The percentage of unemployed youth has been growing exponentially in the past decade with an explosion in this Corona period. James Irungu, propelled by joblessness, ventured into farming by sheer luck. A close friend offered him an income opportunity through greenhouse farming and he has no regrets on choosing this path.
In June 2019, he set up his first greenhouse, a simple wooden structure. Using the savings that he had and some funding from his parents, he planted tomatoes. The venture was immediately profitable due to the impressive harvest and reliable client base. This allowed him to set up a second greenhouse. The only difference with the second structure was that it was metallic.
In this second greenhouse he planted tomatoes too, with additional spinach and sukuma wiki in the surrounding shamba. This was a blessing in disguise. The month of November came with heavy rainfall. The heavy rains flattened his wooden structure in one single downpour. The tomatoes he was to harvest were destroyed. The tomatoes in the metallic greenhouse were yet to mature, so the green vegetables that he planted were able to supplement his income for a short period.
Despite this set back, James was able to set up an additional three greenhouses with a loan that he acquired from a friend. In addition to growing tomatoes and spinach, he has added on strawberries and capsicum. His profit margins have increased steadily over the months. From an average profit of KES 80,000 every 4 months, he projects that he will make KES 60-70,000 per month with the next harvest.
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His business has had an immediate impact on his community. He is able to provide casual jobs to labourers who assist in land preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting. On most days he has 4 workers on his farm. In addition, he is providing a steady supply of food for his community, which with the help of “mama mbogas” (vegetable vendors) he is able to access the local markets.
The number of youth farmers in his community have increased through his motivational activities. He organizes farm visits where local youth can have first hand experiences with farming. He also offers smaller training sessions on various farm practices. James hopes to add an additional four greenhouses to fully utilize the acre of land he is farming on. He also wants to venture into hydroponic farming. With time he hopes to acquire additional land and venture into animal production, specifically with dairy and beef cattle and pig farming too.
James says, “I came across the Agribiz program on twitter. I was on my socials one day and there it was. I quickly put together my application and submitted it.” He is glad that he was selected to join the program. The Agribiz program is a European Union-funded initiative run by the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC).
He states that the market at times experiences an influx of food which consequently affects the prices. To avoid making huge losses, he hopes to receive linkages to larger markets, specifically institutions of learning and hotels that require a constant supply. He also expects to receive a lot of information on environmental and farming industry insights that he says is very beneficial to his growth. He has so far received assistance with his business processes and he is very happy with the current working relationship he has with KCIC. “The team is very responsive and has given me motivation to venture on with my farming ,” he adds. Finally, he hopes to get access to funds as he continues growing in the AgriBiz program.
By Michelle Mung’ata