When Peter Kimani relocated from Kandara in Murang’a county to Mwea in Kirinyaga county in the year 2000, his aim was to continue with his education and later on go back home. This was never meant to be as 17 years later, Kimani, 27, is one of the successful farmers in Mwea. He grows watermelons, French beans, and tomatoes and keeps dairy cattle.
After finishing Form Four in 2005, Kimani used to help his uncle to scare away birds from his rice farm, earning about Sh3,000 per month. Later, he started his own business. Armed with a meagre capital of Sh8,000, he started buying rice from farmers, which he would take for milling before selling it.
“I used to buy four sacks of rice at Sh2,000 each and after drying and milling the crop, I would sell each sack at Sh2,500. I used to make a gross profit of Sh2,000,” he said. One day, he bought his stock as usual. Unknown to him, this was the beginning of the end of his business. The rice was infected with Rice Blast Disease, one of the most destructive diseases of the rice crop worldwide. During milling, all the grains broke into pieces.
Instead of selling the rice at Sh22 per half kilogramme, the market price for spoiled rice was only Sh8, resulting in a massive loss. Kimani didn’t have money to revive his business, so it was back to toiling for others. “I was getting Sh150 per day as a farm labourer. My work was to water other people’s crops. Imagine I did this job for three good years.
I used to save Sh450 every week,” he said. To boost his saving, he joined a women’s group. In 2012, he was given Sh25,000 from the merry-go-round and this is what he used to start his farming business. He leased half an acre piece of land at Sh3,000 per month. Since the farm was near River Nyamidi, he didn’t need to invest much in water pumping equipment.
So, Kimani used a little of his savings and he was ready to venture into tomato farming. “From my first harvest, I earned Sh360,000 as profit. Since then, I never looked back. Currently, I have purchased 48 acres of land and I have leased another 72 acres,” he said. When the Top Farmer visited the farm, only 60 acres were in use.
About 35 acres were under French beans, 15 acres under watermelon, five acres under tomatoes while the rest were occupied by goats, cows, chicken and ducks. He harvests 30 tonnes of watermelons a week and had a supply contract with Uchumi Supermarkets before it hit financial doldrums.
Currently, he supplies local markets in Mwea with the fruit at Sh25 a kilo. Each acre produces 24 tonnes of watermelons per season or 30 tonnes of French beans per week. Kimani sells his French beans to Sacco Fresh Limited at Sh80 per kilo but his tomatoes are sold in the local markets.
“We plant French beans after every two weeks for sustainability since this is a contract we have signed with the company. I have specialised with Samantha and Army varieties and I must admit they are doing well here and the market is good,” he said.