Chris Kirubi: How I made it big in farming from a small piece of land
Farming is not for the faint at heart, and billionaire Chris Kirubu knew that he would have to soil his hands to dig out money from the soil. (see story below)
Many of you know me as a jack of all trades when it comes to business but only recently did some of you learn that I am also an ardent farmer. I did not start out large but with just a small piece of land. However with time, I got wind of an opportunity and took heed of it.
You see, I had goals and at that time farming was the place to be in (a very lucrative industry). Once I heard about a huge coffee farm being sold, I made sure I did all I could in my power to purchase it. So there I was with this huge piece of land but it was not doing me any good because there was no one to manage it thus the coffee became unproductive. It was time I rose up to tend my own coffee farm and make it productive.
I chopped every tree and began to plant new coffee seedlings and take care of each and every one of them. Over the years, my farm has produced great yield, competing with some of the best coffee in the market.
I became the Chief Executive Officer of my farm and a manager of my own success.
Friends, I needed to have a vision and set realistic goals in order to become successful in a field that was new to me. I needed to get involved, equip myself with the right material and knowledge that would assist me to achieve my vision. Without goals we wouldn’t have anything to aim for or aspire to. We’d live our lives randomly rather than consciously, and things would tend to happen to us by chance (or not). So goals are important.
One of the key causes for abandoned goals is a lack of upfront appreciation for the full price to be paid – and this involves a lot more than financial considerations.
There is always a price to be paid; you must sacrifice your time, resources and even your lifestyle so as to be fruitful in some ventures. I faced many challenges along the way and now I face an even greater challenge with my farm because of factors beyond my control, but what do you do when faced with such a hurdle? It’s time to change course. Most of us do not take change kindly but sometimes it is necessary.
Many changes may not be within our control, but we can always control how we deal with them. It’s a matter of perspective. You can feel uncertain, scared, angry or worried, and it’s fine to feel these emotions at first – after all, we are human. Staying stuck in these feelings is what holds us back. If you can take a step back, and take a look at the situation from outside the box, you will find possibility.
The changes in our lives happen to push us out of our comfort zones and into a whole new phase of development. Where we place our focus will largely determine how things turn out for us.
If something is not working out then we must look for another method or worst case scenario, change course and venture into something else. Most coffee farmers will agree with me that it is very expensive to maintain especially on a small scale level, and because the market prices are not friendly then we cannot sit there and throw a pity party. We need regroup ourselves and look for a way out lest our land becomes totally unproductive. This by the way applies to any kind of farmer or businessman for that matter.
You must become curious about how you can use the situation you are in to become better, learn something new or create something different… In other words take control of what’s happening for you. Don’t be influenced by negativity in others- take control of what’s going on for you. Some of the greatest achievements have come from great adversity.
Thus, it is my hope that we will go at great lengths to discovering what it is we can do with the little we have. Farming is not rocket science…and I can only hope that we will all play a role in developing the backbone of this economy which is in agriculture. [This article first appeared on capitalfm.co.ke]
Embu soya beans farmers cut off middlemen to reap big returns
Mr Elizaphan Gichangi has established a value addition centre, a facility that has enabled him to produce significant products that are in high demand
Elizaphan Gichangi is a small scale soya bean farmer in Embu County. Until 2012, Gichangi was among farmers in the County who recorded heavy losses as middlemen exploited them.
Many farmers abandoned the legume farming and ventured into other economic activities that were relatively free of manipulation by brokers.
For Gichangi, despite the challenges, he never quit, but instead devised new ways of surviving and as well record profits.
Today, Gichangi is a happy farmer. For the last five years, he has been undertaking value addition of soya beans. Currently, the farmer is now selling soya beans products in the entire Embu County, expanding the market to the neighbouring Kirinyaga County.
This is over and above participating in local trade fairs in various counties around the country to showcase the product.
Though Gichangi refers himself as a jua kali player since he had no training on how to enrich the crop, he says his entry into value addition business is paying off.
Although he started small scale using a jiko in his backyard where he used to roast the beans to make soya flour, Gichangi has now invested in new machinery thus increasing production.
Unlike other farmers, who are contracted by companies to grow the crop on their behalf, Gichangi earns more than Ksh 180 per kilogramme of processed soya bean products.
He established a value addition centre in Embu County, a facility that has enabled him to produce significant products that are in high demand. His wife is in charge of selling the products and other grains to customers.
“I am not able to meet the demand of soya beans products. But I am still progressing and hopes soon I will be able to realise the dream,” he added.
Gichangi 40 produces 800 kilogrammes of raw soya beans from his one acre farm and purchases a similar quantity from 100 small scale farmers in the area that he has contracted.
He buys a kilogramme of raw soya beans from farmers at Ksh60 and spends another Ksh60 more to process the beans to get various products such as soya drink and soya flour. Further, he mixes the flour with other flour produced from other pulses such as millet and sorghum used for porridge making. He sells his products at a minimum of Ksh 300 for a kilogramme.
“Like majority of farmers, I used to sell raw soya at Ksh 50 for a kilogramme to the middlemen. This was more difficult to earn owing to presence and manipulation by intermediaries in the market. But there were some farmers who were earning an extra income in that situation as they were doing little processing. I equally started in small scale and the returns were encouraging as the products were quickly taken up in the local markets,” he explains.
“I have been able to move from a rented house and bought a parcel of land, built a house and a small a cottage industry where I do the processing,” he confirmed
Soya beans are legumes known for high nutritional value and are easy to cultivate unlike other pulses.
Majority of farmers in the country have not embraced the crop preferring other grains mainly beans thus leading to low production in the country. It is mostly grown in the Western Kenya where most of the growers are contracted by big companies to grow on behalf.
According to the ministry of Agriculture, demand for soya in Kenya is estimated at between 50,000 and 70,000 metric tons a year while production was at 10,000 metric tons last year and 5,000 metric tons in 2009.
Manufacturers such as Bidco and Promasidor import soya beans from the United States, Brazil and China — the world’s largest producers to meet demand.
Gichangi said value addition is big business yet to be exploited largely due to farmers’ lack of information and financial capability.
Increased awareness on the health benefits and nutritional value of soya bean has also seen improvements in the development of the soya bean sub sector.
“I used to process informally, but I got an opportunity in 2012 to be trained under a So Co project that was funded by AGRA to enhance productivity, certification, handling, packaging and marketing of Soybeans,” he added.
Further, the project also introduced farmers on how to improve production of soya beans and climbing beans among households in Eastern Kenya.
“I am able to process the beans according to the standards thus enhancing acceptability of the products in the market. I never disappointed the management of SoCo as now I am able to respond to the market requirements,” he confirmed.
Having been able to acquire a significant space in the market within the Embu County and neighbouring counties, Gichangi stated that his next plan is to acquire modern processing machines to expand the business.
Lack of awareness has curtailed marketing of the products and farmers venturing into soya bean farming. This he said has affected efforts to contract more farmers. Further, cost of the value addition machinery is expensive and can only be imported.
In order to ensure that he is able to sell in formal retail outlets, Gichangi says that he is in the process of receiving the Kenya Bureau of Standards Certification which is a key requirement in the local market.
The government has been encouraging farmers countrywide to grow soya beans as huge volumes used locally are imported from Uganda, Tanzania and India to meet demand.
Ngilu’s ndengu revolution eyes Sh4 billion target
Ambitious programme aims at eradicating perennial hunger, improve livelihoods of residents and reduce poverty through rural development
Green peas farmers in Kitui county are set to reap Ksh 4 billion in four months time, Governor Charity Ngilu says.
The County has embarked on an agricultural revolution through the procurement of 88.5 metric tonnes of certified ndengu (green peas) seeds, which are being distributed to farmers in the first phase.
“Each farmer will receive free seeds for planting ahead of the planting season. Some parts of the county have started receiving the short October-December rains,” said Ngilu.
The devolved unit has partnered with the Kenya Red Cross Society to distribute the seeds across the vast county.
In Mwingi sub-county, Joseph Munyao, the Kivou Ward Agricultural Extension Officer told KNA Saturday that ndengus do well in the region, adding that within four months, farmers “would be smiling all the way to the bank.”
The Kenya Red Cross Society delegation led by Secretary Abbas Gullet has mobilised resources for this initiative.
“We identified Kitui County as a vulnerable region following the failed rains and the prolonged dry spell. Majority of the people are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change,” said Gullet.
He said the ambitious programme aims at eradicating perennial hunger in the county, improve livelihoods of residents and reduce poverty through rural development.
Ngilu said the programme was in line with her administration’s objectives of tackling Kitui county’s perennial food problems and deep rooted poverty through economic empowerment of residents by utilisating locally available resources.
“This project has come at an opportune moment to support residents to meet their immediate needs, using early recovery initiatives that strengthen livelihoods through support to subsistence farmers, as well as access to water,” said Gullet.
Munyao, on his part, called on farmers to embrace ndengu farming as a precursor to unlocking the door out of hunger and poverty that has bedeviled the region for decades.
A small-scale farmer from Kivou Mama Abigail Kasalu confirmed that she has been impressed by the clarion call spearheaded by the county government, while promising to change her mode of farming.
“I used to grow maize each season. Crop failure due to low or inadequate rainfall was the norm. I will move on now from maize to ndengu farming,” Mama Kasalu.
The agricultural extension officer said that the ndengu proceeds could be used to buy maize and other cereals which do not do well in this region
Barclays signs agribusiness deal with Highland Creamers and Foods
Partnership aimed at giving small scale farmers access full financial support services inclusive of lending through the bank as well as partnering Saccos
The largest milk processing firm in Western Kenya, Highland Creamers and Foods has partnered with Barclays Agribusiness Unit to financially empower dairy farmers in the area.
The partnership is aimed at ensuring small scale farmers can access full financial support services inclusive of lending through the bank as well as partnering Saccos so as to increase yield.
Although agriculture accounts for 60% of employment in Kenya, the country faces daunting food security issues. The dairy sector has this year seen a dwindling supply of milk by up to 50% resulting to significant increase in prices and reduced production capacity in many milk processing firms.
Mr Ronald Ajengo, a programme officer with AGRA, one of the implementation partners in this partnership,says: “With Highland Creamers and Foods production capacity at 200,000 litres per day, financial assistance will help farmers invest in better farming practices and other technology to increase yields hence making it possible for the company to achieve optimum production capacity.”
Simon Kinuthia of Barclays Bank Agribusiness says: “Western Kenya provides a great catchment area for agribusiness. We believe that through our investment and the value chain support Highland Creamers and Foods and our implementation partners will provide, we should see sustainable growth in banking and other financial services.”
“We believe in sustainable business practices. For us to achieve sustainability in the dairy sector it is important for us to invest in the farmer. A lot of the farmers providing milk in the region are subsistent farmers who do not consider formal financial support systems an option to increase their yields. In partnership with Barclays Bank and our implementation partners AGRA, IFAD, Nyamira Tea Sacco and Fineline, we should see the supply of milk in this area rising regardless of the annual threats of drought which significantly impacts the dairy sector,” said Mr Nelson Bichenga, Chairman and owner of Highland Creamers and Foods.
Highland Creamers and Foods is currently processing Fresh milk and Long life ESL milk under the FARMILY MILK brand for the market and will be launching high value dairy product such as cream, yogurt, fermented milk, butter and cheese by the end of this year.
Digital peer platform reaches 180,000 farmers in Kenya
Wefarm says it it has reached over 180,000 farmers in Kenya providing them with a free mobile and online services to connect with their global counterparts to solve problems, share ideas and spread innovation. Another 120 farmers in Uganda are also on the platform.
Approximately 500 million small-scale farmers provide over 70% of the world’s food. However, up to 90% have no access to the internet and are often isolated from basic agricultural information and new ideas.
Wefarm, the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network, enables farmers to share crucial livestock and crop information online and via SMS – without needing the internet and without having to leave their farms.
Its key innovation is the creation of the world’s first crowdsourced peer-to-peer network for offline communities. According to the GSMA, by 2020, 168 million more people will be connected to mobile services in Africa alone. This represents an immense opportunity for rural connectivity. To take advantage of this, Wefarm, as announced earlier this year, has partnered with nano satellite technology company Sky & Space Global, a leading global player in both narrowband connectivity services and advanced underserved area communications (AUAC).
One of the first users to sign up to Wefarm two years ago, Presley Jonah Lang’at, a retired government agricultural officer, said: “I have answered over 100 questions on Wefarm since joining. Farming is a difficult job and it’s important to share our knowledge together as a world community. Wefarm’s network has provided me with information that I could not find elsewhere. It has helped my cattle heal faster from disease and has provided me with remedies that optimise milk production for my livestock – I will be a user for life.”
Kenny Ewan, CEO of Wefarm, said: “We are the first business in the world to have launched an SMS network enabling farmers to access crucial agricultural information from within the global farming community itself. The popularity of our peer-to- peer model proves that farmers are hungry to connect with each other and to share their insights, innovations and challenges. We are proud that Wefarm is providing a service that responds to the needs and wants of the world’s small-scale farmers and have made it our mission to connect every farmer in the world who needs information – online or off. But we won’t stop there. Our vision in the coming years is to create a new digital ecosystem of products and services for the +400 billion small-scale agriculture market, made for farmers by farmers.”
Saul Klein, Founder of LocalGlobe and seed investor in Wefarm said: “Wefarm is exactly the type of domain-specific network that adds real value to its users. Just as Stack Overflow built a community for the 18.5 million developers globally to share their programming knowledge, Wefarm is building a community – and, soon, a new digital ecosystem of products and services – for the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers.
ALSO SEE: Waru farmers set to get farm machinery
Growing the community to 300,0000 farmers, made up of dense localised clusters in key counties in Kenya and Uganda, is a significant accomplishment. We are excited to see the team now implementing lessons from Kenya in Uganda, which is showing dramatically faster user growth. 300,000 farmer is an important milestone and we look forward to seeing continued growth in the months ahead.”
In addition to this milestone, Wefarm has also announced several new partnerships this quarter. Rural Outreach Africa (ROP), Heifer International and TechnoServe have all partnered with Wefarm to bring their farmers into the network, thus extending the benefits of farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing to their brands.
Wefarm is currently seeking its next round of funding. Current investors include LocalGlobe and Accelerated Digital Ventures (ADV).
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