According to the 2017 World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, “the future of African youth lies in agriculture.” This future can be realized through empowering women and youth in agribusiness as well as creating employment opportunities for them.
Nelson Mutugi, an ambitious entrepreneur, ventured into agribusiness with the zeal for social change to ensure youth and women empowerment.
In 2014, he opted to start his own initiative- Tala Iconic Business World-that would create job opportunities for the youth and women through a sustainable economic model in agriculture.
Tala Iconic Business World located in Meru, has tomato production as the anchor product through greenhouse farming, with the growth of onions and poultry farming being secondary.
Initially Nelson had started by providing some youths in his area with his products on credit to sell them, and in return, they would pay him back after a stipulated duration. This proved to be successful and in 2016 he managed to set up his first greenhouse using a loan he acquired.
In 2018 he managed to expand his open-field farming by planting onions. In the same year he decided to venture into poultry farming by keeping kienyeji chicken purely for eggs.
“I decided to increase my ventures because tomato farming came with its risks. If market demand declined, it would result in incurring huge losses. In addition, inconsistent weather patterns affected my production.” he said.
By 2019 his business was doing favourably well.
He managed to apply for the Agribiz program to help his business grow. The Agribiz program is a European Union-funded initiative run by the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC).
“Currently I have 3 greenhouses primarily for tomatoes, 4 hectares under onion farming and I have over 1000 poultry. I run this business with my wife and I have managed to employ 6 full-time youth,” he states.
However, this year, the pandemic almost brought the business to a standstill.
“The pandemic almost crippled my business. I had already secured contracts with four secondary schools to supply them with tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes and onions which I sourced from other farmers. And so in March with the closure of schools, the demand declined.”
He adds that he incurred major losses between the months of April and June. The business only started picking up in July after he shifted his target audience to the open market. Unfortunately, the open market also had its challenges. It’s more competitive.
Despite the Covid-19, he has managed to retain his employees. Though he had to reduce their salaries by half due to the current losses that the business has experienced.
He also had challenges when it came to marketing his business and products. However, under the Agribiz program, he has been able to learn how to analyse his outputs. He is also able to keenly look at certain aspects such as his investments, profit margin, business viability among others.
Through his partnership with KCIC, he hopes to continue expanding his business and employ around 15 more youth and women. He also hopes to run the business full time as a sustainable, viable and profitable social enterprise.
Nelson believes that agribusiness is the way to go and more youth and women should not shy away from venturing into the field, besides it does not require a lot of capital and its market is always readily available compared to other business ventures.