Red and green bell peppers growing in a greenhouse.
Red and green bell peppers growing in a greenhouse.

Kevin Njiru Ngari, the successful greenhouse farmer, can only be best described as a Kenyan youth who knows how to turn adversity into opportunities worth millions. Coming from the rather dry Mbeere part of Embu County, Kevin only had milk during the Nyayo era when there was free milk for primary schools. Milk is a commodity which, to date, is very scarce in the area, to say the least. It is upon this unfortunate situation that the young chap founded his first agribusiness venture that has left him being envied by most of his peers.

While dairy farming business is lucrative in the area due to unending demand, it has always been a great challenge due to the harsh climate. “If it were not for the fact that I have to work extra hard to feed my cows here, I would definitely have made my first million from dairy farming,” he says.

Now thanks to his extensive reading, Kevin discovered the goldmine he had always hoped to find; greenhouse farming. “I first read about greenhouse farming in a magazine and I was surprised at how easy and fast young guys were making money,” Kevin says. Motivated by the success of other farmers, he went head-first into the business, armed with very little information.

“This is the first mistake I made.” He tells me when I ask how he was able to make such a fortune without much information. His first venture was a total mess in which he almost lost the dairy farming business that he had built for years. He had sold a few of his animals to raise the capital for his new business. But the relentless 30-year old farmer considered that failure an important lesson.

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The loss of his entire tomato crop was an eye opener that he needed to do a lot of research. “That is when I started reading about successful greenhouse farming in Kenya and other countries, and attended several training sessions on the same.”

When he finally felt ready to get started, he settled on capsicum as opposed to tomatoes. “Capsicums are more resistant to diseases and pests as compared to tomatoes and both require almost the same conditions.” He told me explaining why he chose to abandon his earlier crop.

Capsicums do well under temperatures ranging from 15oC to 35oC. The seedlings take between 20 and 23 days to germinate. After germinating, the seedlings should first be transferred onto a nursery and taken care of for about 45 days. After this, the seedlings would be ready to be transferred into the greenhouse.
“Let’s get to the key of this issue; how did you make the Sh.1 million?” I asked Kevin, anxious to find out how two small greenhouses could possibly generate such a huge amount of money. Smiling, he started explaining, giving the details just as I wanted them.

“My two greenhouses cover a quarter an acre each. I used a 30cm by 50cm spacing which allowed me to plant about 5,625 plants in each greenhouse. So in total I had about 11,250 plants. The yield wasn’t bad and I got an average of 10 fruits from each plant. By the time I made my last harvest, I had sold over 110,000 fruits at Sh.10 each. Now you can do the calculation for yourself.”

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By the time he finished explaining that, I had a clear picture of a million shillings lying in the bank waiting for me to go on holiday… Mayouth tuzinduke tutafute doh from farming.

Written By: enthinga@gmail.com.

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