By Sharon Githambo
It is widely acknowledged that agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. 90% of our food comes from the soil. Unlike in the past, people have been able to embrace farming; both in the rural and urban areas. Given its importance, the performance of agriculture therefore significantly affects the performance of the whole economy. The development of agriculture is also important for poverty reduction since most of the vulnerable groups like pastoralists and subsistence farmers depend on it as their main source of livelihood. Growth in agriculture is therefore expected to have a greater impact on a larger section of the population than any other sector.
It is against this background that agribusiness is thriving in the country. It has attracted both the young and old who have embraced technology and other modern farming methods to enhance the growth and profitability of their enterprises. Mr. Benson Wakaba’s beautiful farm is located near Starehe Girls High School in Kiambu County. Workers are ever busy on the small farm that has different kinds of crops and fruits. They are supervised by Mr. Wakaba. This has been his daily routine for the last five years. He grows sugar cane, bananas, guavas, oranges and pawpaw. He bought the one acre piece of land five years ago with the intention of putting up a home for his family. Farming was not part of his plans then but he embarked on since the home was occupying half of the land, leaving the rest idle. Keen on farming high quality bananas, Mr. Wakaba, who also runs St. Tito’s – a private school in the neighbourhood – bought tissue culture seedlings from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
“I had never done farming before,” Mr. Wakaba says adding that he first planted fruits on his farm to keep himself busy. Nevertheless, after the fruits matured, a business opportunity presented itself. Traders from Kiambu town as well as his neighbours started streaming to his compound to buy them. In the process, he made a tidy sum of money. This motivated him to commercialize the venture. “Instead of planting flowers, I chose sugar canes and oranges among other fruits and vegetables because of their high returns and the fact that it was also a source of nutritious food for my family,” he avers.
The enterprising man has also diversified his income by putting up a guest house on a small portion of his farm where students and church groups retreat during the weekends. By the same token, part of the farm is now a very beautiful garden (aptly named the Garden of Eden) which is very popular with weddings and other parties. His home is always flooded with customers from different parts of Kenya either to buy his farm produce or to retreat in his beautiful garden and guest house.
Incidents of bad weather (especially heavy rainfall leading to water logging) have contributed to the destruction of some of Mr. Wakaba’s fruits. “The current rains have made my pawpaw trees to rot resulting in low production,” he laments.
With the ever growing demand of his produce, he is in dire need of more land in order to scale up his enterprise. Going forward, he is planning to plant more fruits and vegetables in his other farm at Ruiru.
Business goals are an extremely important component of success. While no one can predict the future with certainty, failure to formulate clear goals often leads to lose of focus. It is therefore important for every entrepreneur to plan ahead.
In that regard, Mr. Wakaba’s short term goals is to build a two storey building in the far end of his farm where he shall rear pigs and chicken. His long term goal on the other hand is to rear about 3,000 pigs in his Ruiru farm.
Piece of advice
Mr. Wakaba advises people (even the ones with small pieces of land) to venture into agribusiness because of its good returns. It is also a way of curbing the high rate of unemployment (mainly affecting the youth) in our country.
“My gate is always open for anyone who wants to learn something about farming or even just to tour around,” he says. Mr. Wakaba also trains small scale farmers on how to become better managers at no cost.