IT graduate quits state job to farm French beans

Jedidah Wacera King’ori is quickly building a name for herself as a French beans farmer in Isinya, Kajiado County. She suppliers the produce to markets such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • For someone who was starting from scratch, she did not have enough capital and lenders were not willing to advance her credit.
  • The EU, which is Kenya’s main market for horticulture produce, had initially capped the sampling at five per cent, with the doubling of the sample size expected to hit farmers and make the produce more expensive in the world market.
  • King’ori works on a piece of land she leased for five years. She pays Sh8, 000 per year per acre to lease the land.
  • She has also been able to fence the land and come up with a drip irrigation system for the whole land using the amount she received from YEDF.

Jedidah Wacera King’ori is quickly building a name for herself as a French beans farmer in Isinya, Kajiado County.

Hers is a rags-to-riches story punctuated with lessons of hard work and determination.

King’ori kicked off her career at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries in 2009 after graduating with a diploma in IT from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

However, in May 2018, the desire to be her own boss made her quit her job to venture into farming.

“I was earning about Sh18,000 per month at the ministry. This money was not enough for me because I was very young and energetic,” she said.

With Sh180,000 capital from her savings, she established Tail Fin Enterprises. She then ventured into French beans farming in Makuyu, Murang’a county.

She however relocated to Isinya in Kajiado county because she wanted to be closer to the farm.

But like many other entrepreneurs will confess, starting out was tough.

For someone who was starting from scratch, she did not have enough capital and lenders were not willing to advance her credit.

“It was not easy. I remember I was not able to access money from the bank then,” she said, adding: “I remember borrowing an additional Sh100,000 from my family to invest in my business.”

Today, she is among the leading exporters of French beans grown in her 15-acre piece of land.

Leased for five years

On the same piece of land, she is also farming butternuts, onions and cabbages to supply the local market.

She suppliers French beans to markets such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

She has not been able to supply to the US and the European Union.

The EU for instance early May said it will impose stricter measures on Kenyan beans starting May 26 as it tightens checks on residue levels, raising the price and threatening access if the country fails to comply.

The new directive  will see all beans from Kenya subjected to a 10 per cent mandatory sampling, with excessive levels of pesticide residues likely to lead to a total ban

The EU, which is Kenya’s main market for horticulture produce, had initially capped the sampling at five per cent, with the doubling of the sample size expected to hit farmers and make the produce more expensive in the world market.

“This tough conditions has made it difficult for French beans farmers like me to access the EU market though it’s a market we would love to supply,” she says.

King’ori works on a piece of land she leased for five years. She pays Sh8, 000 per year per acre to lease the land.

She works with three permanent staff and 20 casual labourers. She pays the permanent staff members a fixed salary of Sh10,000 per month. The casual workers are paid between Sh3,000 to Sh4,500. This depends on the intensity of the work.

The minimum size of land you can use to grow French beans, she says, is one acre. She, however, recommends a minimum of three acres for a start.

Credit boost 

An acre under the beans, she says yields about 4.5-5 tonnes.

She can as well sell the bean at Sh80-Sh100 per kilogramme to someone who is exporting or export the beans directly at Sh450-Sh 500 per kilogramme.

“With French beans, you have to plant every week. It matures at between 45 and 50 days,” she says.
In a good month, she makes between Sh300, 000 and Sh350, 000 in profit.

Two months ago, she got a credit boost from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) to the tune of Sh1.4 million, money that she used to lease an additional five-acre piece of land. 

She has also been able to fence the land and come up with a drip irrigation system for the whole land using the amount she received from YEDF.

Inasmuch as her business has grown, every entrepreneur is bound to face a number of difficult situations.

For her, the biggest hurdle has been going into her pocket to pay an agronomist Sh20,000 per month at a time she expects the government to provide agricultural extension services to help hold her hands.

“I have never seen any extension officer pay me a visit on this farm. The process of getting an export licence is also tedious in Kenya. The government has a lot to do in helping small scale farmers in this country,” she says.

In the next five years, she expects to extend the area of land under French beans. She is looking forward to buying the land and stop leasing.

botieno@ke.nationmedia.com

****

Why French beans is a lucrative venture

  1. The minimum size of land you can use to grow French beans, she says, is one acre. She, however, recommends a minimum of three acres for a start.
  2. An acre under the beans, she says yields about 4.5-5 tonnes.
  3. She can as well sell the bean at Sh80-Sh100 per kilogramme to someone who is exporting or export the beans directly at Sh450-Sh 500 per kilogramme.
  4. “With French beans, you have to plant every week. It matures at between 45 and 50 days,” she says.
  5. In a good month, she makes between Sh300, 000 and Sh350, 000 in profit.