Fred Obachi Machoka, otherwise known as Uncle Fred or ‘The blackest man in black Africa’, is one of Kenya’s most accomplished broadcasters. The veteran presenter, who continues to host his Rhumba show Roga Roga on Citizen TV and radio, is also an astute businessman developing exciting experiences in the hospitality sector.
Fred’s ranch is a family business that successfully leveraged his brand and reach to create a cowboy-themed resort at his 15-acre Kajiado ranch. It incorporates a resort, orchard, ranch complete with horse stables and livestock, and school of hospitality offering various professional courses.
Machoka credits his son Victor Machoka, who has a degree in hotel and tourism management, with conceptualizing and marketing the resort in addition to keeping things running smoothly. The resort’s website lists Victor as the Managing Director.
Styled as a family-friendly location, the ranch hosts numerous themed events. It also dabbles in agritourism, offering guests tours of the farm.
In previous interviews, Machoka has spoken on the difficult journey leading up to the establishment of the resort. Many thought he was crazy in 1993 when he first purchased a 50-acre parcel of land in what was then considered a remote and underdeveloped part of Kajiado.
He would have to sell part of the land to pay the Ksh1.6 million loan he took from the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) to acquire it.
“Initially, I bought 50 acres and took a Ksh1.6 million loan and by the time I cleared, it had shot to Ksh7.5 million because of interest. I struggled to repay it. I was forced to sell off 30 acres to repay the loan and finance my project. There were many dark and painful days and nights and my wife knows this too well,” Machoka stated in 2021.
Keen on agriculture, Machoka would learn the hard way that it wasn’t that easy. The first batch of dairy cows he bought and took to the farm were stolen soon after they arrived and had structures set up for them. This, combined with rising rent for his Nairobi home, led him to relocate to Kajiado in 2005. Importantly, this also allowed him to better monitor happenings at his farm.
Upon relocating, he realized that the biggest challenge was the lack of water. As he experienced the unsustainability of buying water from Kajiado town, Machoka switched his focus to drilling a borehole. This would open up numerous opportunities for farming at the ranch.
His farm uses a drip irrigation system and is completely organic according to the presenter. Much of the food consumed at the resort is grown at the farm. Among other crops, they have mangoes, avocado, pawpaws, lemons, tangerines, pixies and vegetables including managu, spinach, carrots, broccoli and capsicum. Machoka also planted several trees.
Questioned on the earnings from the venture, Machoka insists that profits are the last thing on his mind as the ranch for him is therapeutic. The ranch has attracted high-profile guests including former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“To be honest with you, I do not do this project for profits. For me, it is more of therapy. I do this to give back to the community and connect with nature. Every day I walk around this farm and I can do 10km. As I walk I talk to my farmhands, I connect with my cows and by the end of the day, I am at peace. And during this Covid-19 season, such avenues are what we need. I do not need a therapist or a gym to maintain my mental well-being. I also keep lifestyle diseases at bay and that is saving on hospital bills,” he stated.