GAD

The difficulty of finding a job in Kenya has seen many young people pursue the opportunities in agribusiness rather than spend years looking for employment. One such person is Ms Maryanne Wairimu Kinuthia, 23. But unlike those who take up farming by chance, Ms Wairimu has always been interested in agriculture as it has been her family’s mainstay.

Business Beat found her tending to seedlings in a nursery bed in a greenhouse on her parents’ farm in Kiserian, Kajiado County. Like many successful entrepreneurs, she started her business to fill a gap she saw in the market. “After finishing my studies in 2012 and getting a diploma in technology and physics from the Technical University of Kenya, formerly the Kenya Polytechnic, I decided to get into farming seedlings instead of waiting a year to get a job. “I had come across farmers who were struggling to find specific fruit or vegetable seedlings, so I was confident I would have a market,” says Wairimu.

She started researching how to roll out her idea by utilising greenhouse technology, and armed with a capital of Sh100,000 — from her savings and Sh70,000 from her parents — she was ready to get started. Today, Wairimu is the proprietor of Gad-Eden Greenhouse Seedlings and Nursery, a company that sells horticulture seedlings. In addition, she also harvests vegetables and fruits from her demonstration farms, which she sells to hotels and supermarkets.

DRIP IRRIGATION INSTALLATION She owns two greenhouses, one measuring 5m by 10m and another 8m by 15m, where she propagates her seedlings, and uses a drip-irrigated field for practical demonstrations.

Wairimu also travels to clients’ farms to install drip irrigation units.
“Due to my experience and training I got from Syngenta, I have become an expert in setting up drip irrigation, which I do free of charge.
However, I charge a Sh3,000 consultation fee.” Her firm has five employees — her mother is the director in charge of day-to-day operations, she is the marketing manager, and there are two agronomists and a casual labourer. Wairimu’s market has grown by leaps and she now exports seedlings across East Africa, and gets both small and large-scale orders.
“Initially, it was a struggle to get the business off the ground. But today, our turnover is good thanks to the growth in the number of customers. “People have learnt about Gad-Eden mostly through Facebook, our website where online bookings for seedlings are done and from referrals, including some from Syngenta.
I am earning a decent living from it,” says Wairimu. On average, she earns Sh10,000 a week from the sale of seedlings, whose prices start at Sh3.
She also holds trainings on her farm once a month, which she publicises through posts on Facebook and texts to the contacts she has in her visitors’ book.
The trainings are conducted by Syngenta and other stakeholders in agribusiness. GROWING DEMAND And the demand for her services seems incessant. During the interview, she got several phone calls from clients asking about seedlings or wanting to have drip irrigation installations done.
Is it ever too much “I am happy doing what I do. Farming allows me to manage my time, plan ahead and I get to meet people who advise and encourage me.”
However, Wairimu warns that starting and running a business like hers is not easy; it requires one to work hard, be available and establish a market for produce.
Wairimu started with a 5m by 10m greenhouse made with regular nylon paper, but she kitted it with a special kind of soil she got from an importer from Sweden and plant trays from local shops. “As a result, our seedlings are disease resistant, grow vigorously, have uniform maturity and a long shelf life.”
To illustrate just how fulfilled she is with her business, Wairimu says she currently has no challenges. “For now, I have a ready market, so I have no stale stock. And even if I have seedlings that don’t sell, I can still grow them into mature fruit and vegetables for sale,” she says.
Her advice to young people looking for jobs “If you are interested in agribusiness and your parents have land at home, do something on the farm and it will earn you some cash as you wait for your dream job.” She adds that since people need to eat every day, farmers are unlikely to lack customers.
Her plans for the future “In five years’ time, I see myself owning a large plot of land, about 10 acres, where I will expand my greenhouse and carry out intensive farming.”
By: JAMES WANZALA
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