Farmer squeezes Sh2.4m a year from mango trees

Daily nation

Posted  Thursday, February 23  2012 at  00:00

On the slopes of the Kerio Valley escarpment in the Rift Valley, Mr Francis Kiplagat delights in the fruit of his labour.

In particular, a mango and vegetable venture that he started as a hobby in childhood, and which he has nurtured for 40 years now, is paying off.

Mr Kiplagat says that proceeds from his farm have enabled him to raise school fees for his four children pursuing university education with relative ease, besides meeting other financial obligations.

He has a mango plantation that occupies 20 acres of his farm in Biretwo, Keiyo South district.

He reveals that an acre can have about 50 to 60 trees, planted at intervals of 12 metres on a three-by-three square foot hole that should be ready a year before planting to  allow for application of manure to improve its fertility.

Two of his children have already expressed a keen interest in agriculture; a move he says is commendable given that the mango trees he planted can survive past 100 years if accorded proper care.

Traders stream from as far away as Nairobi and Kisumu to purchase a variety of the local and exotic mangoes to sell at various local markets or to export to European hubs.

His mango varieties include Van dyke, Apple, Tommy Atkins and Kent. Each variety fetches about Sh600,000 a year returns due to their good quality and high nutritional value.

The exotic varieties are usually grafted on traditional mango trees to improve the overall quality.

The different varieties mature at varying times of the year, hence assuring him a steady income throughout.

“However, I invest a lot in the Apple variety because it matures fast, compared with the others, and it’s usually ready for the market in August when the country experiences an acute shortage of mangoes,” he says.

He adds that due to the supply shortage then, many traders travel to his farm for the fruits — saving him transport costs to various markets.

In a good season, he sells ripe mangoes at Sh10-15 each, depending on their size.

Some, like the Kent variety, weigh about one kilogramme when mature, he says.

He is looking forward to a time when he will be able to sell the fruits per kilo, saying that will fetch him more money.

“Middle-men are really making a killing from us, yet we are the ones who incur heavy cost,” he says.

For maximum returns, he says, the trees must be pruned and watered during their first three  years of growth.

They should also be sprayed with insecticides regularly to stave off pests and diseases such as the mango weevil, fruit fly and mango hoppers.

He says the government should make available low-interest loans to farmers, and build rural roads to facilitate access to the markets.

He appeals to the youth to stop over-relying on white collar jobs and give agriculture a chance.



Research on your market before you invest in farming

Daily nation

Posted Wednesday, February 29 2012 at 17:22

Agriculture has for a long time been the lifeblood of the Kenya’s growth engine raising about 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

As such, the industry offers a huge chance for both seasoned, and budding investors who are willing to ditch the traditional misconceptions that farming is just a dirty and unprofitable venture for the rural folks.

The young Kenyans featured here are good illustrations of this fact, and act as the latest reminder that the agriculture industry can hand you great success.

However, like any other business venture, making it in agriculture requires massive research and planning before betting your hard earned millions on it.

Fortunately, in Kenya today, there many firms at the helm spearheading research and advisory services in the industry. Among them is the government’s Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. Financial institutions willing to fund such ventures have also increased over time.

According to those who have walked the path before, the key factor to consider before investing in agriculture is mastering the output channels of your produce.

Take for example, if one invests in horticulture, you need to have a destined market for the produce by the time you harvest, lest you run into huge losses.

According to Mr Martin Kinyua, a passion fruits farmer in Meru, the market is the most important element of the whole practice because its availability dictates whether you continue, expand or call it a day with your venture.

“If I harvest my passion fruits, and they end up rotting in the stores or I am forced to give them away because there are no buyers, this simply sounds the untimely death of my venture,” he says

Huge loss

He says he learnt this lesson in the hard way when he tried to farm wheat on a 40-acre piece of land. The produce’s slow uptake ran him into a bone rattling loss of over Sh200,000. He had to quit.

However, after conducting an intensive research in passion fruit farming, he now rakes in millions in the venture despite it being small-scale. He now plans to expand the venture because the supply is still by far short of meeting the market demand of the product.

Ms Nancy Kibe, an experienced farmer and chairperson of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lari branch, says it is of invaluable importance that you assess the market for your products long before you harvest.

She produces potatoes in large scale from her Nakuru farm and vegetables in Kiambu where she also runs a private boarding primary school. She is always reading about her crops.

She manages to provide food for her 200 boarding pupils by supplying the school with enough food from her farms. She is now planning to invest in large-scale pig farming by the end of the year, and she has started researching on the same.

According to her, getting a mentor who is succeeding in a similar enterprise as the one you want to start is imperative as he or she will offer you guidance from an informed perspective.

You also need to have alternative market options as a fall-back plan in case your target market declines.

Making farming trendy and reaping big

Daily nation

Posted  Wednesday, February 29  2012 at  17:11

His insatiable passion for agriculture led him to farming as a part-time income-boosting activity last year. On his three-quarter acre piece of land, Mr Ngugi built a 20-by-21 square metre greenhouse by last December and sowed the Anna F1 tomato variety, known for high productivity.

He spent about Sh550,000 on the greenhouse structure, agro-chemicals and the set up of a 70,000-litre capacity rain water harvesting system as his farm does not have piped water.

After planting in December, the crop will be harvested in March and will go on for the next eight months. He expects to earn a gross income of about Sh1.5 million in the first season.

Ngugi also plans to plant 1,000 seedlings of water melon in August, which he projects will earn him Sh100,000 in three months. By then, he hopes to have expanded his water storage capacity by another 40,000 litres.

He is also in the process of acquiring a five-acre piece of land to put up more greenhouses to grow vegetables and fruits.

For him, it is a passion for farming that moves him, adding: “My construction job will change to become part-time so that I concentrate on doing what I love most.”

MARTIN KINYUA, 35, Accountant

Long before he joined Vision Institute of Professionals to pursue a diploma in accounting, Mr Kinyua was already growing vegetables on his father’s farm as an hobby.

He later resigned from his managerial job at a logistics firm and set up his own logistics company — Samara Movers. Inspired by the urge to make extra cash, he ventured into agriculture in 2010.

It is the yawning mis-match between demand and supply in the fruits market that made him major in passion fruits as the subject of his farming endeavour on a three-acre piece of land that he bought with proceeds from his logistics firm. From an acre, he earns Sh500,000 for each of the three harvest seasons in a year.

The 35-year-old raises about Sh4.5 million annually and provides employment to five people, with the least earning a salary of Sh6,000 a month.

According to him, the only way to make it in agriculture is by maintaining a hands-on workforce and management; but more importantly, assessing the availability of markets for your products before starting out.

“The biggest challenges in passion fruit farming are pests and diseases, which we overcome through the help of agronomists,” he says.

A few months into her job as a purchasing officer in a modern hardware retail-chain, Ms Nyaga’s passion for farming lured her into agriculture… and this is where she has eked her living since then.

A few months into her job as a purchasing officer in a modern hardware retail-chain, Ms Nyaga’s passion for farming lured her into agriculture… and this is where she has eked her living since then.

The graduate of Biomedical Science and Technology from Egerton University in 2007 says, “there is no venture that can give as good returns as agriculture. I am ready to remain a farmer for the rest of my life.”

On her father’s 20-acre piece of land, she dedicates three acres to watermelon farming through irrigation.

In a year, she manages two major seasons, which are well planned so that they peak at a time when the rain-reliant growers are out of season — a move that earns her optimum prices.

In a good season, each acre produces over 20 tonnes of watermelons. Usually, a kilogramme of the produce goes for between Sh20 and Sh25.

This translates to about Sh1 million in earnings — an impressive accomplishment in just three months.

On her future plans, Ms Nyaga intends to develop a cattle ranch to rear an estimated 100 beef cattle for fattening.

She is also warming up to the idea of opening a fresh produce business centre in Nairobi by August.

Her business prowess doesn’t start and end with farming. Ms Nyaga runs an event-planning and recruitment business — Iko Kazi Ltd — with a partner.

At just 27 years, Ms Ann Nyaga is a budding millionaire whose success story is worth emulating, thanks to agriculture.

DOUGLAS KANJA, 27, IT Professional

A trained Information Technology expert, who is a manager at an IT firm in Nairobi, Mr Kanja mints millions of shillings annually from his two-acre Eden diary farms in Kimende, Limuru — as part-time business.

Currently, he owns a herd of 150 cattle and supplies milk to Brookside Limited, a local milk processor, earning himself a fortune.

In his herd, about 80 cows are milked each day, producing 25 litres of milk each.

Currently, a litre of milk is going for Sh30. This earns him a gross monthly income of about Sh1.8 million.
Hard work, consistency, dedication and patience have been key to his success.

“It has also been very helpful keeping in touch with those who have succeeded in this nature of business,” he says.

He plans to boost his herd to 1,000 in the next two years, whereby each cow will produce 40 litres of milk daily.

He is already working with a consultant from the US to start doing embryo transfers.


Considerations before investing in Fish Farming (Aquaculture)

Starting aquaculture as an economic enterprise, like any other economic enterprise, should be taken seriously. One needs to acknowledge that it involves making a significant investment decision and requires serious commitment. This is always true when deciding on the feasibility of any economic investment.

Thorough prior planning is therefore a must before any investment is made. Planning involves a detailed evaluation of the biological, economic, and socio-legal feasibility of production. Remember that economic considerations are as important as biological considerations in aquaculture. Socio-legal issues are potentially capable of limiting or even making it completely impossible to undertake aquaculture production.

It is essential to ascertain that the business concept is sound. Ask whether:

  • There are adequate and profitable markets for proposed product(s)
  • You have a suitable site for the proposed production
  • You have enough resources to meet the projected targets
  • The financial projections are realistic, robust and consistent
  • You have the expertise to produce
  • There are adequate essential support services
  • Your proposed undertaking meets all the environmental, social and legal requirements

These should be answered in a well thought out BUSINESS PLAN and will provide you with a written document to serve as a blueprint for future reference for your operations.

Business planning

Business planning is important to both new and established aquaculture enterprises. It enhances the chances for success and helps avoid costly mistakes. This plan will be helpful when looking for financiers, because many financial institutes require a formal business plan. A business plan should be a working document that is reviewed and updated at least on yearly basis. Importance of business planning:

  • Many potential and existing fish farmers have difficulty obtaining financing
  • Potential financiers may not be familiar with aquaculture as a viable investment
  • Proper planning for the business will help avoid mistakes
  • Proper planning for the business can also minimize risks associated with the market, production and financing

A business plan is an analysis of the production, market and financial aspects of the proposed enterprise. It consists of:

  • Description of the proposed production site (see pond construction)
  • A Marketing plan/strategy
  • Description of production techniques/strategy
  • Financial analysis of the proposed venture.


Marketing plan

Where will I sell my fish? Surprisingly this question is asked very often by very many producers deep into their production cycle. Others ask this question after they have harvested their fish. Serious producers should ask and get answers to this question well before they go into production.

Marketing is normally overlooked by many entrepreneurs and yet aquaculture production, like any other serious investment, should target specific market(s). Indeed for any aquaculture enterprise to be successful, it must target a specified market or markets.
Any serious entrepreneur will produce goods which match the needs and wants of the customers they wish to serve. Therefore, one must make a decision on what to produce based on what the market wants.
Therefore, to avoid uncertainties and eminent failure, the first questions that an investor must ask and get answers to, are:
  • What products does the market demand?
  • What quantities does the market demand?
  • What production resources do I have?
  • Can the resources meet the proposed production?
  • Which products am I capable of producing?
  • What quantities can I realistically supply?
  • When does the market want them supplied?
  • What quality does the market require?
  • Can I meet these standards?
  • Is it possible to get a bulk buyer?
  • Does the demand in the market justify the intended production?
  • What prices is the market ready to pay?
  • Is it cost effective to produce at the offered prices?
  • What competition exists in this field and how do I deal with it?
  • Are the existing physical infrastructure (roads, power telecommunication etc) sufficient to meet the marketing needs for the produce?

After answering these, the entrepreneur should be able to make a decision on whether to continue or abandon the proposed production. If the entrepreneur decides to go on, then, it is time to develop a marketing strategy.

Marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is a plan to achieve the financial goals of the entrepreneur. The strategy should address; the products, product prices, advertisement and where to sell as regards marketing. Ideally, the products must be sold for more than the production cost and quantities that allow the producer to make gains and remain in business.

Marketing strategy involves:
i. Analyzing the market situation
ii. Formulating marketing goals
iii. Evaluating and selecting suitable marketing alternatives

i. Analyzing market situation
To do this, the entrepreneur should have a good knowledge of:

  • Potential customer
  • Modes of marketing (e.g. do you need to draw agreements, do you have to go through brokers etc)
  • Product prices and their seasonality
  • Product forms acceptable by the market
  • Product quality requirements including regulation governing this
  • Consumer preferences
  • Quantity requirements
  • Modes of payments and frequency
  • All costs involved
  • All competing products
  • Alternative markets
  • History regarding prices, demand, supply, product spoilage, product rejection etc

ii. Marketing goals
The goals must be realistic and achievable; otherwise the producer will be groping in darkness without purpose. In formulating marketing goals, the producer must ask, and be able to answer, the following:

  • What is the targeted production?
  • Is this achievable?
  • What is the size of the target market in terms of geographical extent and consumer number?
  • Is it possible to reach this market?

iii. Marketing alternatives

It is important to consider marketing alternatives to avoid disappointment where a target markets collapse. For the marketing alternatives chosen or considered, product volumes and size preferences, costs associated with the marketing, and relevant legislations should be considered very carefully. Alternative markets for aquaculture products to consider include:
  • Hotels, restaurants, retail markets and fish (sea food) shops including supermarkets: This could be out of reach of most small scale producers because they might not meet the frequency and quantity requirement of such outlets. However they can easily over come this by forming marketing groups.
  • Farm Gate Sales: Where local demand for fish is high, this offers a very good option. It removes the problems associated with taking the produce to distant markets. However it necessitates for proper storage facilities like deep freezers or cold rooms and some degree of processing and packaging.
  • Sales to whole sellers, fish processors and large institutions: The advantage here is that large quantities can be disposed off at once and terms of supply and payment are normally stipulated in a legal contract. But this is only suitable for large scale producers.

Food Security in Africa

In Africa there are a number of weaknesses and constraints as well as strengths and opportunities for the development of the agricultural sector and the attainment of national and household food security. The use of low yielding crop varieties and breeds of livestock, as well as high post harvest losses, significantly contribute to low production and productivity. The challenge is to make improved technologies available and accessible to small scale farmers in a sustainable manner, and ensure the youth who are the majority in the continent population participates in the agricultural sector.

The youth in the continent has neglected farming an industry considered to be the backbone of the economy and run to the cities searching for white collar jobs, leading to mushrooming slums in the cities, this as lead to increase in national poverty and makes the first millennium goal out of reach. These facts emphasize the vital need to hurriedly start a campaign and training for the youth to go back to the farms if there is to be significant progress towards addressing the problem of hunger and poverty in Africa.

The other major issue is the seasonal pattern in the production and marketing of farm products, this is dominated by rain-fed agricultural production with food supplies running low between successive harvests, resulting in a severe and widespread seasonal hunger problem. This is the most serious dimension of hunger in rural areas of Africa. The interactions between food shortages, labour demand, pest and disease incidence and human energy supplies limit cultivated areas and labour inputs into crop care, thereby adversely affecting yields.

For the continent to be able to achieve the first millennium goal ‘eradicating poverty and hunger’ much need to be done. With the number of unemployed young people skyrocketing day by day in the continent, more emphasis need to be put on encouraging and enticing the youth to go back to the farms, this, not only will it provide a source of employment but also enable Africa to be food secure. With proper education on pest and disease controls, use of irrigation rather than merely relying on seasonal rain, expanding market and transportation infrastructure and use of advancing technology will take the African economy to another page through agriculture

The Future of Agriculture Lies in the Hands of the Youth……..