Julius Ndiritu, popularly known as Marimu, was a tout for 16 years. However when time came for his daughter to join form one, he only had savings of Sh3, 000, against the required Sh24, 000, excluding shopping.
“After the painful experience with my daughter, I decided to quit touting and toil the lands. But I had no land of my own. I visited the then Othaya district officer-David Koskei and shared with him my farming idea. He listened and later persuaded Othaya Town Council to allocate me a small plot where I began a tree nursery,” Marimu said.
Competition was tough so Marimu had to go an extra mile to attract more customers. “I started practicing landscaping around the small plot, then requested Othaya town clerk to allow me do it in some streets within Othaya town at no cost and eventually did it at the district officers compound,” he recalls.
Convinced of his skills, he requested Othaya MP Mary Wambui, then a prominent businesswoman to allow him do beautification and landscaping at her home. “Wambui is a very understanding person, she had doubts about my ability to do the job, but she still gave me the opportunity, which opened other doors for me,” adds Marimu.
His job at the MPs Munyange home attracted visitors and that’s how he began getting bigger jobs. His next customer was the late minister George Saitoti, and the list kept growing, to include both public and private institutions which buy beautification flowers and trees from his nursery and contract him to do the landscaping.
Today he is a role model and works with the probation office at Othaya police station to train petty offenders and young men on landscaping, vegetable farming and trees nursery management.
Other prominent clients include former private security adviser to retired president Mwai Kibaki Esau Kioni. Marimu values seedlings at his nursery at Sh3 million, in a plot measuring 70 by 100 feet located next to Othaya police station.
He also spends enough time researching on new tree varieties and beautification skills and trends. He has heavily invested in Batian coffee variety. “All my seeds are sourced from certified organisations, which guarantee quality and highest germination and survival percentage. Most young people fail in this venture because of going for cheap seeds from unqualified breeders,” says Marimu.
He has employed about eight youths at his nursery, but the number doubles depending on season and demand. “I do not employ drunkards or anyone without a dream in life, I am proud of a good number of young men who are now successful after working with me, some of them use the salary to pay their college and university fees,” Marimu said.
The biggest challenge in his business is that tree planting and landscaping comes last in the list of family needs. This is because no person can go buying tree seedlings when a child is hungry or out of school due to lack of school fees.
According to Marimu, beautification trees such as golden Cyprus, Italian Cyprus and assorted indigenous trees sell better. “I have comfortably educated my six children from this job and bought my wife a car. She uses in her fruits business. I now plan to buy a plot,” quips Marimu.