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]
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).
Waru farmers set to get farm machinery
Agriculture CS Willy Bett said the government had secured a loan from India to acquire assorted and modern machinery for the multi-billion sub-sector
The ministry of Agriculture is sourcing for machinery to improve the Irish potato sub-sector in the country, currently on a downward spiral. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the government had secured a loan from India to acquire assorted and modern machinery for the sub-sector.
The move aims at improving annual Irish potato yields from the current average of 2 million metric tonnes to eight million metric tonnes. The sub-sector has in the recent past registered reduced yields which the ministry has attributed to widespread usage of uncertified seeds, lack of storage facilities and massive exploitation of growers by middlemen.
At a stakeholders’ forum for potato growers convened in Molo, Secretary in Charge of Engineering at the ministry Jasper Nyakaya, who represented the CS, said the machinery will be handed over to county governments who in turn will be expected to implement and supervise mechanization of the potato sub sector.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said his government will seek the best practice and dissemination of current information to potato farmers.
This he said will range from seed propagation, crop management, harvesting, storage, marketing and value addition.
Said the governor: “We shall work with industry stakeholders to create storage services for potato farmers in Mau Narok, Molo, and Kuresoi regions. This will cushion farmers from the erratic price fluctuations and thereby improve their profitability and livelihoods across the region”.
Noting that potatoes were the main cash crop in the county, the governor said his administration would initiate partnerships with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), and Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), among others, in addressing challenges of low yields.
The CS said the use of certified seeds, and approved fertilizers, increased storage facilities and organized marketing channels in high potential potato growing counties will step up food sufficiency for the country’s population.
He noted that though the country had 2.5 million potato farmers, the yields were not impressive.
Bett said the programme aims at realising an average of 150 bags an acre for small holder farmers in highly productive areas.
The CS said the Ksh30 billion Irish potato value chain had the potential to double if national extension services and marketing frameworks were improved.
County governments with high potential for Irish potato farming need to work with their respective agricultural research centres and the national potato council. We need to come up with common, affordable certified seeds for our potato farmers and strategic marketing centres’, he said.
He said though the commodity is the country’s second largest food crop, 2.5 million farmers are using uncertified seeds. Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) director Dr Esther Kimani lamented that Irish potato farmers were not seeking extension services resulting in low yields, poor pest and disease control.
She advised potato farmers to practice crop rotation in mitigating against pest invasion and disease.
Last year, the Irish potato farmers in Nakuru earned sh. 5.5 billion compared to maize which raked in Ksh2 billion.
County Chief Executive for Agriculture Dr Stanley Chepkwony said this could increase to Ksh17 billion if the county’s 2,000 small holder Irish potato farmers used certified seeds and approved fertilizers.
Dr Chepkwony said farmers had access to 52 certified potato seed varieties that can be purchased from Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) outlets.
Army worms to chew up Sh566 billion
As countries turn to pesticides to reduce the damage, farmers face the risk of the pest developing resistance to treatment
Major maize producing economies in Africa stand to lose a total of Sh227 billion (US$2.2 billion) to Sh556 billion (US$5.5 billion) a year in lost maize harvests – if the fall army worm invasion is not properly managed.
“Enabling our agricultural communities with quick and coordinated responses is now essential, to ensure the continent stays ahead of the plague,” said Dr Joseph DeVries, Vice President – Programme Development and Innovation at Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
As countries turn to pesticides to reduce the damage, farmers face the risk of the pest developing resistance to treatment, which has become a widespread problem in the Americas.
Biopesticides are a lower risk control option, but few of the biopesticides used in the Americas are yet approved for use in Africa, raising the need for urgent local trials, registration and the development of local production.
“Maize can recover from some damage to the leaves. So when farmers see damaged leaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to control,” said Dr Roger Day, Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI)’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator.
“Research is urgently needed, and a huge awareness and education effort is required so that farmers monitor their fields, and can make decisions on whether and how to control.”
CABI has confirmed that the fall armyworm has been reported in 28 African countries, following the pest’s arrival in Africa in 2016, presenting a now permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. The pest feeds on more than 80 crops, but prefers maize and can cut yields by up to 60 per cent.
In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI now estimates the pest will heavily impact on 10 of the continent’s major maize producing economies.
“There are natural ways farmers can reduce impact, including squashing the eggs or caterpillars when they see them, and maintaining crop diversity in the farm, which encourages natural predators,” said Day
CABI has also warned of the need to address the human health issues raised by any far more extensive use of chemical pesticides.
“Resource poor farmers are often unwilling or unable to buy the appropriate safety equipment and in some cases they use pesticides without appropriate application equipment. Farmers may also be disinclined to use safety equipment when hot weather makes it extremely uncomfortable. Recognizing that farmers will still want to use pesticides, specific measures are needed to make lower risk biopesticides more accessible,” said Dr Day.
Cassava set for big come back in Sh773.5 billion project
The cassava value chain project is being implemented through Self Help Africa (SHA) in partnership with Rafiki Microfinance Bank, Rheal Solutions, Ugunja Community Resource Centre and Ustadi Foundation and TruTrade in the target counties of Kisumu, Homabay, Migori, Siaya, Busia Kitui and Kilifi
Shunned by the current generation, cassava is set for a big comeback thanks to the introduction of a European Union Ksh773.5 billion project to be initiated in cassava growing counties.
In his hey days, William Oduor would uproot a cassava plant, peel the roots and assuage his hunger as he and siblings continued to weed.
Today, the 86-year-old resident of West Ugenya location, Siaya County cannot dare touch the root crop that has in the recent past been classified among the orphaned crops in the country.
Oduor remembers an incident close to decade ago, that nearly send him to the grave. After spending some hours weeding he found a bunch of cassava that had been harvested by his wife. Struggling to fight pangs of hunger, he felt a small root was all he needed to quell the demands of the stomach as he waited for lunch.
Quickly, he picked a knife and started peeling the root, despite a warning from his wife that the cassava species was not meant to be consumed raw, and had to undergo several stages of preparation before being ground into flour to prepare a meal.
“I did not heed the warning. I dismissed her since I knew, from childhood, that chewing raw cassava was a past time we all enjoyed,” recalls Oduor.
What followed, he says, remains perched in his mind to date. He suffered severe stomach ache, accompanied by acute diarrhea and vomiting. This, he adds, has made him detest cassava to date. Were it not for quick action by his wife, he would not be alive to narrate this story.
Oduor is not alone. Most people in areas that were initially cassava growing areas no longer want to be associated with the crop that was used to cushion communities against hunger during dry spells. More people have since the late 1990s suffered after eating raw cassava, with some succumbing.
It is during this period that the traditional cassava varieties that could be munched without a second became extinct, after a virulent form of cassava mosaic disease invaded the crop.
This led to the introduction of new disease resistant varieties that is mostly grown in parts of Western Kenya that is consumed by 60% of the national population.
The future of the crop, however, seems bright with the introduction of a five year European Union funded project that seeks to create jobs, increase food and nutrition security, as well as the quality, productivity and its marketability both locally and abroad.
The project dubbed ‘Strengthening the competitiveness of the cassava value chain in Kenya’ targets to benefit 28,000 smallholder farming households.
It is expected that through the project, over 140,000 people, 60% of them women will acquire clean and quality planting materials and will be assisted to improve productivity and marketability of the food crop through a grant of over Sh 700 million.
Speaking recently during the launch of the project, EU Head of Rural Development and Food Security, Klaus Gautsch said as a drought resistant crop, the cassava project will “help to address the need for sustainable food and nutrition security, strengthen resilience to climate change, create job opportunities and increase incomes for small holder farmers.”
Gautsch said a grant of up to 6.5 million Euros (Sh 773.5 billion) will be used to create 5,600 new jobs and increase access to credit to at least 50% of farmers and businesses that are active in the cassava value chain, in the target counties of Kisumu, Homabay, Migori, Siaya, Busia, Kitui and Kilifi.
He said the EU has seen a real opportunity for cassava farmers, not only because they will increase production for household cooking, but because the project will help to meet the growing demand for cassava products in the industrial, food, beverage, livestock feed, and textile sectors.
He said the programme seeks to increase average production for subsistence farmers from 2.5 metric tonnes per acre to 7 metric tonnes, and for pre-commercial farmers from 5 metric tonnes to 10 metric tonnes per acre.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Willy Bett, who spoke during the launch, said the project was in line with the agricultural sector goal of achieving an average growth rate of seven per cent per year through increased production levels.
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“This programme will go a long way in supporting our mission to ensure an innovative, commercially-oriented and modern agriculture by 2020 as stipulated in the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy,” Bett said.
The cassava value chain project is being implemented through Self Help Africa (SHA) in partnership with Rafiki Microfinance Bank, Rheal Solutions, Ugunja Community Resource Centre and Ustadi Foundation and TruTrade in the target counties of Kisumu, Homabay, Migori, Siaya, Busia Kitui and Kilifi.
Addressing a stakeholder engagement forum in Ugunja, Siaya County, the programme manager of the Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC), which is one of the implementing Non Governmental Organisations, Charles Ogada lamented that Cassava, together with other traditional crops such as Millet, Sorghum and sweet potatoes had long been neglected despite their nutritional value.
Ogada however said that the rural communities in the targeted areas were set to benefit from the value chain since the project will engage in market oriented agriculture, where they will be linked to buyers.
He said they will help the farmers acquire disease free, high yielding seed cuttings from the over 300 farmers, who will be contracted to supply the same from their cuttings.
Ogada called on Kenyans to embrace Cassava production, adding that apart from being consumed as food, the same was also a much sought after raw material for production of industrial raw materials such as starch.
He said other than increasing the average production levels, the project will also support increased access to markets by promoting linkages with medium, small and micro-enterprises working in upstream value chains.
A woody shrub native to South America cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and sub tropical regions, and in some quarters it is described as a poor man’s crop.
Nutritionists say it is a major source of calories and carbohydrates. A 100 gramme service of boiled cassava root contains 112 calories, compared to the equal serving of sweet potatoes which contains 76.
The roots also provide fibre, Thiamine, phosphorous calcium, riboflavin iron and vitamin C among others, helps to reduce inflammation and promotes digestive health, hence reduces the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
However, despite its benefits, a meal of cassava can be fatal if it is not prepared well. Raw cassava contains chemicals known as Cyanogenic glycosides, which can release Cyanide in the body when consumed.
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