Young farmers cash in on vegetable growing

Alpha Ndungu checks on seedlings at his farmer's farm at Kahawa Sukari where he is undertaking vegetable farming.
Alpha Ndungu checks on seedlings at his farmer's farm at Kahawa Sukari where he is undertaking vegetable farming.

Kinyanjui Kahunya is barely 19 years old but is already making a niche for himself in farming — growing vegetables for sale.

His first crop was coriander, 'dania' in Swahili. He started the project with only Sh750, but after selling the produce he got Sh9,000. At only 17 years and having just cleared form four, this was good money. Since then Kinyajui has not looked back.

"My grandmother quit teaching to try her hand in farming and after seeing how well she was doing, I decided to try farming too. I got inspiration from her and I started with the corianders which did not disappoint,” says Kinyanjui.

He then leased three quarters of land in Njambini for Sh3,000 each and planted snow peas. The venture earned him Sh72,000. Kinyanjui then started Kiki's Groceries Supplies where he delivers groceries to people's homes and offices.

“I would go to Marikiti (city market) very early in the morning and buy groceries for people then deliver them to their homes. By then I was still young to drive a car so my father would help me and then I would use public transport to deliver the produce,” said the second year Law student at the University of Nairobi.

His parents have been supportive, but he attributes his success to his mentor - his grandmother.

“I still do the deliveries, but now I get most of the groceries from my farm except the onions which I buy from the market, but soon I will be able to get all the supplies from my farm. I have leased a piece of land in Kieni where I am growing onions,” said the young farmer from Ngecha in Limuru county.

Kiki Groceries supplies kales, spinach, eggplant, coriander, courgette, cucumber, broccoli, onions, fruits among others.

He targets busy working women or individuals in need of fresh produce especially vegetables but have no time to buy them in the market. His slogan is 'where freshness meets quality'.

Kinyanjui uses manure and hardly uses fertiliser to grow his vegetables. He buys a lorry of manure at Sh50,000 to be used for three seasons.

He says prices of delivery vary with seasons and destinations. Delivery charges around Nairobi's Central Business District is Sh300 but in areas like Thika, Kiambu and parts of Mombasa Road, charges are Sh400. He earns between Sh35,000 and Sh40,000 in a month from his grocery delivery business.

“I do the deliveries on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but if a client wants the produce supplied any other day, I charge extra since I would be doing something else on those days. I allow my clients to visit the farm to see where the products are grown as a way of building a trusting relationship with my clients and promoting my business,” Kinyanjui says.

His biggest challenge is building trust with clients which he says takes time and hard work. He recalls one incident when he bought fruits only for the client to discover they were rotting.

“I had to compensate the client and that was a loss for me. But besides that I enjoy doing it more so because I am able to maximise profits since I get the produce from my farm,” Kinyanjui says. "Farming is a risky business and market is not always good but with good timing one overcomes this.”

Kinyanjui wants to target event caterers and is working on a Facebook page where he can engage groups like Kilimani Mums to market his business.

He aspires to start a big grocery shop in the CBD where he can produce his own juice and jam. Kinyanjui also hopes to sell salads or cooked vegetables to supermarkets in future.

“I am trying to promote healthy living and I want to give people living in towns a feel of fresh food like folks living in the rural areas who get food directly from the farms. I want to have a green farm that will be a model farm for people to learn from. In the next five years, I would want to be a source of inspiration and provide mentorship for young people in farming,” he says.

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In Kahawa Sukari, about 20km from the city centre, Alpha Ndung'u is busy watering his coriander crop. Apart from coriander, he also grows other vegetables like broccoli, amaranth (terere) and celeries.

Ndung'u supplies his vegetables to Naivas Supermarket on a daily basis. He gets a minimum of Sh3,000 a day to a maximum of between Sh5,000 and Sh6,000 depending on the demand.

“I started by doing market research. I would go with a sample of my produce to talk to prospective clients. I must say hard work pays. Although farming is a costly affair — I have had to employ a permanent worker to help me but when there is a lot of work to do, I employ two to three casual workers

— the rewards are enormous,” Ndung'u says. He also rears chicken and supplies 10 crates of eggs a day which earn him Sh300 per crate.

Ndung'u decided to venture into vegetables growing as people are opting for healthy eating and he saw this as an opportunity to invest in.

His challenge, however, has been in getting soil testing services from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. “When it rains, this place floods and I need somebody to advise me. Extension services need to be easy to access especially for the young people,” he says.

“I plan to open a grocery shop in Syokimau and at the Thika Road Mall where there is a growing population of young people. I will do vegetable and fresh juice home delivery,” said the 23-year-old Bachelor of Economics student at the University of Nairobi.

His desire is to retire from farming unlike others who retire to farming. But this will be after he has made good money and established his group of companies. Already he has registered Alpham Fresh Produce and Alpham Kilimo Consultancy. He will use the latter to help young people interested in farming.

“I also plan to create model farms where young people can put money together then I will do farming for them through the Kilimo consultancy,” Ndung'u says.