“I tried all possible avenues, but it was all in vain,” she told Money.
But at her rural home in Ruiru, was a parcel of unused land, which was soon to be her stepping stone in opening a strawberry farming and processing start-up with her elder brother Huron Mugo.
Two things informed her decision. “You see, I had not eaten strawberries before and I longed to find out how they taste; but the challenge was their cost. A kilo was going for Sh400 and I could not afford that,” she recalls.
One day her mother’s friend came visiting and in their conversation, the visitor said strawberries would do well in their family farm.
“I started with eight stems and to my surprise, they produced three kilogrammes of strawberries. I ate most of them,” she adds.
At this point, Ms Moha began to think business and brought her brother on board. “Before this, I was a sales person at Brookside but when I saw what my younger sister had achieved in three months, I took the challenge and quit my job to focus on strawberry farming,” said Mr Mugo.
It has now been two years and the siblings have over 6,000 strawberry plants, out of which 1,000 are giving fruit.
They have also registered a company, Tunda Farm Strawberries, which they plan to use to export the fruits to Europe.
“Today, I have over 6,000 strawberries with a monthly return of Sh150,000. God loves and blesses humble beginnings,” Ms Moha stated on one of the company’s social media marketing platforms expressing her joy for her achievements.
This success has, however, not been easy for the two. The fruits need to be delivered to the market while fresh but they did not have the capacity to achieve that from the word go.
“When the fruits ripen, they go bad real fast if they are not plucked,” Mr Mugo said. To overcome this challenge, Mr Mugo said he researched on value addition.
“I discovered that I can make jam from the fruit. And all I need is sugar, the strawberries and lemons,” he said. “There are instructions on how one is expected to mix them to come up with the final product,” he added.
The two have now shifted their focus from selling berries to processing jam. Their immediate market was the neighbourhood but social media has connected them to more customers for both their fresh fruits and jam.
“We sell a 250 gram tin at Sh200 each, this worked well for us and in the first week, we made Sh7,000 in one day. This is what made us notice that there is worth in adding value,” he said, adding that he needs a quarter kilogramme of strawberry to make the 250 grammes of jam.
“The market still needed more but we did not have the capacity, this is why we are partnering with farmers from across the country to sell us the fruits that we can process as we wait for our 5,000 stems to start producing,” Mr Mugo said.
Strawberries are less prone to pests and diseases but require a lot of attention. “The plants need to be observed frequently for the farmer to see if they are developing runners. Runners make the main plant unhealthy and you are expected to cut them. Strawberries also need constant watering,” he added.
Their 6,000 plants occupy less than an eighth of an acre and the siblings plan to have 20,000 plants to step up their jam processing unit.
For aspiring farmers, “when you decide to start strawberry farming, ensure that you have plenty of water and organic manure.” You will also need to keep pruning and keep weed off the garden.
“It is also important that the farmer is patient, as the first three harvests are not as huge,” he cautions. The plant start producing berries after three months.