DROUGHT-STRICKEN HERDERS

Shrewd Lamu trader making hay while the sun shines

Njenga makes Sh500,000 profit after buying a bale at Sh90 from Isinya

In Summary
  • In August, he decided to invest in bringing hay from Isinya with an investment of Sh500,000 and decided to luck it out in the hay business.
  • “I sell the hay at Sh400 per bale which is very fair considering the many overheads when bringing the hay from Isinya to Lamu,” he says.
Charles Njenga stands beside his lorry full of 3,000 bales of hay in Hindi Town, Lamu which he intends to sell to herders in Lamu whose livestock have been stricken by drought.
SALVAGING DIMINISHING STOCKS: Charles Njenga stands beside his lorry full of 3,000 bales of hay in Hindi Town, Lamu which he intends to sell to herders in Lamu whose livestock have been stricken by drought.
Image: KNA

For the enterprising Charles Njenga, the devastating drought crisis in Lamu presented an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

Njenga invested in sourcing and selling hay to herders in desperate need for feeds for their diminishing stocks ravaged by hunger and disease.

For more than 15 years, the wholesale vegetable vendor in Lamu brought fresh produce from Nyahururu.

The current drought crisis however, sparked an idea to bring in hay after a herder jokingly asked him why he didn’t have any vegetables for his animals.

“It was during a random banter encounter with a friend that the idea to bring in hay from Isinya was born,” he states.

From their conversation, Njenga gathered that over 3,000 head of cattle had died with more likely to die unless they got assistance.

Through this, Njenga was able to decipher a business opportunity.

“I was initially worried about the reception I would get knowing how herders think that grass is a God given gift which they are entitled to,” he quips.

He delves into how in August he decided to invest in bringing hay from Isinya with an investment of Sh500,000.

Charles Njenga's lorry making its way through Hindi town to Mokowe area where targets at least 300 herders following the drought crisis that has seen diminished grass and water in Lamu.
EUREKA MOMENT: Charles Njenga's lorry making its way through Hindi town to Mokowe area where targets at least 300 herders following the drought crisis that has seen diminished grass and water in Lamu.
Image: KNA

“I initially decided to manage my expectations knowing that the business was something that was yet to be explored,” Njenga says, adding that he considered a few factors before investing in the business wholesale.

He states that “when you look across the country to Central Kenya, there is a lot of grass and rainfall at the moment yet there are no initiatives to ensure that herders get the grass in the areas that are most affected”.

Fourteen counties have been affected by the drought crisis in the country, with majority of those affected being pastoralist regions.

“I knew that it would take the county government some time before they brought in intervention measures and took a chance that the herders would buy the hay out of necessity,” he said.

Today, he feels that his 'Eureka moment' has been vindicated as he delivers a lorry full of hay on his fifth trip back to Lamu with 3,000 bales of hay wrapped and ready for sale.

“I have already sold 1,000 bales in Witu and I will be traversing up to Mokowe since there is no grass to feed livestock in Lamu,” he remarks as he makes his way back through Hindi town.

Initially, onlookers were curious, then herders made funny remarks about him selling grass followed by serious inquisitors looking to buy the hay.

“I sell the hay at Sh400 per bale which is very fair considering the many overheads when bringing the hay from Isinya to Lamu,” he says.

Njenga is however able to still make a hefty profit of Sh500,000 having already bought the hay for Sh90 bale at wholesale.

“The hay that I have in this lorry can feed more than 500 cows for a month,” he reveals.

Although it is a case of a little too late, the Lamu county government has since partnered with FAO to provide relief animal feeds to over 750 livestock keepers across the county, covering over 3,000 head of cattle affected by drought and disease.

An emergency water trucking programme is also underway in Lamu, with the most affected areas of Moa, Chalaluma, Mangai, Kiangwe, Basuba, Roka, Belebele and Koreni being targeted as hard hit areas.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)