What you need to know:
- Former air hostess has invested over Sh200,000 in her two-acre farm in Tigania West.
- Sharon Mutiga rears fish and pigs and grows indigenous vegetables, pawpaws and bananas.
For six years, she shuttled from one capital city to the other across six continents, staying in five star hotels and shopping in some of the world’s most exclusive locations, getting to experience a world that many never will.
But Sharon Mutiga was not held hostage by the glitz that came with her air hostess job, she looked forward to another life beyond that which her job offered.
“It was a nice life because I would get attractive discounts on flights to various destinations, free accommodation in five star hotels, shopping in Paris, London, Mumbai, Bangkok and Dubai,” Sharon says during the interview at her farm in Kunene village, Tigania West sub-county.
She resigned from her job in 2016, shocking friends and relatives.
“I felt stuck in a rut with no career progression, there was also the fact that the airline was not doing well. When I quit, people asked me, ‘are you crazy? Why would you leave employment?’ But I knew it was time to quit since there was no job satisfaction, I had to take a risk and leave,” she explains.
Using part of her savings, she travelled to South Africa to undertake a three-months’ training that imparted skills she would need to work in a yacht. After the training, she travelled to the US in search of job, but to her disappointment, did not get one.
Her next stop was Bali, Indonesia, where she got a job managing a luxury retreat centre, earning Sh250,000 per month, but six months into the job, her father fell sick, and being the first born in a family of two, she had to make yet another critical decision.
She resigned from her job and retreated to the village she grew up in to help her mother take care of her father. It is here that she found her elusive job satisfaction in agribusiness.
“I had a lot of interest in farming while growing up in Nandi where I was born. My father worked in tea estates but I never thought that I would farm one day for a living,” says Sharon, who believes that agriculture is where the money is.
“Unfortunately, young people think farming is dirty and would never consider it, but from experience, the dirtier the hands the cleaner and sweeter the money,” she explains.
A tour of her two-acre Lomu Farm, which she inherited from her father who passed away in February last year, tells you that she is not one to put all her eggs in one basket. So far, she has invested over Sh200,000 into the farm, in which she rears fish and pigs besides growing indigenous vegetables, pawpaw and bananas, all organic.
She started with tomatoes in a greenhouse her father had put up, but with little experience in tomato farming, she burnt her fingers at her first attempt, harvesting only one crate after investing Sh30,000 in a venture she had hoped would earn her over Sh70,000.
Before her father’s death, she had invested in poultry farming, starting with 300 chickens and an investment of about Sh75,000, but she abandoned the venture when it failed to become profitable.
In August last year, she turned to fish farming, building six raised ponds in the greenhouse and stocking them with 2,000 catfish fingerlings – she invested about Sh65,000 in the project. Six months later, she harvested part of the stock and earned Sh50,000 profit after deducting costs.
“Fish farming is my main project, I have about 1,000 fish in the ponds right now. Catfish needs a warm and humid atmosphere and a greenhouse is ideal. I also rear tilapia in an open pond where I keep 500 of them,” she says.
She also has two sows, and periodically sells piglets to young farmers interested in keeping pig farming. So far, she has sold 50 at Sh3,000 each.
An important lesson she learnt while managing the retreat centre in Bali is that diversifying is the key to success in any business, she therefore experiments with a variety of projects in her farm but ensures they all complement one another.
Her newest project is Black Soldier Fly (BSF) rearing that came about as a waste management idea after waste from her piggery became a nuisance. With this project, she is also angling to win a Sh5 million grant from the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre which is encouraging climate-smart businesses.
The BSF larvae feed on organic waste and have a high protein content and is therefore suitable for the manufacture of animal feed. After feeding on the matter, the larvae leave behind organic fertiliser.
“I feed my fish with the larvae, a factor that has cut the cost of production by over 50 percent since it supplements commercial feeds,” she explains, adding that she uses the manure on her farm to grow vegetables. On average, she earns at least Sh50,000 monthly from her farm.
To earn more from her farm, she plans to expand her agribusiness venture and commercialise production of animal feeds which she says are in high demand. Hers has become a model farm where she trains other young farmers on various modes of farming, charging Sh1,500 per person.
“To young people out there looking for jobs, agribusiness is the way to go, if you don’t own land, then lease it.”