help her expand Jangwani Farms and reach the uncovered areas of the vast West Pokot and Turkana counties to help residents combat the challenge of food insecurity. 

As a boost to her quest, last year Jangwani Farms won the Most Sustainable Business award by Blaze Safaricom encouraging her to start thinking of producing high-value crops for international markets. 

 


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Former watchman and college dropout youth finds soft landing in watermelon farming

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Raised by a single parent, Zachariah Onchuri is one of those few youths who have gone through various challenges in their hustles through the persistence for success has borne them fruits. Zack, as famously known by his friends, was forced out of college in 2009 when he could not pay his school fees given his mother who is his only parent, he could depend on was unable to pay his fees.

His hustle as a ‘mutura’ seller in Eldoret Town near Elgon View College where he was taking his journalism course could also not continue as the town ‘askaris’ were always on his case due to lack of business permit. When it became unbearable, he dropped out of college, left his home in Sotik, Bomet County for Kilifi Town after a friend of his called him over to join him in a security job.

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“I had no choice, I found myself being a night watchman in the coastal town, a job which could earn me Sh3,500 a month,” said Zack.

During the day, he could also get involved in hawking fruits such as watermelon, oranges and pineapples at least to increase his earning, foot his bills and support his mother back at home. Fortunately for him, the fruit hawking business picked and he saw no need of continuing as a night security guard. So, he left the watchman job in May 2009 to focus on his new business. “I used to make Sh500 a day from watermelon sales alone as it was loved by most consumers and it would always run out of stock leaving me with nothing to sell even when the demand was still high,” said Zack.

Soon an idea would strike his mind-farming watermelon. However, his first challenge was the lack of a farm though he could afford farm inputs from his little savings. Luckily, a young man from the Chakama location in Kilifi County whom they had become friends offered him a quarter piece of land to grow watermelon. Without any skills in commercial farming and had not thought of consulting, Zack would later in September 2010 leave his business in town to invest about Sh11,000 in watermelon farming.

Unfortunately, he lost almost the entire crop to Bacterial Fruit Blotch and Powdery Mildew, very common watermelon diseases. “At a time I was expecting my first fruits in December that year, I realized the products were still very small and unhealthy while others were withering away. There was no hope on them so I destroyed everything,” he said. Not losing hope, he hustled for a loan of Sh50,000 to begin afresh since his Chakama friend had accepted to let him another half an acre piece of the plot.

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Before starting his round two of watermelon farming, he had to consult the county agriculture extension officer and some experienced farmers in the area. In mid-January, he planted the fruits again using the friend’s generator water pump to draw water from Athi River which the farm was closer to water his tender crops through the dry season.

By mid-March 2011, he harvested about six tonnes of watermelon which he would take to markets in Malindi and Kilifi to sell by himself at Sh40 per kilo without passing through middlemen hence making full profit. “At the end of that season I made Sh200,000 gross income remaining with Sh140,000 after expenses and this has since motivated me,” said Zack.

Today the young farmer has over 47 acres of land (his own and others leased) under rotation watermelon farming at Chakama and Garsen in Malindi. He produces 10-17 tonnes of the crop per acre selling on order to wholesalers from Mombasa, Malindi Kilifi and Nairobi at Sh60 per kilo. This earns him between Sh900,000 and Sh1.2m clean net income after farm expenses. He uses this money to settle siblings school fees, some on his mother’s needs while saving the rest.

He has since become a watermelon farming consultant offering the service for free to farmers in various parts of the country and in neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda. “I believe that sharing information among farmers can not only help in increasing yields and income but also enable starters to choose the right agribusiness to venture in for better returns. This is why I do it for free,” said Zack. He has also ventured into other vegetables such as okra, cabbages, capsicum, and zucchini which helps him in rotation farming he has adopted to keep diseases away and improve the structure of his farms’ soils.


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Beekeeping simplified for women groups

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The average cost for starting a beekeeping venture is roughly Sh50,000 that caters for the cost of equipment such as some three modern beehives, a smoking gun, a suit, a honey siever, and a bee brush among others not to talk of the cost of training for basic skills.

These costs can be extremely high for smallholder farmers who may be interested to start the sweet venture despite the fact that 80 per cent of the Kenyan land is arid and semi-arid making it suitable for honey production given the abundance of bees flora in the areas.

However, Nyuki Hubs Kenya Limited, a social enterprise based in Nairobi is now making it simpler for small-scale farmers, more so women groups, in these areas to own their own equipment, get starter bees on loan which is then slowly deducted from the proceeds.

According to Erastus Munywoki, an officer in charge of the company’s Tharaka Nithi Office, farmers willing to work with them are supposed to organise themselves in groups of at least ten before contacting the firm.

“We are currently looking for willing groups of farmers especially women groups that we can help in the production of honey and other bee products to meet our market demand,” said Erastus.

The latest groups of women to benefit from the initiative are some women from Narok and Nyeri counties with others from Tharaka Nithi, Taita Taveta and Makueni counties.

Erastus says the farmers must first ensure a conducive environment for the beneficial insects by planting flowering plants and limiting the use of harmful insecticides that can repulse bees or even kill them.

After contacting the company, they are then visited by a team of technicians who evaluates the viability of the venture in the area and the potential of every farmer.

If all is well, the farmers are offered the equipment in addition to free transport, training and installation services before being left to manage the production.

“Even though the entire management is done by the farmers, we always ensure that we are in close contact with them to offer help in case of any challenges,” said Erastus who is also part of the technical team.

 

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He says, if the farmers were to buy the equipment themselves, they would, for instance, buy a beehive at Sh7,000, suit at Sh4,900, smoking gun at Sh4,000, and bee colonies at Sh3,000 per colony among others, which can be very expensive for them.

Now, bees are easy to rear, 50 colonies require a quarter of an acre and every colony will need its own hive translating to 50 hives within the small piece of land.

Typically, some amount of honey is ready to be harvested from a new hive within four to six months from when the colony of bees was introduced to the hive.

However, it is recommended to wait for one season before you start harvesting that delicious honey to help the bees establish a strong colony which they need the first honey for energy to do that.

This means therefore that Nyuki Hubs farmers, will start selling to the company after a period of one year.

Erastus says that the company buys entire honeycombs from farmers at Sh300 per kilo and offer free transport.

Depending on the size, a beehive can hold 8-10 honeycombs and a honeycomb can hold up to a kilo of honey.

It means that just from one beehive, a farmer can realize over Sh3,000 and if they are 50 hives, the value rise to Sh150,000 per season.

From this amount and depending on the farmers’ agreement with the company, a portion will go directly to the company to service for the equipment loan while the remaining amount to the farmer.

“We do not deduct this amount forever. Once the farmer is through with the loan, he or she will be free to enjoy the whole procedure and at liberty to sell to whatever market they wish,” said Erastus.

According to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), only 20% of the country’s honey production potential (estimated at 100,000 metric tonnes) has been tapped but the consumption keeps growing at a rate of 15 percent annually.


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Villagers turns abandoned land into a money minting beekeeping and hay production enterprise

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In most places in Kenya, due to rural-urban migration, there are some places where arable lands are just left untilled as owners are lost in cities and towns looking for formal jobs.

With time these lands become very fertile due to lack of any activity in them and as a result, they become one of the best and attractive sites for agricultural productions.

This was the situation almost a decade ago with a 32-acre piece of land in Uasin Ngishu County along Eldoret-Kitale highway which the owner has used it to grow wheat and maize left it in 2006 for Mombasa City to look for other forms of income.

About four years later villagers started salivating for the land wanting to make it productive for the benefit of the youth in the area and they approached the owner through the Economic Projects Transformational Facility (EPTF).

EPTF which is a non-governmental organization that aims to spur enterprise development among the youth and eradicate poverty in society first had a beekeeping project for the community living in the area but there was no space for the project.

In 2010, the organization, therefore, approached the owner who, after 2-3 years of talks, agreed that his land be used for such a ‘sweet’ venture which to him was more environmentally friendly and the land wasn’t going to be exhausted.

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After the deal, the villagers with support from EPTF set 15 beehives in 2015. These would soon start producing 75 kilograms of raw honey harvested per season and sold directly to consumers at Sh100 per kilo something that proved the viability of the project in the area.

In 2016 30 more beehives were added and a centrifugal honey extractor machine to improve honey quality and quantity was also purchased.

“In 2018 we had 60 hives and now we have about 100 hives fully occupied with bees from which we harvest over 1,000Kg of refined honey a season. This earns us over Sh100,000,” said Geoffrey Ng’etich, the project manager.

The packed beehives has been made possible by planting flowering plants such as sunflower, acacia, avocadoes and orange fruit trees among other trees that attract bees and provide nectar for honey production.

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So far, the project has yielded much fruit for the residents. From the proceeds of the honey venture, the beneficiaries have purchased another six acres of land which has been put under Boma Rhodes hay fodder production.

From the six acres, they produce 845-1,200 bales which they sell at between Sh250 and Sh150 depending on the distance to market and market demand at a given time.

“We do not harvest our grass before receiving market or sales orders as we prefer selling them when still fresh to enable us to decongest our small store which is one of the major challenges we are facing with hay farming at the moment,” said Ng’etich.

However, despite the challenges, the residents have established themselves. Within a portion of the six-acre piece of land, they have built their operation base which is called Nyaru Farm under which all their products and services are offered.

Today the farm nicely package and brand their honey products using the farm name something which has enabled them to attract more sales by breaking even into the formal markets.

“We buy our packaging bottles from Eldoret Town and Nairobi where a bottle costs Sh20. The bottles are then labelled ‘Nyaru Honey’ as the brand identification,” said Ng’etich.

Now with approval from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), they sell a 500g bottle of honey at Sh400 while that of 250g fetches Sh200 per bottle.

In order to be able to help even the young graduates, the farm operates under Graduate Internship Programme (GRIP) which gives the youth and women the opportunity and support to venture in various businesses to earn a living.

In this, the farm acts as a training ground for university students who are interested in agribusiness, especially during their long vacation and internship programmes.

“We receive students each season who come as farm helps to practically learn on-farm management,” said Ng’etich. 

According to him, this keeps alternating depending on the students’ holidays and industrial attachment periods.

Because most of the students and the youth benefiting from the farm are from the surrounding, there are plans to turn it into an institute that will absorb post-secondary school leavers who do not make it to the university.


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Farming tips: marketing your small farm products

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You have started your small farm producing wonderful vegetables, herbs, fruits and some value-added products and you are wondering how, where and to whom will you market and sell to.

You are not alone as this is one of the challenges that various producers face; marketing and selling their farm products.

There are various ways in which you can reach consumers but first of all you have to understand the nature of the products you are producing whether they are highly perishable or not. 

This will help you know the urgency you are to treat them in order to reach them to consumers before they go bad and avoid post-harvest losses.

Here are some of the marketing tips:

 

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Direct farm sales

First you may consider selling your produce directly at the farm via a farm stand or even just from a barn or other structure on your property.

This is more convenience especially if you have built your customer base with traders who know your production cycle and just call in to buy or put orders. You can grow your customer reach during social gatherings by carrying with you samples to show.

In this, you will not have the worry of transport costs not to talk of other eventualities such as failing to sell even after moving the products to the market.

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Farmers markets

You can easily identify these markets within your farm location and they always happen on a weekly basis. Most often, the markets are staggered through the week, so that farmers can sell at multiple markets.

Lucky enough, the cost of setting a shop in such market centres are not overwhelmingly high for an average farmer.

Alternatively, you can just use a table or a canopy to display your products but if you have your car or a trailer you use for transport, that can also act as your display structure when you reach the market.

Because most of these markets are open-air, you will find that the fee charged is spread through a given season so that you are not charged any money on every market day.

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Community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares

This is a more structured way of selling your produce directly to consumers than a farm stand. CSA are community supported farming systems where a group of consumers come together to support your farming course for a given season or throughout a given year.

When the produce is ready you commit to supply them on a regular basis, mostly on a weekly plan. 

This strategy is beneficial for both the farmer and the consumer. For the farmer, it gives you time to market your food during off-season before you embark on serious production.

It also helps in lowering your production costs owing the support you get from your consumers whom through the group you get to know better with which foods they like from you.

For consumers, they know and trust the origin of what they eat besides not getting exposed to high food prices by brokers.

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Restaurants

Look around, there could be eateries within your locality you can find to sell foods to, not once or twice but regularly by securing a supply tender with them.

In this, you will have to convince them on your reliability and quality of your produce. Strive to know what chefs need and sometimes try them with alternative rare produce for an extra cash.

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Internet

You may not necessarily need a website but just a social media presence is enough. Ensure that people who see your posts on Facebook, twitter or WhatsApp groups knows how and where to find you.

Be ready to answer their questions as this will boost you reach and possibility to make more sales.

Finally, make sure that you are consistent in your production venture and be in consistent communication with your usual customers so that they can count on you for their regular food supply.

 


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Kiambu youth group creates over Sh100,000 pawpaw production venture

Kiambu youth group creates over Sh100,000 pawpaw production venture

Starting off a serious agribusiness venture is still a challenge for many youth groups in Kenya due to lack of capital and the hustle to access loans from financial institutions has even made it harder as they lack collateral asked for by the institutions.

This has seen only the determined few who have members with passion in agriculture live to push through to realise their life dreams.

One such group is Vineyard Kilimo which comprises of 10 members who were previously into maize production, a venture which just earned them enough to feed their families with nothing left for trading.

“Maize has been a crop that our parents earned a living with but seemingly things have changed, an acre can no longer yield enough and probably it is because of the change in weather conditions caused by climate change,” said Jactone Mwaniki, the group chairperson.

In February 2018, they decided to come together, consolidate whatever capital they had to start producing something else. 

However, what they collected could not measure up to the pawpaw production project they had settled on as there was the setting of the nurseries, buying seeds, and registration fee required.

After looking for a financial boost from people and institutions they knew to no avail, finally, Juhudi Kilimo, a microfinance institution in Kenya granted them their loan request of Sh100,000 to begin the project.

They were then trained by two non-governmental organisations, Solidaridad and Heifer International which impart vital skills to various youth groups on seedlings production and other types of farming in general.

Today, the group has a nursery within a three-acre piece of land located 2km from Ishiara Centre where they have three big pawpaw seedling nurseries each with 2,000 seedlings at the moment.

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Beginning last year, they also decided to plant pawpaw fruits within the farm and currently, they have 500 plants in the remaining part of the farm that they have started harvesting.

“We sell a seedling at Sh10 each to local farmers and other growers from other parts of the country who call for their orders before organising transport either through public or courier services for them,” said Mwaninki. 

The group also sells 1,000 kilos of pawpaw fruits of Malkia F1 variety after every two weeks with a kilo going at Sh50.

At the end of this rainy season and if all go well, they are expecting to earn about Sh60,000 from seedlings and at least Sh65,000 from the fruit sales.

This means that every member of the group will have over Sh10,000 in his or her account.

“Depending on our season proceeds, we always withdraw a portion of the money and give to the members for their daily needs while the rest are left in the group’s account for our farming expansions, members savings and our general welfare,”’ said Mwaniki.

The group is now planning to incorporate other fruit seedlings and crops such as mangoes, oranges and apples as they have realised the areas can support the fruits and that there is the ready market being close to Kiambu and Nairobi’s big markets.


Agripreneur Blog

Nakuru Farmer Smiles All the Way to The Market with New Tissue Culture Banana Production

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Years have passed since certified tissue culture banana seedlings were introduced into the country and early adopters are already enjoying the fruits of the productive planting materials.

 In 2016, Jane Njuguna, a banana farmer from Nakuru County decided to attend a farmer training event on fruit production and her venture has never remained the same.

She changed from growing suckers from indigenous banana varieties to planting tissue culture seedlings upping her production from 20 to 120 kilos a bunch.

Jane who has about 1.25 acres of the farm under the crop says she got the idea from colleagues about free training on tissue culture banana production at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and she gladly grabbed the opportunity something which has changed her way of production.

“Three years ago, my farm used to produce very small bunches of bananas that were doing badly in the market. This was stressful because after strenuous work for a long time, I could only realise Sh400 per bunch of a banana,” said Jane.

Generally, tissue-culture bananas produce fruits in 340 days as compared to 420 days for ordinary bananas.

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After the training, she decided to uproot all her indigenous banana plants and replaced them with the new varieties having bought some tissue culture seedlings from the training. She also dug a water pan within her farm to enable her to collect run-off water during rainy seasons to water the crop during drought.

“Bananas need regular watering to sustain the large tropical leaves and produce sweet tasty fruit,” said Jane, “I water slowly and deeply every 2 or 3 days during the warmer months as the deficits of water could adversely affect crop growth and yields.”

Experts assert that bananas require an average of 4 to 6 inches of water each month, or about 1 to 1.5 inches per week, depending on the season. However, farmers should take note because overwatering can cause root rot hence they should make sure the soil drains well and does not have standing water.

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Currently, the farmer has over 160 plants and she can harvest up to 50 bunches weighing 120-125 kilos a month. These she sells to wholesale markets and grocers in Nakuru Town at Sh20 per kilo translating to Sh120,000-125,000 a month.

“There is a great demand for the product in the market. I cannot remember even a single day I have taken my bananas to the market and come back with them or sold at a throw-away price,” said Jane who also works with the Green Initiative movement in the county to inspire residents to conserve the environment through agricultural proper practices.

She plans to come up with a banana tissue culture lab in the area either individually or in cooperation with other growers to help all farmers access best performing plantlets.

“At the moment I am helping other growers with the best ideas on how to improve their production by planting healthy and high yielding planting materials. In the future, I would like to set tissue culture seedlings lab to enable the growers to find the materials locally without having to travel far away.”

 


Agripreneur Blog

Elbagon Farmer Finds New Business in Potato Seed Multiplication

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Farmers in Kenya are increasingly becoming smart in identifying innovative ventures to earn a living thanks to the training that enables them to identify new agribusiness opportunities that have high returns with fewer investments.

Among them are potato farmers. While a majority of them are growing the second basic crop for consumers, there are those who have identified a cash cow in seed multiplication for fellow producers.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, to date, the country has a capacity of producing 6,700 metric tonnes of potato seeds to farmers against the demand of 30,000 metric tons annually.

Richard Mbaria, a farmer from Elbagon in Molo Nakuru County is one such farmers who has identified the gap is currently investing in multiplying the planting materials for other farmers.

Richard started agribusiness after five years of growing maize and beans for subsistence purposes. 

However, beginning mid last year, he decided to venture into commercial potato production on a quarter an acre by investing Sh20,000.

After the first season, he harvested 30 bags of 100kg which he sold at Sh2,000 per bag, in the second season he increases the acreage under the crop to 1.5 acres and harvested 100 bags of the same measure which he sold at Sh1,500 each.

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Although this encouraged him, he says that there are high price fluctuations as the market is still dictated by brokers and therefore, he has decided to venture into seed multiplication.

“I will now be selling the seeds to farmers directly avoiding middlemen who scoop much of our profit. I will also be cutting the production cost for the farmers who have to travel all the way to Naivasha to buy the seeds,” said Richard.

In this, he invested only Sh1,500 to buy 150 tissue culture seedlings of Sangi variety from Stockman Rozen Ltd, a seed production company in Naivasha at Sh10 each.

By involving Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) for certification purposes to ensure that his area of production is free from pests and diseases, he has planted the seedlings expecting to harvest his first bunch by mid-April.

“I am targeting farmers who want to start planting with the onset of the long rains this month because most of the farmers around are still depending on rainfed agriculture,” he said.

He looks forward to harvesting between 50 and 80 bags of 50kg each of potato seeds.

According to his little market research, KEPHIS certified seeds sell at Sh100 per kilo but he may sell him at Sh80 per kilo which may earn him at least Sh200,000.

Since 2012 KEPHIS has developed 51 varieties of potato seeds to boost production with 33 from Dutch breeding companies, 17 varieties from Kenyan breeders, and one from Scotland with imports of 602,450kg of seed.

Reports by the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) states that in Africa only 20 per cent of the potato farmers use quality and certified planting materials, which has been dwindling yields.

But for Richard, he is happy that the over 200 farmers whom he works with within the region will have better seedlings by the onset of the season.

He is one of those farmers who have undergone the Farm to Market Alliance training program by Kuza Biashara in collaboration with Cereal Growers Association (CGA) something which has turned him into an Agribusiness Advisor.

“With this new venture we are looking into producing quality and quantity potatoes for bigger companies shortly and be able to avoid brokers completely,” said Richard.


Agripreneur Blog business Entrepreneurial Stories

Women groups growing their enterprises by cheap loans

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In Kenya, for many years women in business especially in the rural areas have had it hard accessing financial support from various financial institutions which see their businesses as more vulnerable to risks.

This, according to experts, has been attributed to women’s limited financial literacy, lack of clarity of bank terms of access and the inability to provide collateral or personal guarantees.

However, things are changing for the better for these women thanks to efforts to train rural women on bookkeeping skills to increase their financial literacy, facilitated workshops to link women-led businesses and financial institutions, such as national and county government affirmative funds, banks and microfinance institutions.

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Madaraka Self Help Group, for instance, is a group of over 10 women members from Kimutwa in Machakos County who came together after noticing that over-relying on their husbands who are casual workers to win daily bread and other family needs were becoming too much.

From their small casual engagements, the women decided to form joint saving and group (Chama) investments with the desire to improve the quality of life for their families.

“Our main objectives included pulling together financial resources for investments, non-collateral loans to members and to use the group as an opportunity to access government and non -governmental benefits which can only be channelled through a group,” said the group chairlady.

By 2013, the group had collectively saved Sh300,000 which at the beginning of 2014, they decided to spend part to purchase water tanks of 3,000-litre capacity for each member to end their water challenges. This left the group with Sh70,000.

When Konza sub-location Chama chairman called for the training of all the groups in the location in April that year, Madaraka Self Help Group which was also represented invited officers from Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) officer from Machakos Town to give them more training.

This would become the group’s connection to credit source for a project that would later lift their livelihoods.

At the end of the training, the group successfully applied for Sh100,000 from WEF which they used to lease an acre piece of land, buy some water pumps and pipes and began growing tomatoes.

 

Their first sale of the crop was in mid-2015 when the group sold tomatoes worth Sh400,000, with expenses of Sh159 000 thus making a profit of Sh241, 000 enabling them to repay the loan and apply for the second funding of Sh200,000.

This came in February 2016 which they used part to lease another acre of land and the rest in production as they had two acres so far.

As per their expectation, they were able to earn Sh800,000 making the group be worth Sh550,000 after repaying their second loan and other expenses which include some two farmhands and casual labourers.

78With the increasing income, the members have so far decided to use part of their savings to begin individual members businesses such as foodstuff shops, charcoal selling businesses and motorbike businesses.

They can now contribute to their family needs and Improve their livelihoods without necessarily depending on their husbands for financial support.

For Tushibe Mtama Women Group in Nakuru’s Rongai Constituency, they took their first loan of Sh50, 000 in 2010 to start in the bakery business.

The group which has been growing sweet potato seemed to have found a solution to their market woes because since they used the money to buy an oven, they have established their business of baking cookies, buns and cakes from the produce’s flour and tubers. 

As they repay their previous loans, they become more eligible for more loans and funding, which has enabled them to increase the acreage under sweet potato production and improve their value addition enterprise.

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Since registered with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), they have developed product labels and packaging that is now enabling them to reach their goods to formal markets and improve their incomes.

Interestingly, the group members livelihoods have also improved and they can support their families.