Thursday, October 23, 2014

Subtle grudge as generation Y, X meet at work

“The so called generation gap is in large part the result of communication and misunderstanding, fuelled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.” PHOTO | FILE

“The so called generation gap is in large part the result of communication and misunderstanding, fuelled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.” PHOTO | FILE 

By Verah Okeyo
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Mark feels like he is under siege because of a reality in his life he cannot not alter: his age.

At 48 and a senior manager at an energy parastatal, Mark is finding it difficult to understand his younger colleagues. What he sometimes considers mundane and irrelevant mean the whole world to them. 

“I am often frowned upon for not showing up at the boardroom to smile at cameras as we sing happy birthday tunes to a 24-year-old in the department. It’s their birthday. Surely, why must I go there to sing with them...?”

Mark is experiencing a lot more. Every few minutes, there is an email popping up. Another twenty-something is urging everyone to check out the latest phone app. The correspondence therein is in a language Mark can hardly decipher.

“The app is dope. This time Apple killed it. We be ballin’.”

“It’s all confusing,” Mark says. He then recalls the day when, after interviewing a young job seeker, he gave the young man a chance to ask a question. Mark says he was dismayed when the candidate asked whether the company organised regular outings for the workers to “unwind and get to know each other”.

Well, as Mark endures his discomfort at some of the mannerisms of his much younger colleagues, they too feel the distance. In fact, they have given him names such as “uptight”, “the ancestor”, “fossil” and the like.

He learnt of this when a group email was mistakably sent to his inbox after he had made a decision that the twenty-somethings found unpopular.

On the flipside, Lucy Nyambura, 26, an IT executive at a Five Star hotel, swears she would never invite her boss for any activity in the office that is not work-related. “He is a snob. He always thinks that life is about work,” she says with a dismissive tone.


Lucy is a typical millennial. Mark is the average Generation X. These two generations have met at the workplace. The resultant generational grudge is creating subtle challenges in the manner in which the differing attitudes interact.

Lucy’s boss, for instance, does not find her coming to work in rubber shoes the act of a disciplined employee. And during meetings, Lucy prefers to type her notes on her tablet. This bothers her boss, who imagines she is on to other things.

Eng Job Ndege, the managing director of Protocol Solutions, an ICT firm in East and Central Africa, says that there need not be hostilities between the three generations that occupy the workplace today.

The three generations he is talking about are the baby boomers, who were born after the Second World War to the mid-60s; generation X, born from mid-1960s to early 1980s; and the generation Y, born from early 80s to mid-90s.

While Ndege acknowledges that there exist certain stereotypes that define these generations, some of the bromides do not cast much of a shadow when held against the light of research.

“These generations just want the same things, such as recognition for their jobs, to feel part of a team, and respect. It’s the way of expression that is different,” he says.

His observation are conformed by a study that was conducted by senior research scientist at the Centre for Creative Leadership in San Diego, Jennifer Deal. The work revealed that the common generalisations about these generations are just a myth.

In her book, Retiring the Generation Gap, Ms Dealwrites: “The so called generation gap is in large part the result of communication and misunderstanding, fuelled by common insecurities and the desire for clout.”

Eng Ndege, who has worked in environments where these age differences are prominent, offers what he considers a simple solution to all the bickering: “Every worker must develop some basic supervisory skills to be able to recognise the patterns of behaviour and communication in their colleagues so as to get along. Human resource management should not be the job of a single department.”

The younger people, he argues, must understand that no technology can replace the real world experience and interpersonal skills that the older people have gained over the years.

The older people must also acknowledge that the world is changing and the use of smart phones by young people during a meeting may just mean multi-tasking and not disrespect.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Great managers stand by these 12 pillars

"In order for leaders to succeed, they needed to develop themselves to their fullest potential." PHOTO | FILE

"In order for leaders to succeed, they needed to develop themselves to their fullest potential." PHOTO | FILE 

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Maarifa’s presentation was over. It was now question time. One of the managers spoke: “I really like all the things you have told us, but in reality, it is really hard to do all these things. Where do we begin? What do we do to become effective managers?”

All the other managers in the room looked at Maarifa expectantly.

Maarifa said: “To answer your question, I would like all of you to read The Twelve Pillars of Success by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener. It is a story of a certain man who was going through life without much direction.

“One day, this man by the name Michael was driving on a country road. As luck would have it, his car stalled near a huge mansion that belonged to a wealthy man known as Davies. The mansion had 12 pillars. The gardener, whose name was Charles, explained to a curious Michael that his boss had built the 12 pillars to represent the 12 areas that one needed to conquer in order to succeed in life. Charles went on to teach Michael on the 12 pillars of success.”

Maarifa went on to explain that the first pillar, according to Charles, was personal development. He told the managers that in order to succeed, they needed to develop themselves to their fullest potential.

For any change to occur in their lives, they first had to work on themselves and change before anything in their lives changed.

The second pillar is total well-being, which means ensuring that the body, mind and soul are well taken care of. Each successful person experiences harmony in the three realms so that what is on the inside shines on the outside.

The third pillar is having a good relationship with everyone because relationships are the foundation of real success. Any relationship that is not flourishing means a setback on the road to success. Good relationships are what make the world go round.

Fourthly, Maarifa continued to narrate, Charles advised Michael to write down and achieve his goals – that commitment to the achievement of goals would bring him success. Writing the goals down would actualise them.

The fifth pillar, he explained, was on proper use of time to achieve one’s goals. Those who made good use of their time tended to succeed.

According to Charles, Maarifa further said, the sixth pillar was about surrounding oneself with people who would challenge them and bring out the best in them. Such people were themselves successful in life.

The seventh pillar, Charles went on, signified life-long learning about what went wrong and sharing what went right. Sharing of experiences with others was part of the learning process.

The eighth pillar is to become a person of influence through virtues and character. To succeed, managers must lead by example.

The ninth pillar is about becoming a million dollar person by personal development. People get money for what they are.

The 10th pillar is to have communication that fosters good relationships and makes people know that you care for them.

The eleventh pillar is that of becoming a person of influence and a great leader.

Finally, the 12th pillar is that everyone should leave a legacy that will become an example to others. Blaze a trail.

Maarifa concluded his presentation, saying: “You can see that success is a long process that takes time and total commitment. Everything that is worthwhile takes effort and time. You do not wake up one morning and find a beautiful garden outside. In order to have such beauty, you must put in effort and time. This is the same with success in your career. It is important to know just what you want in life and to develop a philosophy that will lead you to attain it.”

Dr Kithinji is a trainer and Management Consultant at the Kenya School of Government, Nairobi


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Struggling with a decision? Try this one

Decisions must get their life from purpose. The WHY always sets the agenda for the WHAT. PHOTO | FILE

Decisions must get their life from purpose. The WHY always sets the agenda for the WHAT. PHOTO | FILE 

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For the past few weeks, I have been writing on different aspects of decision making. I am passionate about it because I see life passing many people simply because they refuse to make bold decisions.

A colleague of mine at work named Gladys recommended a very good book, which I got and read. It is such a good book that I too want to recommend it. The title is, Made to Stick: Why some ideas Survive and Others Die. It is written by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

The book gives some very good insight into decision making and ideas, some of which I will skim over today.

When faced with very good options, how do you decide which one to take? Many people have no problem deciding between a positive and a negative choice, but what happens when the options are all potentially very good?

For example, if as a young man you have to make a choice on who to marry between two dazzlingly beauties, what should ultimately influence the decision is in this case not how they look, but which one best compliments you.

At this point, you should look at issues like values and vision.

Similarly, if as a young lady you are faced with many suitors, what should influence your decision must eventually move from the tangible to the intangible.

The story goes that the former CEO of Southwest Airlines in the United States once said he could teach anyone how to run the airline in 30 seconds.

That was a very loaded statement, considering that Southwest Airlines had been the darling of consultants as a case study for many years, and justifiably so. The company has maintained a status of profitability and respect for so long. It makes profits even when others are suffering losses. 

CEO and co-founder Herb Kelleher’s 30-second prescription for running the airline was tied to the fact that the company was THE low-fare carrier.

So, once you understood that fact, making any decision would be easy, argued Kelleher.

He cited an occasion when a lady from the marketing department approached him and said that based on surveys, passengers would enjoy some light refreshments on the Houston-Las Vegas flight. Southwest Airlines traditionally serve only peanuts on their flights. The marketing lady suggested chicken Caesar salad.

A decision had to be made between serving the salad or not. Herbs reaction was simple. It derived its power from the core of the airlines existence.

He said: “Will adding that chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fare airline from Houston to Las Vegas? If it doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low fare airline, we are not serving any damn chicken salad.”

Decisions must get their life from purpose. The WHY always sets the agenda for the WHAT. If you do not know why you are doing what you do, then any decision becomes acceptable once it sounds good. What helps to sift between good and great decisions is the why – the reason for existence.

When purpose is unknown, choices abound. The revelation of purpose streamlines the decision making process. It reveals the original intent.

When faced with a tough decision, you must begin an elimination – weeding out ideas that just aren’t the most important.

Sometimes we may not know what we want, but we know with certainty what we don’t want. We must then execute the elimination. Ask yourself, ‘Will this decision take me in the direction I was made to go? Will it make us more of what we were established to do, or will it take us away from our original intent?’

Living without a revelation of purpose is like trying to navigate a ship in the ocean without a compass. There will be a lot of motion but no progress.

Progress is not determined by how much we move but by how closer we are to where we set out to go to.

Never lose sight of intent and destination. These two pillars help to simplify the process of making a decision between very good options.

Have a lovely weekend.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Capital Gains Tax will affect your shares

As Kenyans celebrate the New Year on 1 January, 2015, the Nairobi Securities Exchange will be taking yet another step in its long journey to the peak of world capital markets. GRAPHIC | NATION

As Kenyans celebrate the New Year on 1 January, 2015, the Nairobi Securities Exchange will be taking yet another step in its long journey to the peak of world capital markets. GRAPHIC | NATION 

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As Kenyans celebrate the New Year on 1 January, 2015, the Nairobi Securities Exchange will be taking yet another step in its long journey to the peak of world capital markets.

Starting midnight on that Thursday, the NSE is to implement the newly assented capital gains tax. Consequently, starting Friday, 2 January, investors at the bourse will begin to pay 5 per cent tax when they sell shares and make a profit.

This new tax will be in addition to the transaction fees usually charged by stockbrokers to buy and sell shares at the stock market. Why? you may ask. Well, the new levy, dubbed capital gains tax (CGT), was approved in the Finance Bill 2014 in late August this year and assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta on 14 September. It is estimated that the tax will earn the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Sh7.5 billion annually.


It is not only investors at the NSE who will be affected. According to the Act, a firm acquiring more than 50 per cent stake in mineral blocks will pay a premium tax. 

Value of the transaction

“This tax is technically referred to as net gain tax and will be paid on the value of the transaction after deducting attendant charges,” explains Mr Ndindi Nyoro, the executive director of Investax Capital, a Standard Bank Group affiliate.

The law states further: “Subject to this schedule, income in respect of which tax is chargeable under section 3(2) (f) is the whole of a gain which accrues to a company or an individual on or after 1 January, 2015, on the transfer of property situated in Kenya, whether or not the property was acquired before January 1, 2015.”

The Capital Gains Tax is making a comeback after its suspension in 1985. According to Mr Eric Munywoki, a research analyst at Old Mutual Securities, the tax was suspended in an effort to spur growth in the real estate market and deepen local participation in the capital markets.

The effect the tax law could have on the Nairobi Securities Exchange was first felt last year when plans for its reintroduction were announced in the June 2013 budget. Investors’ wealth depreciated as share prices at the local bourse marched south due to fears that the tax would erode the NSE’s general profitability stature.

The Kenyan shilling also took a nosedive amid concerns that the effects on the NSE would trickle down to the general economy.

Although the goals that led to the suspension of the law in 1985 may appear to have been realised with the NSE now ranked among the top five bourses in Africa and the country climbing to middle income status, its reintroduction have begged the question whether it was necessary.

According to Aly Khan Satchu, the chief executive officer at Rich Management, “It was not necessary. As a country, I think we have gone a little stir crazy on the taxation side.”

According to an Old Mutual Securities paper titled Reintroduction of ‘Red hot’ Capital Gains Tax prepared by Mr Munywoki, the tax should have been much lower. 


“Given the need to grow our economy in the long term, the long-term capital gains need to be taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains in order to provide more incentive to invest in firms that build the economy, rather than trying to make quick profits by speculating on stocks,” says the paper.

Evidently, although all investment analysts agree that the new tax will scare investors from the NSE, there have been differences on whether the tax is a mere scarecrow, or the effects will be majorly felt.

According to the Kenya Association of Stockbrokers and Investment Banks (KASIB), the tax will be discouraging to existing and potential investors. Prominent among KASIB’s worries is that the Nairobi Securities Exchange will lose its competitive edge.

“Nigeria has a 10 per cent Capital Gains Tax, but the capital markets are excluded,” said Mr Willie Njoroge, the chief executive officer at KASIB.

But, according to Dyer and Blair Investment Bank, the tax is going to be non-consequential.

“We maintain that, from a private investors point of view, the five per cent rate is fairly competitive and unlikely to ward off would-be investors from the Kenyan market,” the bank said in a report in September.

Further, according to Mr Nyoro, the tax will be way lower than what is charged in other markets in Africa. “Zambia has a high rate of 35 per cent, Uganda has a rate of 30 per cent, Tanzania has a rate of 20 per cent, while South Africa and Nigeria are at par with 10 per cent CGT,” he says.

“Given the need to grow our economy, the long-term capital gains need to be taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains in order to provide more incentive to invest in the companies that build the economy rather than trying to make quick profits by speculating on stocks,” says the paper.

Evidently, although all investment analysts agree that the new tax will scare away investors from the NSE, they are divided on whether the tax is a mere scarecrow or if its effects will be significant. According to the Kenya Association of Stockbrokers and Investment Banks (KASIB), the tax will be discouraging to existing and potential investors.

Prominent among KASIB’s worries is that the Nairobi Securities Exchange will lose its competitive edge. “Nigeria has a 10 per cent capital gains tax, but the capital markets are excluded,” said Mr Willie Njoroge, the chief executive officer at KASIB.

However, Dyer and Blair Investment Bank thinks the tax will be inconsequential. “We maintain that from a private investor point of view, the five per cent rate is fairly competitive and unlikely to ward off would-be investors from the Kenyan market,” said a report it released in September.

Further, according to Mr Nyoro, the tax is much lower than what is charged in other markets in Africa. “Currently, Zambia has a high rate of 35 per cent, Uganda 30 per cent, Tanzania 20 per cent, while South Africa and Nigeria are at par with 10 per cent CGT,” he says.


Mr Munywoki explains: For instance, if you buy 25,000 shares at Sh4 per share, you will need Sh100,000 for the shares and Sh1,800 transaction fees.

If the share price rises to Sh5 and you sell, your gross proceeds will be 125,000. After deducting your transaction fees, your net profit today will be Sh22,750. On 2 January, after paying the five per cent tax, your profit will reduce to Sh.21,612.50.”

He is quick to point out that with higher returns, the effect may not be so hard-hitting. “Looking at higher returns derived from frontier markets, we still expect increased foreign portfolio flows driven by the recent discoveries in oil and gas,” he says.

“This could lead to introduction of new products at the bourse such as day-trading margin calls, which may not be subject to CGT.”

Although investors who sell their stakes at a loss will not be affected by the CGT, Mr. Munywoki notes that the law is quiet on what will happen in case you make losses on investments outside shares and whether you can net off your losses from your gains in order to pay lower taxes.

Interestingly, Mr Munywoki points out that the CGT will be applicable where the gross gain exceeds 20 per cent.

“This means that small investors can cash in their 19 per cent gains without paying the tax,” he says. “However, this will not be a rational move to make. An investor who makes 30 per cent gross profit and pays the 5 per cent tax will still make more money than the investor who exited at 19 per cent without the tax.”

The Treasury and KRA are yet to come up with a schedule on how the re-introduced tax will be calculated.

Subsequently, before 1 January, 2015, KRA and the National Treasury are mandated with the task of formulating guidelines on how much is to be paid and under what circumstances.

According to Mr Satchu, the current proposed formula where stockbrokers are to levy the CGT is not tenable.  Mr Munywoki concurs, adding that in future, the taxman may want to integrate the charge with other market levies through the broker back office, making it the responsibility of the market players to remit the tax.

It remains to be seen whether the tax will affect foreign investors, who account for most of the trading at the NSE.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Besides meeting the monthly payroll, drive your SME to make profits

The constant thought of whether you will have ready money to pay salaries every month is one of the biggest preoccupations of many business owners. PHOTO | FILE

The constant thought of whether you will have ready money to pay salaries every month is one of the biggest preoccupations of many business owners. PHOTO | FILE 

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Far too many SME owners are more worried about making the payroll and not their profits.

The constant thought of whether you will have ready money to pay salaries every month is one of the biggest preoccupations of many business owners.
The number one reason many business owners lag behind in profitability is that they do not have the answers at hand. They simply do not know their numbers.

Many business owners have no idea whether they made a profit last month or a loss. This means they are constantly chasing the payroll money.

It is worse for those business owners who do not pay themselves a salary and look forward to a cash drawing to meet personal or family expenses.

Assuming you have school fees, insurance, house rent or mortgage to pay, many business owners find themselves in a difficult situation.

I know of many business owners with a very decent monthly turnover who constantly do not have cash to expand their businesses.


This is because they are either breaking even, or trading at a loss. They have debts or expenses to service, too, and this keeps eating into the business funds without the clear knowledge of the business owner.

Business owners who focus on their numbers tend to have some form of accounting background or experience.

Many SMEs depend on accountants to give them critical information but few are lucky to have proactive accountants who spend time doing analysis and helping the business owners understand what is going on.

Many accounting systems available at the disposal of SMEs do not provide quick snapshots.

As a business owner, you need to know the difference between profitable and “busy”.

If you wait until year-end to get your financial reports for audit or income tax purposes, you will continue losing money being “busy” yet not sure whether you are profitable.

I will recommend that every SME owner invests in a business management tool that allows them to see realtime their income, expenses and profitability for any given period.

We all know that income minus expenses gives you the gross profit. The trick to boosting profits is always increasing income and decreasing expenses. We are a cash society and many SMEs hardly track cash expenses effectively.

If you are making 80 per cent of all income for to your business, you should be directly benefiting from 80per cent of all expenses incurred by your business.

If your payroll is the highest cost-item per month, and your employees are contributing only 20per cent of the income, place some jobs on the line.

Consider outsourcing specialised tasks or hire part-timers for roles that are not busy. Saving a few thousands per month can make a big difference.

Look out for underutilised resources that have long-term contracts. Review your office space utilisation, telephone contracts, Internet bandwidth and other recurrent expenses.


If anything is underutilised, figure the best way to get value for your money. Overall, think through the different ways you can use to reduce the money that leaves your business.

To boost your income, consider introducing complementary products or services. Say you provide printing solutions for branded merchandise, offer a direct sales training programme on the best way to distribute promotional materials.

Also, consider giving monthly or yearly discount plans to guarantee revenue.

Lastly, extend your marketing to the online audience. Many people simply Google what they need.

Be sure to get recognised online, whether with a website or on social media.

Your premises may not be on a main street but social media is one big digital street.

Be creative with ways to increase your income and to reduce expenses. Most importantly, track and keep a good record of your expenses.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

For Nakuru widows, life is a positive tapestry

Ms Mary Atieno explaining to her customer some of their artwork products. After losing their spouses and relatives to HIV and Aids, a  group of widows in Nakuru has defied the odds and launched a successful beadwork business in the town’s Kaptembwa estate. PHOTO | CAROLINE CHEBET

Ms Mary Atieno explaining to her customer some of their artwork products. After losing their spouses and relatives to HIV and Aids, a  group of widows in Nakuru has defied the odds and launched a successful beadwork business in the town’s Kaptembwa estate. PHOTO | CAROLINE CHEBET 

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After losing their spouses and relatives to HIV and Aids, a  group of widows in Nakuru has defied the odds and launched a successful beadwork business in the town’s Kaptembwa estate.

Members of the group, which started as a “widows living with Aids chama”, are now able to pay school fees for their children, house rent and other daily needs by making necklaces, bracelets, table mats and earrings.

Baraka Upendo Women’s Group was started in 2006 and now has 20 widows living with HIV and Aids. “We came together as people suffering from the same disease. That way, we fought off social stigma and shared financial ideas on how to empower ourselves”, says Mary Atieno, the group’s chairperson.

The group also launched an education drive, visiting churches and local functions to raise awareness on HIV and Aids, as well as collecting trash in the estates.

“Many people still have a negative attitude towards people living with HIV and Aids. So we formed a group where we could encourage ourselves to rise above the social stigma and educate the youth,” says Atieno.


Efforts to clean up the environment bore fruit, after they discovered they could recycle some materials and make necklaces, table mats, bags and knitted clothes.

“We get lots of recyclable materials like polythene bags, calendars and papers. We decided that re-using them was a cheaper way of starting a small business where we could generate some income”, Atieno told Money.

Through active table banking, the group kicked off their business, which helps them put food on the table for their families and cater for other basic needs.

“We started by contributing Sh20 each, but increased this with time so as to expand the businesses. We now contribute Sh250 every month”, she said.

In a good month, each member earns up to Sh6,000 from the final products, which they make three times a week.

To market their artefacts, the members usually attend agricultural shows and other public fairs in the county. This has boosted their sales from Sh2,000 a month per member three years ago.

The group sells their bracelets, beads and necklaces at Sh100 to Sh600, while beaded handbags go for Sh300 to Sh700.

Through their savings, the group members recently started making soap, which they supply to local customers, hotels and supermarkets.

Most of the time, they get orders for liquid soap from supermarkets and hotels. On a good day, they sell up to 20 litres. The soap goes for Sh60 a litre.

During the past eight years, the group’s main goal has been to live a happy, fulfilled life, says Anyango, “earning a living from our sweat. There’s nothing as bad as having to seek alms from wellwishers; we want to keep ourselves busy”, she adds.


The group has lost some members through the years to the disease, but a positive attitude to work has helped the members cope with the loss and even support families of departed colleagues.

“With the kind of disease we suffer from, death is a constant companion. This has strengthened our bond,” says Mary Anyango, a group member.

However, sourcing for extra materials to make beaded bags and liquid soap, as well as competition in the market, hamper the women’s progress.

With time, they hope to export their unique products.

“As much as we try to cut down costs by using recycled materials, we also have to clean and paint the materials. And this is expensive,” Atieno says.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Solar pack helps fish mongers of Kilifi see the light

KMFRI in Mombasa has come up with an eco-friendly, solar powered lamp for fish traders. PHOTO | NATION

KMFRI in Mombasa has come up with an eco-friendly, solar powered lamp for fish traders. PHOTO | NATION 

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We all know them; we visit their kiosks or business stands almost every evening or night to purchase groceries. We fondly call them Mama Mboga and Mama Samaki.

But even as we exchange pleasantries and purchase groceries, more often than not we feel irritated by the whiff of paraffin smoke emitted by their lamps (korobois) and hate the teary effect it has on our eyes.

Mama Mboga, on the other hand, seems oblivious to all this. Many of them don’t know that they are slowly damaging their lungs and eyesight with the smoke, besides driving away would-be customers.

It is against this backdrop that the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) in Mombasa came up with an eco-friendly, solar powered lamp for fish traders.


They have also improved the current methods of preserving fish used by traders.

The lamp is a flexible, bulblike light that can be attached to wooden fish trays to provide adequate lighting.

On the wooden tray is an aluminum foil for ease in cleaning, unlike the old newspapers that Mama Samaki spreads on her trays to act as paper towels.

According to KMFRI business development manager Peter Oduor-Odote, they were driven to come up with the innovative lamp and tray by the challenges facing most small scale fish sellers at the Coast, most of whom lack cooling facilities for their fish stock. Also, the price of freezers is out of reach for many of them.

 “Mama Karanga normally displays fish on shelves or trays by the roadside, or in some designated place of the market with a koroboi for customers to see the fish,” says Oduor-Odote at his KMFRI offices.

“The fish industry is quite important in this region. It supports a wide population of women traders. About 60 per cent of the fish trade is handled by Mama Karangas,” he adds.

Oduor-Odote, who is also a research scientist at KMFRI, notes that since korobois use paraffin, they emit a lot of carbon dioxide, which is unhealthy when inhaled and sometimes spills onto the fish, contaminating it and spoiling the stock.

In the research, he thought of a way of assisting the women,  and that is when he came up with a way of improving the display shelf unit. He then went about redesigning the display shelf by introducing an eco-friendly lamp (solar lantern) to replace the paraffin-lit koroboi.

The lantern is charged by solar during daytime and can be placed at any strategic point.

“There is worldwide interest in reducing carbon emissions because they are known to be responsible for climate change. The women, numbering over 100, use about a quarter litre to half a litre of kerosene per day because they come to the market at about 6pm in the evening and some leave at about midnight, burning kerosene and emitting smoke,” he said.


He adds: “One litre of kerosene — from literature calculations — releases about 2.53kg equivalent of carbon dioxide when burnt. Therefore, a quarter litre of kerosene releases 0.6325kg of carbon dioxide.”

“The eco-friendly lamp in the new design brings this carbon dioxide emission to zero,” he points out. He adds that they will roll out the lamps, all free of charge, to fish fryers in Kilifi in a month before issuing them to the entire Coast region.

He says they are in the process of registering for exclusive rights of the eco-friendly lamp with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).

Kilifi Beach Management Unit chairperson Halima Mbaruk praised KMFRI for the innovation. She added that the solar lamps were also convenient during rainy and windy nights, unlike kerosene lamps. 

  • KMFRI has also come up with an innovation that assists women in drying fish in an affordable, efficient manner and in large quantities. It uses racks for smaller fish (sardines) and solar dryers for bigger fish.

  • There, too, is an improved smoking oven, commonly used to preserve fish in Tana Delta region. It reduces fuel consumption by up to 60 per cent.

  • The improved oven has up to five trays where fish are arranged for smoking. This saves on the amount of fuel used, while many fish can be smoked at a go.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jury still out on the proposed financial services authority

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.Little has been heard of the progress towards making the FSA operational. The Ministry of Finance, which is the supervising authority, has as yet to invite stakeholders to discuss any Bill concerning the intended agency or pertaining to amendments of existing laws. FILE PHOTO

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.Little has been heard of the progress towards making the FSA operational. The Ministry of Finance, which is the supervising authority, has as yet to invite stakeholders to discuss any Bill concerning the intended agency or pertaining to amendments of existing laws. FILE PHOTO   NATION MEDIA GROUP.

The taskforce on parastatal reforms recommended that financial services regulators IRA, CMA, RBA and SASCCO be consolidated into one agency.

Little has been heard of the progress towards making the FSA operational by 1 January 2015, as indicated by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary in this year’s Budget speech.

What is happening and how is this move likely to affect the operations of IRA? 

- Insurance player, Nairobi


Truth be told, there is little happening on this score, as far as I am aware. One thing, however, is certain: the proposed Financial Services Authority (or whatever it will be called) is not going to be in place by 1 January, 2015.

For one, such an agency would have to be set up under a specific legislation providing, among other things, its mode of operations. Then, either the same legislation or more specific laws would have to amend the other enactments under which the existing Authorities have been set up.

As has become the practice in the current democratic dispensation, Bills intended for submission to Parliament are discussed among the stakeholders.

So far, the Ministry of Finance, the supervising authority, has as yet to invite stakeholders to discuss any Bill concerning the intended agency or pertaining to amendments of existing laws.

It is either a case of the Bill still being drafted, or none exists.

This state of impasse is likely, considering that the taskforce that came up with these recommendations reportedly failed to consult even the supervising ministries. If this be the case, the recommendations were merely lofty ideas made without considering their practical aspects. As one Oriental sage once said: “In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory; in practice, there is”.

Perhaps, the ministries concerned are still wrestling with the problem of how to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the real world of parastatal consolidation.

Regarding the intended Financial Services Authority, there is a school of thought that, as the relevant supervisory and regulatory bodies are mainly in the nascent stage of development, being consolidated into one bureaucratic behemoth would adversely affect the progress so far achieved.

Moreover, the benefits for such consolidation cannot be readily perceived.


It is pointed out, for example, that the financial services regulators are neither a financial burden to the Treasury nor to the regulated entities.

At our stage of development, such consolidation is premature as each of the regulatory bodies in the sector is still evolving a systems regime in line with its mandates.

A case is cited of the UK, which had one such authority. Lately, there has been a move to break FSA up into its constituent sub-sectors.

Let it be noted that all the financial services regulators, through a memorandum of understanding signed sometime ago, have been collaborating on many common areas.

As convergence of financial services takes root in our society and economy, this initiative has been necessary.

But it is probably not yet time for upgrading this co-operation into an amalgamation of the bodies concerned.

In respect of the Insurance Regulatory Authority, there is already a serious dislocation to the IRA operations.

Without a board since the latter’s term expired sometime in May, the Authority has been rendered almost dysfunctional.

It is anybody’s guess how, for example, licence renewals will be done in the absence of a Board which assumed most of the powers of the Minister under the Insurance Act.

The question still remains: Is the intended agency really necessary, at least, for now? The jury is still out on this one.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Class one drop-out who owns top hotel company in Kericho

Mr James Mwangi Kuria proprietor of Sunshine Hotels, Kericho County. Mr Mwangi, 59, was passionate about the hospitality industry from a tender age. PHOTO | TIMOTHY KEMEI

Mr James Mwangi Kuria proprietor of Sunshine Hotels, Kericho County. Mr Mwangi, 59, was passionate about the hospitality industry from a tender age. PHOTO | TIMOTHY KEMEI  

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Mr James Mwangi, 59, was passionate about the hospitality industry from a tender age.

While running errands in Kericho 25 years ago, the illiterate youth got word that someone was renting out a prime kiosk near Tengecha lane and thought that his dream had come true.

He had insufficient capital, so he talked his two friends (Rop and Muiruri) into contributing Sh20,000 which they needed to rent the place as an eatery. But the two gave up at some point as the venture didn’t seem to earn them anything.

“They said that we should sell the business, but I refused. I asked them to be patient so I could pay them back their share of the contribution,” he says.

He bought sacks and lined them on the ceiling. He also painted the room and started stocking kitchen utensils. Then he got a permit to start a hotel after a tussle with health officials.

“I bought one kilogramme of flour and meat. Then my money got finished,” he says.

After cooking, he asked a mechanic to try out his food. But the mechanic retorted that even if the food were free, he would not dare eat in such a den.


Mwangi did not give up. He convinced some people to buy his food, and with the money earned, he bought extra recipe for the following day.

It surprised him that he was a good cook, just like his father, Mr Joseph Kuria. But there are dishes he had to learn to make.

He had trouble making chapati and mandazi dough, for instance. “I requested a man called Juma to show me how to prepare dough. He did it just once then I struggled on my own. I took hours to light a jiko,” he recalls.

He would soon make delicious githeri, ugali and tea. Many people began visiting his hotel. Soon, he could no longer act as the cook, waiter and cashier and had to find a helper.

In the second month, he found someone to assist him, but the person left shortly afterwards to start a hotel in Kisii.

Kuria was left more confused, doing everything all alone. At times, customers would eat and leave without paying. He was desperate for assistance.

It’s after  he employed Kennedy, a good cook, that the business boomed. Mwangi served food and collected money.

Everything went well until some customers from Nairobi visited the hotel. One ordered for an omelete but, due to ignorance, Mwangi scrambled the eggs. “The customer looked at me and said, ‘Stupid!’, and spoke more English that I did not understand. I was hurt and begun remembering the circumstances that denied me the opportunity to get an education,” he recalls. 

He had left school for good the very day his teacher sent him home to fetch Sh20 for fees, way back in the sixties. He was then in Class One in Nakuru’s Bahati.

Thereafter, he was employed to take care of goats in the neighbourhood for 50 cents a month.

Mwangi does not blame anyone as lack lurked in their family of eight children, who were left with their mother as their father cooked for European settlers in the highlands.


At some time he was told a group of missionaries was enrolling children for free education in Naivasha but his mother could not afford the fare.

However, it’s a great milestone that he is today the director of the busiest hotel in Kericho. The jovial Mwangi owns the famous Sunshine Hotel Ltd.

This is the place President Uhuru Kenyatta had a meal during a recent visit to Kericho. 

This year alone, the hotel has also hosted Deputy President William Ruto, Cord leader Raila Odinga and an international event for UN Habitat.

The hotel also hosts a range of parties, launches, weddings, and cultural events.

“We are fully booked throughout the year. Our rates are competitive and people prefer our food, customer care and priximity to the town centre,” he says.

However, it was not easy getting this far. A steady rise of Sunshine started in 1991 when Mwangi had earned enough to employ more people. He brought in a Charles Ochieng as the hotel manager. The two key departments (kitchen and finance) were managed diligently by the two.

Mwangi bought his first car from former town mayor John Kauria at a fair price. It was a pick-up. Before he knew it, an investor, Mr Benjamin Tirop, who admired his work, asked him to be a tenant in one of his buildings at Tengecha lane.

He declined the offer two times but later gave in after seeing how beautiful and strategic the nine-roomed building was.

Then they re-launched the hotel with likeable guest rooms. But they disappointed customers since alcohol and casual dates were prohibited there. Every couple had to produce a marriage certificate to book a room.

“Some managers even threatened to quit, saying the rules denied the hotel more clients, but I stood my ground. I said I would rather lose them than cave in to spoil family morals that my dad warned me against,” he says.”

Mwangi eyes Isiolo and Nanyuki as target towns to expand his business, before he ventures to  South Sudan and Rwanda.

Having missed formal education, he is unforgiving to anyone who despises school. “Our last born will soon join university, just like the rest of the siblings,” he says.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Women milk fortune from dairy group

Members of Ilkipirash Women Group deliver milk at their cooperative society in Kajiado. BILLY MUIRURI | NATION 

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Every end month at the branches of Equity and Cooperative banks in Kajiado town, you will find in the halls long queues of women resplendent in multi-coloured shukas, bracelets and necklaces.

Two tellers in each of the banks are normally assigned to serve the women. At the Kenya Commercial Bank branch in Namanga, more than 80km away, things are not any different.

The women who throng the banks belong to the giant Maasai Kajiado Women Dairy Cooperative Ltd, an outfit that has changed the lives of dairy farmers in the county where cattle is the most precious property.

For most of the population, though, livestock here - cattle, goats and sheep - are kept in their hundreds for prestige.

But pride and honour are not enough for this women. They now throng the banks to receive their pay for monthly milk deliveries.

Milk in the Maasai community is purely a women’s affair, and so is this cooperative society’s management.

The institution’s turnover has shot from Sh59 million in 2012 to Sh87 million last year.  Started in 2011, their first turn-over was Sh10 million, according to documents seen by Seeds of Gold.

The 5,000-member cooperative brings together seven women groups that deal in milk business in Kajiado Central. Interesting to note is the manner the institution manages its affairs. The women groups deliver milk to eight collection centres spread across the vast constituency.

“We deliver the milk between 6am and 2pm. Our members chose one of them to be in charge of the collection centres but a clerk manages the records at the cooling plants,” says Phyllis Matapash, the secretary of Ilkipirash Women Group, which has 1,000 members.

Initially, they had leased two cooling plants from New KCC. The County Government of Kajiado, however, recently donated two more. The cooling plants located at Enkorika Nkoile, Il Bissil and Kajiado town, have bettered the handling of milk, which is finally taken to the New KCC factory at Dandora.

The four cooling plants have a capacity of 20,000 litres per day but the women are capable of producing 40,000 litres, according to the cooperative’s field officer Zacheus Lesinko.
At the moment, milk prices range from Sh25 to Sh35 a litre, according to Ruth Maya, a member of Ilkipirash group, who delivers 150 litres per day from her 25 Sahiwal breed cows. 


“We deliver as a group about 7,000 litres of milk per day during the peak season,” says Mary Maren, another member of the group and an official of the cooperative.
The cooperative insists that each of the farmers opens a bank account.

“All the 5,000 members have bank accounts from where they can withdraw money or borrow short-term loans to finance education of their children, particularly girls. It is our ultimate goal to empower the girl child,” says Hellen Nkaissery, the patron and wife of the local MP Joseph Nkaissery.

In the region, the Sahiwal breed which is productively better than the local Zebu and Boran cows seem to be the dominant “animal of trade” even as the women set eyes on more improved breeds.
But how did these women brave the resistance from their husbands who naturally wanted to stick to the traditional zebus for prestige that comes with numbers?

“Women got the go-ahead, especially after our husbands saw the fruits of the change,” says Mary.

The cows, though, are yet to gain from seriously organised management programmes. “We herd them in the traditional style, but ensure we rotate in paddocks to have pasture throughout.”
Mary says they are now embarking on pasture growing to ensure their milk production is not affected.

Initially, the farmers used to milk their cows and hawk the produce from home to home at Sh20 a litre.

But now after milking, they deliver the produce in cans to collection points where it is checked for quality and the quantity is recorded.

“The cooperative has given the farmers a forum to discuss and exchange experiences and network. It has also given them bargaining power since they can even dictate the prices,” says Hellen.
“With the county government coming in and giving them cooling plants, they can sell their milk to KCC and other buyers.”

Hellen notes they have strived to upgrade the handling of milk to enhance hygiene. “We insist that our members use aluminium containers and not the plastic ones to increase the life of the milk,” she explains.

Poor road network, however, has become a hindrance for the women who are forced to use motorbikes to deliver milk from their homes.

Governor David Nkedianye says there is a plan to rehabilitate rural roads to ease the transport problem.

“Our support began with the donation of the two cooling plants. Then we will move to the roads. Already, we have donated a piece of land in Kajiado town to have the women construct their head office,” Dr Nkedianye says.

The cooperative is in the county government’s economic empowerment programme. The County Executive in-charge of Trade, Tourism, Cooperatives and Industrialisation Florence Mutua says the cooperative has a real potential to turn around the local economy.

“We have set aside about Sh50 million to support the women and others. Our key objective with this dairy project is to ensure they produce milk throughout the year and not just when it is raining,” says Florence.

The officer says plan is underway to have the women adopt new breeds and modern farming practices like zero-graxing. “We want to have more paddocks and plant exotic grass to boost milk production.”


Friday, October 17, 2014

Charcoal and sawdust keep my crops healthy

Grace Githaiga harvests capsicum and spinach, which she grows in greenhouses in Nyeri. FAITH NYAMAI | NATION 

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The two greenhouses measuring 22 by 72 metres each on the outskirts of Nyeri Town are full of lush crops. On one side of the greenhouses are capsicum plants and on the other spinach.

Both crops are flourishing, making many visitors ask the owner of the farm, Grace Githaiga, about her secret.

The secret lies in strange quarters as we came to learn. Grace applies in her farms charcoal dust, sawdust, organic manure and fertiliser after every three planting seasons, an art of farming she says helps her to grow healthy vegetables and reduces costs by nearly half.

When Seeds of Gold met Grace recently, she had just arrived at her farm from a market in Nyeri where she had gone to supply vegetables to traders.

This was her third week of harvest. Grace walked to a tap outside one of the greenhouses, opened it and let water flow to the plants. She uses drip irrigation, which helps control the amount of water the crops get.

“I use sawdust to retain moisture in the soil and the charcoal dust to keep diseases and pests at bay. I mix the two with manure and apply on the farm a week before I plant,” says Grace, who learned the art from agricultural officers at Wambugu Agricultural Training Centre in Nyeri.

She then adds DAP fertiliser a week after planting. But the fertiliser is in much smaller quantities because of the manure use.

“This helps the crops, particularly, spinach to grow very first. I normally start harvesting in about a month.”

“Spinach grows fast because it absorbs plenty of water from the soil and there is enough circulation of air. Capsicum matures in about two to three months,” the farmer, who has erected her two greenhouses on part of her quarter acre, says.

Prof Mary Obukutsa, Head of Horticulture Department at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, says charcoal has carbon that makes soil more fertile.

“There is scientific evidence that when charcoal is applied to soils, it significantly increases crop yields and improves soil fertility. Charcoal dust also helps in decreasing nutrient loss through leaching by percolating water,” she notes.

“The pores in charcoal provide a suitable habitat for many micro-organisms by protecting them from predation and drying.”


The organisms are important in processing rich compost manure. According to the don, charcoal increases Cation Exchange Capacity, a factor that influences soil fertility by increasing the ability of the soil to retain nutrients so that they are not washed away by water.

Prof Obukutsa further observes that adding small amounts of sawdust to the soil increases organic matter and improves texture.

“Sawdust takes time to decompose, thus, it works well in moist, heavy soils like clay. Sawdust also acts as a bulking agent, allowing air into the soil. It takes approximately a year to transform raw sawdust into finished compost.”

She adds that sawdust, especially from hardwood trees like walnut, acts as a natural weed killer and keeps away pests because of its acidifying effect on the soil. It is also good choice for mulching. Mixing charcoal, sawdust and organic manure makes the three complement each other and optimise the benefits, according to the expert.

Charcoal will help to increase the pH, which is normally reduced by sawdust to levels that are optimal for nutrient availability.

“Mixing manure with sawdust reduces the effects of the latter on nitrogen depletion in the soil as it decomposes. To reduce these effects, it is recommended that you let the sawdust simmer in the compost pile for some time before using it in the garden,” she offers.

The three materials further improve soil structure and aeration leading to increased nutrient uptake and good root development.

Grace started her agribusiness in 2011 after investing Sh640,000, part of which was her savings while her husband provided the rest. She was working as a secretary at Pamki Coffee Farm (previously Kyanyange Coffee Farm) in Nyeri before she resigned go into farming.

The method of farming has helped her cut costs. 

“I do not spend a lot of water to irrigate my farm since the charcoal dust and sawdust help to retain moisture in the soil. Before I started this method of farming, I would spend up to Sh6,000 per month on water. I now spend Sh2,500 on water bills and Sh3,500 to buy fertiliser, manure, sawdust. I rarely spray the crops with pesticides because they are not attacked.”

She gets the charcoal dust from dealers in Nyeri Town, which she mixes with manure and saw dust in the ratio of 1:1:1. She measures the ingredients in a 20-litre bucket.

For her two greenhouses, the farmer uses about five 90kg bags of each of three materials.

“But I also apply inorganic fertiliser to enhance growth of the crops since it helps to increase nutrients in the soil that manure does not have.”

She harvests 70 to 80kg of capsicum and 60 to 75kg of spinach twice a week. She sells a kilo of capsicum for Sh40 at wholesale price, while a kilo of spinach at Sh50. This brings her earnings to about Sh50,000, much more than what she used to earn when she was employed.

Grace practises crop rotation, where she replaces capsicum or spinach with tomatoes. Last season, she planted tomatoes and was harvesting five to seven crates of tomatoes per week.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Steps to take before restocking your chicken and growing fodder


My name is Patricia Mwangi. I have leased an acre where I am planning to plant the new bean varieties from Egerton University. How many kilos would I need for an acre and at how much? I would also like to know where I can get them. The land is not contaminated as it has never been cultivated before.

You will need to plant 24 to 25kg per acre and the seeds cost Sh250 a kilo. Please talk to Prof Paul Kimurto of Egerton University on [email protected] for more information.

Muriuki Ruth Wangari, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils,
Egerton University

I wish to learn how to make organic fertiliser from poultry manure since I keep layers. Where can I get the knowledge?
James, Ruiru

Just like commercially prepared synthetic fertiliser, chicken manure is very high in essential nutrients and serves as a soil amendment by adding organic matter.  Organic matter in soil improves water and nutrient retention and, therefore, the use of manure is an integral part of sustainable agriculture. The institution that can offer training in the manufacture of organic fertiliser is Kenya Institute of Organic Farming.
Ronald K. Kimitei, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University

We are interested in growing stevia on 22 acres. We kindly need information, from getting seeds, transplanting to marketing.
Maulid J.T.

Stevia is propagated from seeds planted in trays in nurseries or greenhouses for seven to eight weeks, then it is transplanted to the main field. The plant grows well in altitudes of at least 1,200m above sea level and in soils rich in organic matter. It grows well on infertile, acidic, sandy and loamy soils, but it can also be cultivated on more neutral soils of pH 6.5 to 7.5. A density of 60 plants per acre planted with well-decomposed manure gives the best yields of up to 8 metric tonnes per hectare per annum. Optimum rainfall of between 1,500 to 2,000mm per annum, well-spread throughout the year and average temperatures of 10 to 30 degrees Celcius offer best results for stevia. Depending on different climatic conditions, stevia is cultivable throughout the year except when it is extremely hot or cold. Stevia is rarely affected by pests and diseases thus farmers don’t incur extra costs on agro-chemicals and crop protection. Stevia is an emerging crop in Kenya and is currently promoted by a company in Kericho called Pure Circle. You can reach them for more information on production and distribution on +254 0518002540,, Email: [email protected]
Lilian Jeptanui
Egerton University, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils

My name is Gichuki from Ruai, Nairobi, and I would like to know where I can get stevia seeds or plants. 
You can contact your nearest agro-dealer or Horticulture Crops Development Authority (HCDA) for the information. Also talk to Pure Circle Kenya on +254 0518002540.
Muriuki Ruth Wangari, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils,
Egerton University

PhD in agribusiness
I would wish to pursue a PhD in agribusiness since I believe this will enable me to do what I love most — coming up with solutions to help small-scale farmers. I hold a Bachelor in Commerce degree, marketing option from Kenyatta University, and an MBA, entrepreneurship from Maseno University. Besides, I worked for over seven years with NGOs that promote food security among the rural poor before joining banking sector in 2009. My question is, with my qualifications and experience, do I qualify to do a PhD in agribusiness? I believe it is still a very lucrative field.
David Moi WasambaEco Bank Branch Manager
United Mall Branch, Kisumu

Please visit the Egerton University website for more information on qualifications for PhD programmes in agribusiness in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management. Meanwhile, your request has been sent to the department for further consideration.
Seeds of Gold Team
Egerton University
Kindly advise me on the preparation of land and how to plant the Boma Rhode and other related grasses. When is the best time to prepare for the planting? I am based in Kitale.

If you intend to cultivate the pasture on virgin land, you need to prepare the land by ploughing and harrowing twice. On previously cropped land, you will need to plough and harrow just once. Planting is then done at the beginning of the long rains season in April so that weeds do not interfere with the growing seeds or one can plant during the short rains season. This will take care of the weeds once the rains subside. Planting can be done using the seed drill, a machine that sows the seeds (0.5 to 1kg per hectare) and then covers them. The other option is broadcasting in which seeds are mixed with sawdust. It is recommended the seeds are covered with a maximum of 2cm of soil to ease germination. The farm can also be fertilised during planting using DAP fertiliser or manure. Returns depend on pasture management, the most important being weed control with either herbicides or hand weeding.

Dr Moses Olum, Veterinary Surgeon,
University of Nairobi,
[email protected]

I learned recently that there is a vaccine for the deadly East Coast Fever (ECF). I would like to know if the vaccine is currently in the market and if so, is it available in Kitale? How can farmers get it?
Paul Inyangala

There is a vaccine that has been available since the 1970s. It was produced by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (formerly Kari) and was launched for use in 2012 by the Director of Veterinary Services. It is a preparation of the causative agent of ECF and must be administered concurrently with Oxytetracycline at the right dose. It was not widely adopted earlier since it has to be transported in liquid nitrogen, which is expensive compared to other vaccines. The vaccine offers protection for between three to four years when properly administered and is now widely used in East Africa. Animal health service providers have to undergo one week training on how to safely administer the vaccine.

Dr Moses Olum, Veterinary Surgeon,
University of Nairobi,
[email protected]
I want to restock my layers. What should I do before I bring in the new birds.

Before you restock, you must first disinfect the poultry houses thoroughly, and change the bedding materials. Thereafter, put in the chicken and monitor them to see if they have any sickness before you later mix them with others. Always remember that sharing food and water between healthy and sick birds leads to contamination. That should never be practised. Any bird showing signs of sickness must immediately be isolated from the rest. Transfer of drinkers and feeding troughs across poultry units can also lead to spread of diseases. These equipment should be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis.
Seeds of Gold Team Egerton University


Friday, October 17, 2014

Buzzing noise that signals rich harvest

David Kithusi, the chairman of Oldonyo-Sabuk Mango Growers Group in Ukambani, examines a beehive. PHOTO | SOPHIE MBUGUA   NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Kongo Gaceke, which loosely translates to “thin head” in Kimeru, is a sleepy village on the slopes of Mount Kenya.

Facing the snow-capped ridges of the mountain in this village is a farm owned by Agnes Kendi.

For many years, she saw bees as a nuisance and a threat to anything that lived in her homestead. The insects would invade her home and settle on trees and even houses, sending animals and children scampering for safety.

“I would use pesticides to kill them and when it didn’t work, I burned them at night using paraffin. But the bees kept coming back.”

Today, Agnes is teaching fellow small-scale farmers why they should keep bees. 

So what changed? The member of Kangaita-Mkando Vision Bee Keeping Group learned the importance of keeping bees.


She is among the 22 members of the group who have benefited from Kenya Pollinator Project (KPP), which is working with farmers to promote bee keeping.
The project aims at raising the quality and quantity of crop production by creating awareness on the importance of bee-keeping.

“We started the group with the help of KPP to understand the benefits of bees, particularly as pollinators,” Agnes says.

Dr Muo Kasina, a senior pollination and pest management researcher at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, says bees are active agents of pollination, hence farmers who keep them increase their yields.

“Out of every 10 90kg sacks of beans produced on a farm, four are due to bee pollination,” Kasina says.

“On average, farmers reap 40 per cent of their net benefits directly from bees since they contribute to 85 per cent of all agricultural production,” Kasina, who is behind the pollination project says.
He adds that beans (any type) produce more seeds and protein content when pollinated by bees.

“Pollinated beans have a six per cent higher protein content compared to the ones not pollinated. Even if farmers use certified seeds, they may not get much if their crops are not pollinated, particularly, by bees.”

Fruits such as watermelons, according to the expert, depend 100 per cent on bee pollination as they have male and female flowers separately.

“We did field trials for 45 months where we planted watermelons. We covered five with a net and left the rest open. During harvest, the five did not have a single fruit but we harvested fruits weighing between 5 to 7kg from the ones we left in the open and were pollinated by bees.”

Some members of Kangaita-Mkando Vision Bee Keeping Group, who had stopped growing watermelon, have now embraced the crop after starting to keep bees.

Their bean yields have also increased, with farmers harvesting about 14 bags from an acre, up from about half.

The farmers sell their honey at Sh600 per kilo.

But it is not only Kangaita-Mkando group which has embraced bee keeping.

David Kithusi, the chairman of Oldonyo-Sabuk Mango Growers Group from Nzambani, Machakos has been keeping bees for the last eight years for honey and to pollinate his crops.

But over time, his bee population reduced, affecting honey production.

“The sweet smell from mango flowers has now brought them back. But black ants and spider webs can deter bees from getting into a hive.”

He says because of bees, his mangoes have become more uniform and bigger. “The yields have gone up. Initially, I would get about 30 fruits per tree in a harvest, but this has increased to more than 40.”

To get good honey and better crop yields, Kasina advises farmers to protect bees.

“Spray your crops mainly in the evening around 4 to 5pm when the insects are less active and have gone back to the hives.”

He adds that crop farmers should keep at least one or two bee hives in their farms.

“Have trees within your farm where the bees can get nectar. Indigenous trees and shrubs are good. They will ensure the bees will have enough food and thus better your crop yields.”


Friday, October 17, 2014

My farm machinery spin more options for farmers

Alex Adundo processes sisal on his lathe machine in his workshop in Kisumu. jacob owiti | NATION 

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Kibuye market in Kisumu is always as busy as a bee hive, both day and night.

Here, you can work for 24 hours, and the number of people who flock the market is huge, making traders sell their goods easily.

I found Kibuye the perfect place to put my workshop, where I mainly fabricate sisal processing machines for both local and export market under the business name Olex Technology.
I make several machines that includes a decorticator. The devices go for between Sh80,000 and Sh500,000.

The decorticator is used to strip the green cover from a sisal leaf and grinds the inner fibre into strands. The machine has a horsepower motor that uses diesel or petrol.

There is also the twinning machine which spins sisal fibres into thin yarns. It has a horsepower, electric motor, a fly arm, bobbin and a friction belt, among other parts.

The spooling machine, on the other hand, rolls different quantities of sisal for sale. It comprises of a two-horsepower motor.

I am a mechanical engineering graduate from Kisumu Polytechnic who loves making various machines for farm use. Since I graduated in 2004, I have always been thinking of how to use my education to make work easier in my society. 

My portable machines use either electricity, diesel or petrol. They consume an average of eight litres of petrol in eight hours.

But with diesel, the consumption is lower. A single head decorticator diesel machine consumes three to four litres for the eight hours. A double head decorticator consumes seven litres to 10 in the same hours.

The decorticator was the first machine I designed. I use locally available materials that include metal and motor to make the gadgets that I sell small ones for an average of Sh100, 000.
However, one can hire the machine for use at Sh300 a day

I make about five machines per month, mostly on orders.

To use the decorticator, you hold green sisal leaves and insert them halfway into the machine. It crushes the leaves turning them into fibre strands.

Besides the sisal machines, I also make bicycle water pumps and hydro floating pump for irrigating crops. A bicycle water pump retails at Sh15,000.

I have a website through which I market my products, but I get a good number of my clients through referrals. I also display the products in agricultural shows.


I get as many clients locally as from outside the country. My machines have been bought by clients from Nairobi, Migori, Mombasa and Baringo.

I have patented the sisal twine and a bicycle water pump because they are my own innovations. I have not patented the others because they are not new. I have just improved what is already in the market.

The main reason I came up with all these machines was to add value to the sisal plant and empower small-scale farmers, particularly in Western Kenya where sisal is grown.

Before I started making the machines, I was employed by an Indian family at a workshop in Kisumu as a technician earning Sh1,000 a day. It is here that I perfected my skills and learned most of the things I am doing.

We were mainly making machines for sugar companies. I worked for six months and in 2005, I went back to my village in Suba, Homa Bay County to plant sisal. I planted one acre but had problems selling it. It is then that I thought of making the machines, so I set up the workshop in Kisumu.

My initial capital was Sh400, 000, part of which was from my savings and the proceeds from my sisal, which I sold to a company in Homa Bay.

Some of the challenges I face include lack of finance to expand the business and failure to get qualified personnel. I normally get people from technical colleges but I have to take time to train them, which is expensive. Marketing is also still a challenge.

But I am grateful for the machines because in 2012, they gave me an opportunity to attend the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk show in the US. We were two Africans and I spoke about my machines. Currently, I am working on a weeding machine.

– As told to Everline Okewo

Are you engaging in any agribusiness. Tell us briefly via [email protected] Include your telephone number.


Friday, October 17, 2014

The loan that made me a thriving farmer

Peter Kanyi in his greenhouse in Kikuyu, Kiambu, where he grows capsicum. ANN MACHARIA  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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When Peter Kanyi took a loan in 2012 from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) to start a farming project, he wasn’t exactly sure how the venture would turn out.

Two years later, the success of the agribusiness project was recently on display at the Nairobi International Trade Fair.

Displaying the succulent capsicums was Rosemary Wangare, a marketer with Foliage Masters, the trade name for Kanyi’s agricultural products. She was showcasing one of the few successful farming projects funded by the YEDF.

The story behind the capsicums on display at the fair lay elsewhere in Nderi Village, Kiambu. On the leased three-and-a-half-acres, crops thrive, turning in an average profit of Sh20,000 a week.
It all started when Kanyi, a landscape architect, saw an advert in a newspaper inviting young people to apply for loans from the YEDF. He tried his luck.

“I was surprised when the officers from the fund came to assess my land, as well as my project proposal, and concluded that I qualified for Sh300,000 loan, which was to be paid directly to the company that was to put up two greenhouses, complete with an irrigation system,” says the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology graduate.

In the two greenhouses, he planted capsicums, which produce an average of 100kg per week. He sells his crop to hotels, supermarkets and companies such as Fruit Juice.

But it was not easy when he started. Kanyi lost his crops to powdery mildew that swept through his greenhouse destroying the capsicums.

“I was lucky that I had diversified. The losses put me down, but I was able to pick up through sales from other crops.”

With the returns from the greenhouses, he is comfortably able to cover his overheads, service his loan at Sh10,000 a month and keep a tidy balance.

“The biggest challenge in farming is market and knowing what is selling at what price at any given time. I’m constantly doing research and avoiding traditional outlets like open-air markets where farmers are at the mercy of traders.”

He points out that farming is capital-intensive and for him to make profit, he only goes for crops that will fetch over Sh100 per kilo. This is not likely to happen if one is dependent on the traditional markets.

“In the open air market, you find traders buying a product at Sh20 per kilo and re-selling it elsewhere at Sh120. The trick is to navigate through this web of traders and middlemen to get the end of the market chain. This is why I have a full-time marketer.”

He acknowledges that there are always many variables that often come into play, and which can easily shatter a farmer’s dream. These include new diseases and market glut.

To cushion himself against this, Kanyi does not rely on one crop. He also grows carrots, cabbages, sukuma wiki (collard green) and strawberries.


These are staggered all-the-year around. “I make sure every month I plant a little of everything. This ensures that every week throughout the year, I am selling something and I have cash coming in every week. It also makes the farm self-sustaining.”

Eventually, he plans to extend his farming to cover all the three-and-a-half-acres. One thing he has learned is that getting to the point of optimum returns is a long and painful process.

“Always start small and expand gradually. Don’t jump in expecting quick profits and remember at one time or another, you will burn your fingers. And when this happens, you must have the resolve to pick yourself up and forge ahead. In the long run, farming is rewarding.”

The 31-year-old consultant with Landscape Architects says farming comes naturally to him because his full-time job involves plants and moving the soil around.

Kanyi encourages the youth to embrace farming, pointing out that with a rapidly growing urban population, there will always be a market for food.


Friday, October 17, 2014

One more reason to grow the versatile bamboo

Esther Wairimu uses the bamboo feeding trough in Thika. PHOTO | FELIX MUGENDI  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Charles Thuo pushes the saw back and forth as it cuts through a bamboo stem resting on his lap.

He adds pressure on the saw completing the task in seconds. Thuo has done the job countless times, and that is why he has the confidence to put the bamboo stem on his lap and cut it.
The 38-year-old makes chicken and rabbit feeding and water troughs from giant bamboo trees in his Kahia-ini home in Kandara, Murang’a.

He begins by buying two-and-half-year bamboo stems from farmers at Sh200 each. “Stalks of this age are big enough for one to carve out the troughs. Their barks are hard, thus do not allow water to pass through, unlike the younger ones,” he says.

But Thuo doesn’t use just any bamboo; the green variety is best-suited for the work. It is hollow, unlike the yellow one.
Thuo cuts the mature bamboo stems into sizes of between 2 and 6 feet from which he makes the troughs. 

“Bamboo is also good because it has caps at the joints, thus, once I cut the stem, I remain with a complete feeding trough, with the sides well-covered.”
After he has divided the stem into pieces, he makes openings through which the chicken or rabbits would feed and drink.

“I use a hacksaw to do the work because an axe or panga may destroy the material or one ends up with rough edges.”
Thuo completes the work by smoothing the rough edges of feeding openings using sand paper.

The carpenter has been making the troughs since 2008. To begin the business, he invested Sh1,200 which he used to buy six bamboo stems.
Besides the troughs, he makes cigarette holders, piggy banks and hotel bill holders from bamboo stems.

He sells the products at between Sh50 and Sh500. “Piggy banks go for Sh50 each, cigarette holders and hotel bill containers Sh100 each while feeding troughs costs between Sh150 and Sh500, depending on the size,” says Thuo, who has been nicknamed Chicken Man because of his trade.


“I have been making the products for over five years now. This work is what earns me a living,” says the carpenter who dropped out of school at Class Six due to lack of fees.
Thuo, who also keeps chicken, recounts that he came up with the idea one day while carrying a mature bamboo stem.

“I remembered how we used to make toy vehicles from bamboo. It dawned on me that I could actually cut the stem and make troughs. I tried and saw it was a good idea and turned it into business.”

When he started, he was doing it on small-scale but production increased in 2012 when many people embraced quail farming, particularly in Murang’a, Nairobi and Kiambu.

“I raked in good profits when quails were the in thing, but business went down when farmers abandoned the birds,” Thuo says reminiscing that he would get farmers from as far as Nakuru ordering the feeding troughs.

“That time, brokers would come here, buy the troughs at wholesale price and sell to farmers in Ngong, Nakuru and Nairobi.”
Drop in business after people abandoned quails made him diversify to making cigarette holders and piggy banks.

“I sell the piggy banks and cigarette and bill holders to hotels and shops. Villagers buy the piggy banks.”

The carpenter, who now grows bamboo on his quarter acre, employs three casual workers to assist him ferry bamboo stalks from where he sources them.

He pays them Sh30 each. Each day, Thuo starts the work at 6am and makes 50 feeding troughs, 10 piggy banks and 10 cigarette and hotel bill holders by 11am.


Friday, October 17, 2014

How I moved on after the quail ‘madness’

Patrick Mutua at his chicken farm in Pipeline, Nakuru. CHEBET CAROLINE   NATION MEDIA GROUP

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About this time last year, quail farming was one of the most-sought after agribusiness ventures.

Many farmers went into the trade expecting to harvest huge profits as prices of both the birds and their eggs were high.

An egg was going for over Sh100 and a bird for up Sh300. Quail rearing was the business to go into for any discerning farmer.

Soon, however, the market was saturated and the quail bubble burst. Seeds of Gold caught up with Patrick Mutua, a Nakuru-based farmer, who was in the business, to find out how he is faring on.

“Quails ushered me into poultry farming, but I will not keep them again,” he says.

As you enter the gate of his home in Pipeline estate, which borders Nakuru National Park, one can hear his 1,000 indigenous chicken in different cages clucking.

“I used to keep the quails in the cages, which is why they are smaller than the normal chicken pens. They were hundreds of them but I have now turned a new leaf.”
Mutua went into quail rearing in 2012, injecting Sh100,000 into the business. He was among the first people to venture into the farming.

Having an incubator enabled him to sell both eggs and chicks.

“In late 2012 and early 2013, there was so much demand that my eggs and quail chicks were always booked in advance,” recounts Mutua
But things took a nasty turn in October last year when demand declined.

“Egg prices started to plummet, from Sh100, to Sh80, Sh60, Sh30, Sh10 and finally Sh5.”
In the about one year he did the business, Mutua says he made profit of Sh200,000.

“Had I known that the business would be short-lived, I would have reared chicken instead of quails.”


Having had enough, the farmer gave out most of his 600 birds to friends and ate others. He then moved to chicken.

“I already had an incubator, so I bought about 30 eggs from a supplier in Nakuru and started hatching chicks in February.”

Every month he sells about 150 chicks from Sh100 to Sh250 depending on the age. He also sells 20 to 30 trays of eggs a month for Sh450 each.
“With chicken, I am assured of a business that can sustain me for long. I learned my lessons with quails.”

Chicken farming, according to Mutua is not labour-intensive. One needs to feed them twice a day and clean the pens the same number of times.

“I give my chicken commercial feeds and supplement with sukuma wiki. I also follow strictly the vaccination schedule.”

Mutua says he learned three lessons from the quail business.

“The first one is, in farming, never follow the crowd. Second, do market research and talk to experts to see if your venture is sustainable and lastly, do not give up when your agribusiness fails.”
Dr Githui Kaba, a livestock expert in Nakuru, cautions farmers against rushing into agribusiness for quick profits.

“Quail business was good. The only problem is that many people went into it and flooded the market, which was small.”

He says that although indigenous chicken are disease-resistant, they must be vaccinated against Newcastle, fowl typhoid, gumboro and fowl pox, a disease that makes chicken go blind.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Five reasons to be in farmers’ association are way to go

Vitengeni Women Group members in Kilifi last month when they received goats donated by an NGO. PHOTO FILE 

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Most livestock farmers shy away from being members of associations.

A smallholder livestock keeper would rather go and sell his milk at the roadside as opposed to collection points run mainly by associations for better prices.

The good thing with associations is that they offer farmers the economies of scale. Unfortunately, livestock farmers are yet to understand the power of collectiveness and unity as pertains bargaining for higher prices for their produce.

The farmers lack information on potential markets and are sometimes stuck with their produce for weeks.

Last week during the Nairobi International Trade Fair, I had the opportunity to have a discussion with a registered poultry group, and surprisingly, they had been requested to supply approximately 200 trays of eggs per week to a certain company but due to lack of resources, they missed the opportunity.

If that was a collection of groups, the farmers would have certainly clinched the deal. Isn’t it strange that cash crop farmers have formed associations that have been working well for years yet this is not to be the case with livestock farmers?

What are the benefits of joining associations?

Easy access to markets: Associations are key in the value chain. They assist farmers to access markets and fetch good prices for their produce.

Bulk sale of produce is a major catalyst for good prices. For example, smallholder dairy farmers would benefit greatly from village dairy co-operatives as opposed to hawking their produce individually.


Access to new technologies and information: Farmers’ organisations are crucial points of dissemination of information. It has been documented that most agricultural research and advisory services are channelled through the associations.

These services include financial support from the government or private institutions. In addition, members can be selected to participate in development programmes, benefiting the farmers through acquisition of new skills and other incentives.

Drivers of change: Through the associations, farmers can come together to form a strong force to lobby for relevant policies.

In 2007, poultry farmers’ associations in partnership with the Ministry of Livestock Development formulated a National Poultry Development Policy, and they have been at the forefront lobbying for the adoption of this policy.

Access to funding: Associations can recommend their members to various financial institutions for loans. This would be advantageous to many farmers as expansion of their enterprises may have stalled due to lack of adequate funds. The groups can also give information on how and where to secure credit services.

Value addition: Farmers’ organisations do not only assist in the identification of markets but help in value addition. This can be offered in form of training or a common processing plant where farmers add value to their produce.

For instance, bee keepers associations are involved in the processing and packaging of their members’ raw honey before sale thus fetching higher prices.

Smallholder farmers are encouraged to become members of these organisations to reap and enjoy the fruits of their hard work.

Dr Muchunguh is a livestock expert, drmary.muchunguh@gmail .com


Friday, October 17, 2014

East Coast Fever: Here’s how to keep the disease at bay

Some of the cows grazing in Takaungu, Mombasa County, on May 7, 2014. East Coast Fever is one of the deadliest livestock diseases. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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East Coast Fever is one of the deadliest livestock diseases.

It is particularly virulent among exotic cattle breeds which suffer high rates of mortality. The disease has a devastating impact on the smallholder farmers because it can kill within three to four weeks of parasite infection.

The symptoms include swelling of the body lymph nodes.

In cattle, the disease is transmitted primarily by the brown ear tick (Rhipicephalus Appendiculatus), which attaches itself to the animal.
Signs to look out for

The first clinical sign of the fever in cattle appears seven to 15 days after attachment of infected ticks. This is seen as a swelling of the parotid (salivary gland), for the ear is the preferred feeding site of the vector.

This is followed by generalised swollen lymph nodes and fever, which continues throughout the course of infection with temperatures rising to 42 degrees Celcius. The rise in temperature is normally rapid.

The animal then lacks appetite, experiences difficulties in breathing, has soft cough due to accumulation of fluid in the lungs, blood stained diarrhoea, muscle wasting, nasal discharge and discolouration of the eyes and gums.

If not treated, the affected animals collapses and dies in three or four weeks. The farmer should also look out for sharp drop in milk in dairy cows to detect if the animal is sick.
How to prevent the disease


i) Regular dipping of cattle should be done. The cows can also be sprayed regularly with acaricides. This should be done on a weekly basis. But this rate has to be increased when tick infestation is high.

However, one should note that continued use of acaricides may lead to resistance of ticks and unacceptable residues in milk and meat. It is important to note the use of acaricides is expensive and poses a threat to the environment.

ii) Cattle immunisation: This offers life-long immunity to the animal. But it has not been adopted for widespread use because of logistical difficulties associated with production and distribution of a live vaccine and lack of commercial uptake.

iii) Integrated control: This is a more effective approach, particularly for dairy farmers.

The measures include effective fencing, pasture management, rotational grazing to reduce the level of tick challenge, selection of tick-resistant cattle, and new methods of immunisation.

With strategic acaricide application, this approach offers a more satisfactory method of East Coast Fever control. Several drugs are available in the market but their use is limited due to high cost.
It is also important to start treating animals during the early stages of the disease.

There are currently three drugs used for the treatment of East Coast Fever. These are Parvaquone (Clexon), buparvaquone (Butalex), and halofuginone lactate (Terit).

Prof Muleke is the Dean of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Egerton University


Friday, October 3, 2014

Technology firm Empire Microsystems to raise cash at NSE

An investor at the NSE trading floor during the opening of the Exchange Building in Westlands.

An investor at the NSE trading floor during the opening of the Exchange Building in Westlands. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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A technology firm has announced plans to raise capital from the public by selling shares to fund its expansion strategy.

Empire Microsystems plans to list on the Nairobi bourse’s Growth Enterprise Market Segment (GEMS), which is reserved for small and medium enterprises.

“The listing is part of our expansion strategy aimed at aligning the company with the growth in IT industry, as well as the boom in property and infrastructure space where we play a key link role between the two sectors and the end user,” Empire Microsystems chairman Julius Kipng’etich said in a statement.

The firm works with other technology firms like Huawei, Jamii Telecoms, Safaricom and Wananchi Group to provide last-mile Internet connections to customers.

In the past six years, it has connected 5,000 buildings and 50,000 customers to various Internet service providers.

Empire Microsystems says it has hired Equity Investment Bank as the lead transaction advisor and ABC Capital and Equity Investment Bank as co-sponsoring stock-brokers for the planned listing that is awaiting NSE’s approval.

The firm joins a list of others, including consumer goods and tank manufacturer Flame Tree, Mayfox and East African Data Handlers in plans to list on GEMS this year.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Banker bets on digital water meters to reduce leakages, beat vandals

Mr Stephen Muriuki, the managing director of Real Technologies, and a digital water meter. PHOTO | FAITH NYAMAI 

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Loss of water through leakages and defective meters has been a major challenge for both water suppliers and consumers in Kenya. How to control spillage and reduce cost has been a major debate, especially among urban households whose consumption of piped water is higher than their rural counterparts.

To curb this problem Mr Stephen Muriuki, the managing director of Real Technologies, has come up with digital prepaid water meters.

Though in its pilot stage, the programme which he is conducting across the country is introducing digital water meters which he says will solve the problem of water cartels and wastage. While the technology may not be new in Africa, it is new in Kenya and will help water companies and consumers too.

Water companies across the country lose millions of shillings monthly to cartels and vandals. A recent report by the government revealed that Nairobi Water and Sewarage Company alone has lost water valued at Sh2.1 billion. The report also unveiled rampant illegal water connections, especially in low income settlements.

Mr Muriuki, whose company is located in Nyeri town, said the idea of introducing modern water meters was born in July last year while he was still working as a cashier at a leading bank in the country.

“Doing my calculations and seeing how much money water companies were losing every month pained me a lot,” he said. “I also heard my friends complain of huge monthly water bills,” he added.

Mr Muriuki decided to leave his job and start Real Technologies, based in Nyeri town. He is the managing director of the firm. He started researching on how to bring a solution to many Kenyans suffering in the hands of water cartels and vandals.

“My research involved going across the country, more so to informal settlements in Nairobi, interviewing people and handing out questionnaires. ‘‘That’s when I realised that some people pay bills for water they have not used,’’ he said.

In some cases water companies do not visit homes to read water meters because of inaccessibility. In other areas meters supplied by companies are tampered with while others are stolen, making it difficult for firms to calculate water used.

Digital water meters will come in handy, he said. Customers buy tokens and load them into meters, cutting down the need to go to water suppliers’ offices. The meters allow water users to buy credit through bank cards, mobile money or pay directly to water companies.

They are set in search a way that when they are loaded with credit they open the valve and water flows. “In case of low credit or battery the meter will send signals to the consumer,’’ he said.

The meter also alerts the consumer and water company in case of leakages, helping them pinpoint where the problem lies. They also have proved to be tamper proof and all weather, Mr Muriuki said.

Several advantages

The meter has several advantages which include generating elaborate reports for management, giving maintenance schedules and preventing fraudsters from interfering with the water flow system,” said Mr Muriuki.

“Through this new technology companies will be able to get accurate bills, thus preventing the amount of water lost through leakages.”

Mr Muriuki said that he came up with the prepaid water metering system to balance the needs of urban dwellers against commercial goals of utility providers.

The prepaid meter has been successful in countries such as South Africa, Uganda and Namibia where companies are introducing it. If adopted, the gadgets will make water accessible to more customers at the utility provider’s rate.

He says that digital meters will be connected to water supplying companies and managed through a Meter Management System (MMS). The MMS is a centralised system which allows water firms to track records of all prepaid meters.

The meters will be mounted in people’s houses to prevent theft and damage. “Each also comes with a battery which lasts for six years,” said Mr Muriuki.

[email protected]


Monday, September 29, 2014

Second Global Innovation Competition launched in Nairobi

People go about their work at the iHub offices in Nairobi. Making All Voices Count launched the innovation competition at the centre. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Making All Voices Count has launched the second annual Global Innovation Competition in search of creative concepts that encourage engagement between citizens and governments.

The 2015 Global Innovative Competition seeks to give local and international innovators and entrepreneurs a chance to design solutions that stimulate dialogue and improve the relationship between governments and citizens.

Run and implemented by Ushahidi and partners from the Netherlands and the USA, the competition’s call for applicants was published on September 15 and will run until October 15.

The competition, which directs global attention on creative and cutting-edge solutions for local problems, including those that use mobile and web technology, strives to ensure that voices of all citizens are heard, and that governments have the capacity as well as incentive to listen and respond.

This year’s competition will focus on four things: Legislative Openness, Inclusive and Participatory Lawmaking, Sub-national Governance, Gender Equality and Building Resilience and Response to Humanitarian Crisis.

Stakeholders briefing

Speaking during a stakeholders briefing at iHub in Nairobi, Innovation Director Daudi Were said: “We are looking for the outliers, disruptors and rebels among us who will create out-of-the-box ideas that boost citizen engagement and government responsiveness. Think big, think radical, look at old problems with new eyes and listen to the stories largely untold.”

It was also confirmed that the competition does not necessarily take innovation to mean the fastest and newest innovations.

“Previous finalists used basic tools such as SMS and print news bulletins in their solutions. This year’s competition seeks entrepreneurs and innovators with easily deployable technology that is relevant to the cultural, political, economic and geographical needs of the end user,” he said.

An open online platform where applicants can upload their campaigns will be used for review and voting by the public. Contestants will be shortlisted and evaluated by a panel of judges and finalists will be awarded £300,000 (Sh42 million).

The grant will go towards facilitating the finalists in improving their projects or campaigns and help them attend the Global Innovation Week in Jakarta, Indonesia, for networking and mentoring.

The inaugural competition, where a Pakistani government driven innovation won the top prize, attracted 250 submissions and 60,000 online votes.

This year’s competition will feature contestants from Ghana, South Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, Liberia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mozambique, Uganda and Nigeria.

[email protected]


Monday, September 29, 2014

Nail artist hits on lucrative home-grown idea after stint abroad

God’s Favour Beauty Parlour founder Martin Ng’ang’a (right) doing a client’s nails at the beauty shop in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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When Martin Ng’ang’a got an opportunity to work abroad, he thought he had earned his ticket to success. But he would later find his fortune back home when he returned to operate a makeshift beauty parlour located at Bus Station in Nairobi.

Martin’s story is not unique but one narrated by thousands of Kenyans made to believe that prosperity lies abroad. Filled with the desire to better his life, he travelled to Dubai in 2011 to work as a security guard. At the time, he had more reason to believe that his life had reached a turning point. But he says this was not the case.

Although he earned a fat salary, life abroad was expensive, forcing him to live on a shoe-string budget.

“Most of the people who leave the country to work abroad can’t quiet admit it, but they are suffering. I used to rent a bed for Sh13,000 a month,” he says. Other than the high cost of living, he says he was frustrated with the fact that he could barely support his family.

“It pained me that the money I sent home wasn’t enough to transform my family’s life. My children were also growing up without me.” It was at this point that Mr Ng’ang’a made a decision to return home, amid opposition from his family and friends.

“I remember nobody came to receive me at the airport. They all thought I was insane. They couldn’t understand why I left a nice job to come home and wallow in poverty.”

Cash-strapped, depressed, jobless and hanging onto his meagre savings, Mr Ng’ang’a stumbled upon an idea that would later transform into a lucrative business.

“The idea (beauty parlour) came about in 2011 while I was taking a routine walk around Huruma in Nairobi. I saw young men doing manicure by the roadside,” he says.

It was then that he thought of venturing into the business. But instead of hawking around Huruma, he opted to find a shop in town. He linked up with one of the freelance nail artists operating from Huruma and rented a makeshift structure in the city centre at the bus station. This would mark his turning point.

Capital in hand, Mr Ng’ang’a rented the temporary stall for Sh10,000 but paid five-months rent upfront. He furnished the structure with Sh5,000 and invested Sh1,000 on nail polish.

“Nobody thought my idea was viable. Most people were surprised that a mature man like me would wash women’s feet and apply nail polish. But that didn’t bother me,” he recalls.

Today, his business called God Favour Beauty Parlour has grown beyond his imagination. From an initial eight clients, he now attends to 150 to 200 women daily.

Good client service, past experience from a second-hand clothes business he operated in Ngara before leaving for Dubai and innovation, he says, are the three key ingredients that have helped him thrive.

“We wanted to be different. So we started offering additional services like washing clients’ feet and offering massages for free before applying nail vanish.” This won him more clients, forcing him to increase the number of employees.

“In the beginning, I lost a lot of business because I had only one employee. I never wanted to hire more staff because I didn’t want to share the profits. But I realised I was wrong. Since I added more staff, we began to get more clients and the business grew exponentially.

“In this business time is of the essence. Clients don’t like to wait,” he says.

God Favour Beauty Parlour now has 10 employees. Mr Ng’ang’a operates three stalls in the city centre, although he still maintains his makeshift structure. Looking back at his journey and success, he advises youth opting for business to be patient and respectful to clients.

Cash flow

“Any business takes time before it grows. There is often a time where the business goes down and it’s at this point that it later springs up. But most people give up early. They should run the business for at least two years, observing and learning from mistakes, before they opt to quit.”

He also advises entrepreneurs to learn how to manage cash flow.

Mr Ng’ang’a pays his staff a 30 per cent commission per client. God Favour charges Sh100 for a re-varnish. From time to time, he can be found working.

He says that although he enrolled for a short training in beauty, he has learnt most of his skills hands-on.

Like any business, the father of four says, high employee turnover is his biggest challenge. But he has learnt to cope.

Since he opened his stall, he has seen more people open the same business next to his. But he says competition has only served to bring more clients to his doorstep.

[email protected]


Monday, September 29, 2014

Former guard living his dream of making beautiful gardens

Michael Kabiah, founder Mika Landscapers. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Michael Kabiah’s background is humble. He was orphaned at 16 and never made it to college like his peers. He, however, did not cast his fate to the wind and defied all odds to become an established entrepreneur.

After his secondary school education, his grandfather, who was left to care for him after his mother passed on, was adamant that he joins the National Youth Service (NYS) but Mr Kabiah was not for the idea.

Without much to do, he started planting flowers and trees on a two-acre piece of land allocated to him by his grandfather. His interest was not surprising to his extended family because since the age of six, he had been collecting and planting flowering plants at his late mother’s homestead.

He says he always wanted to make the environment beautiful through use of colourful flowers. He began selling flower cuttings but at the time, proceeds from his venture were not enough to put food on the table.

Mr Kabiah then went into construction and later got a job as a security guard.

“There was no satisfaction in those jobs and I was there for the money, which made me feel like my life was purposeless. It was not a good feeling,” said Mr Kabiah.

He decided to quit his security guard job. “Everyone thought I had gone crazy, but my heart was elsewhere. All I could dream of was flowers and making beautiful gardens.”

In 2011, he sought space on Outering Road in Nairobi where he began selling flowers.

“Aware that my survival relied on my marketing and sales skills, I would sell the flowers and ask the clients if they needed anyone to plant or care for them,” he said.

It was not long before he earned the trust of clients, and slowly his business began to stabilise after securing landscaping contracts. His first big job was at King’s Medical College in Nyeri.

“I used the photos of my first contract in landscaping to pitch to the clients buying flowers from my nursery. It was not easy because not many believed that I was capable of such flawless work. However, I managed to convince a number of them and slowly I built my portfolio, which did most of the marketing for me later,” he said.

This marked the genesis of Mika Landscapers. Four years later, Mr Kabiah is a happy man mostly for achieving his dream of owning a landscaping company.

“Most of the times, people resign themselves to fate which should not be the case. I am glad that I was bold enough to go after my passion yet everyone else made me feel like I was making a huge mistake,” he said.

Mr Kabiah has compensated for his lack of formal training in gardening and landscaping by reading widely. He regularly buys books from which he gets inspiration. He also gives attachment opportunities to trained landscapers, a platform he uses to learn more.

He says the number of contracts that his company has worked on since 2011 are more than 250. He acknowledges that the market is growing and that Kenyans are increasingly seeking landscaping experts.

His portfolio includes residential homes in posh areas of Nairobi, Ikon Gardens in Muthaiga and Nextgen Park on Mombasa Road, to name but a few.

He uses site plans to determine the layout of the gardens. Then a design sketch follows after which he consults a landscape architect for a 3D design.

Mr Kabiah says landscaping is an art of creativity because each project is unique.

“Landscaping is not an interior designing and decorating job where an empty room can turn beautiful in a matter of hours. As such, I make sure my clients are psychologically prepared for the wait it takes for a garden to take shape,” he said. “For instance, it takes three to six months for a new lawn to be lush with green foliage.”

He advises property developers to consult landscapers eight months to the completion date of a house. This ample time ensures the compound matches the standard of the house by the time owners are moving in. Besides, it increases property value.

A comprehensive project involves ground preparation, levelling, installation of garden lights and automatic irrigation system and planting of grass cuttings or seedlings. Once the grass is mature, various garden features like water fountains and man-made falls are installed.

For good practice, Mr Kabiah advocates for the use of processed organic fertiliser instead of animal manure to avoid transferring diseases to the garden. His monthly visits on projects he has worked on before ensures weed and pest control is carried out at all time.

“It is our policy to always keep in touch with our clients until we are sure that they are in a position to take care of the garden independently.”

For pieces of land with resident farmhands, MrKabiah trains them on how to best care for the gardens. A crusader of eco-friendly landscaping where clients are open to ideas, Mr Kabiah installs bio-digesters to recycle used water by channeling it towards irrigation and solar garden lights.

The cost for half an acre landscaping project lasting six months ranges from Sh500,000 to Sh3 million depending on design requested, desired flowers and number of garden features.

Although he has 10 permanent employees, when working on a number of projects concurrently he can have up to 100 people working on various grounds.

[email protected]


Monday, September 15, 2014

Credit mistakes startups must avoid or risk failure

Entrepreneurs should cushion themselves from the burden of debts to ensure their businesses succeed. PHOTO | FILE 

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Last week, Peter, a friend I met at an entrepreneurs seminar organised by Barclays Bank, shared with me how his business is on the brink of collapse due to bad debts. The trouble, he said, began immediately he started his supplies business three years ago.

Most of his competitors’ customers switched loyalty with very little persuasion. Little did he know that they came to him readily because of his willingness to sell on credit. In fact, as he later learnt, some of the clients he embraced were blacklisted by his competitors either because of late payment or exhibiting signs on financial distress.

Within few months, he ran out of money and had to borrow heavily to continue supplying and paying bills hoping that soon he would be paid and repay loans. Interest continued eating into his profit as cash flow often paralysed his operations before things went out of control last year.

To make the matter worse, he has no proper documents to take legal action against some of them as most deals were hurriedly made on a friendly note without written orders, signed delivery notes or any form of contract except word of mouth. This is a common problem affecting most entrepreneurs, especially startups without good credit policy.

Unless you are in retail business, most of your sales are likely to be made on credit. If left uncontrolled, debts or account receivables could be one of the most expensive elements of your business. If you have no credit arrangement with your suppliers, it practically means you borrow money to be paid with interest to supply your customers, who will pay you much later without interest. Worse still, you risk not being paid at all.

Most start-up entrepreneurs never give serious thought or consideration to the issue of debt collection until it becomes a monster and starts consuming them.

By then, they will probably have lost much in terms of high cost of financing, because they have to rely heavily on borrowing to stay afloat while chasing a difficult client for whom paying up is not a priority.

Experts agree that the process of managing account receivables is more than just calling customers to find out if the cheque is ready or when they will pay after delivery and invoicing. It is a rather technical process that should well thought out and documented before commencing trading.

Don’t be too desperate for a sale or eager to win a customer from your competitor. Establish a system of evaluating the financial history of a prospective client to better protect you from losing money on the back end.

Find out who else supplies them on credit and if necessary get recommendations from them. If the prospective customer has a bad credit history, don’t hesitate to demand full payment or let them know that you are not in a position to sell on credit. It is also important to set a credit limit for each customer depending on your own financial capabilities to reduce your exposure should payment delay or is not made.

Another common mistake I have found with most startups is extending credit facilities on friendly terms without proper documentation. This makes collection very hard and sometimes taking legal action difficult.

To safeguard your interest, it is always important to get all documents right from the start. Ensure there is a written contract and all orders are made on duly signed local purchase order before supplying.

Once you supply ensure they sign the delivery note and payment terms are clearly stipulated. These documents are very important should they refuse to pay and you have to involve debt collectors or take legal action.

Mr Kiunga is the author of ‘The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market’. Email: [email protected]


Monday, September 15, 2014

For this tech duo, there is no such thing as a dead computer

Tecno Brothers Company co-founders John Otieno (left) and Shadrack Maucha at one of their sales and repair shop on Kisumu’s Oginga Odinga Street. PHOTO | ELVIS ONDIEKI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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There is no such thing as a dead computer. That is what two repairmen in Kisumu will tell you if you ever suggest that you are about to dump your non-functional device. Any computer, they say, can be a source of spare components when another one develops a fault; something of death begetting life.

They call themselves the Tecno Brothers and though they have no blood ties, John Otieno, 37, and Shadrack Maucha, 29, have bonded in business since 2006.

Eight years later, the Tecno Brothers have grown from typical fundis to a company that sells computers and has the capacity to clinch contracts to install machines in any medium-sized institution. They say they currently make a net profit of at least Sh30,000 a month, which sometimes shoots up to Sh250,000. They also boast at least 10 clients each day.

They do not have any relation with the mobile phone maker with a similar name. Their name is an adaptation of “Techtronics”, what they had initially called their company.
You will find them in either of their two shops on Kisumu’s Oginga Odinga Street, grappling with all sorts of computer problems.

From 8am to 6.30pm each day, the two are repairing faulty computers, installing software on their clients’ machines, persuading customers to buy from them one component or the other, selling laptops and generally being e-doctors.

Rigorous as the business may seem, Mr Maucha quit his job as a tutor to embrace it.

“I studied electrical and electronics engineering at the Kisumu Polytechnic. Then I graduated in 2005 and got a job at Tigo Top Technical Institute in Kisumu in 2006. I was doing repairs as a side job but later I went into it fulltime because I felt I had to pursue my passion for electronics,” he says.

And Mr Otieno did not pursue a job related to minding companies’ cash flows, a profession he studied at the Kenya College of Accountancy.

“I graduated from the Kenya College of Accountancy as an accountant in 2003. My entry into the world of electronics was by chance because I used to live with the founder of Techtronics. Honestly, I did not know anything about computers and what happens inside them,” Mr Otieno notes.

Their meeting was also by chance. While Otieno lived with the Techtronics founder, Ibrahim Karani, he would interact with Mr Maucha for consultancy.

“While Maucha was still a tutor, we would approach him for solutions to problems that needed an expert’s intervention. That is how we built our friendship,” Mr Otieno said. He says in 2011 Techtronics gave way to Techo Brothers after the departure of Mr Karani to Nairobi.

“He realised that business was better in Nairobi, so he moved there. Luckily, he left us with the tools of trade and from there we were able to pick up. He left us with a lot of disused machines from which we would harvest components to repair other computers,” recalled Mr Otieno.

The two told Business Daily that what has kept them afloat is quality service to their clients. “Our workmanship ensures that clients keep referring others to us, which has seen us get a steady flow of customers,” Mr Maucha said.

Mutual trust is another value which they attribute to their success. They say despite having no written agreement on the business, they have never disagreed on how to share the profits.

“We also insist on obtaining genuine and reliable components so that whatever repairs we make last,” said Mr Otieno.

They have registered their company and file returns with the Kenya Revenue Authority in what they say is a bid to make them attractive to prospective tender issuers. Early this year, the brothers incurred what they consider the biggest loss they have ever made, amounting to Sh2.1 million.

“A businessman cheated us that he had got a local purchase order to supply computers to a girls’ secondary school in Siaya County. He called himself the project manager. We went out of our way and convinced suppliers to give us computers worth Sh2.1 million. He was to pay us after 21 days but we are just being taken round in circles ever since,” Mr Otieno said.

They say the incident made them “painfully” part ways with two workers they had employed to help them sell computers at their shop at Kisumu’s Mega Plaza. “We are now wiser. We can’t make a deal without background checks,” noted Mr Maucha.

Their growth plan is to import stock directly from China. “Buying through middlemen lowers the profit margin. We are looking forward to shipping in orders in bulk,” Mr Otieno said.

[email protected]


Monday, September 15, 2014

Community laundry lifts women out of poverty

Women do laundry inside Kiboko Estate in Thika. PHOTO | SIMON CIURI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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For over two decades, Caroline Nduta, a mother of five, earned a meagre Sh200 daily that hardly sustained her livelihood. Today, she is among a group of 15 women who have benefited from the growing number of gated communities.

What started off as a simple chore, knocking on every door looking for a cleaning job has now turned into a thriving venture as demand for cleaning services from the middle class surge.

“We started off by hanging around the estates looking for people who wanted their laundry done, but most didn’t trust us. Most of the time we went home with nothing. After some time, we started looking for work in factories,” Ms Nduta told Business Daily.

Their next destination was Jungle Nuts, a nut processing firm in Thika. Unable to secure jobs, they talked to Patrick Wainaina, the founder of Jungle Nuts to fund their laundry business. Mr Wainaina gave the women Sh500,000 to set up a structure within the Kiboko gated estate, offering laundry services to over 200 residents.

“We clean the clothes, iron them and package them and later deliver on customers’ doorsteps. We also do laundry for people outside our physical location. The charges are based on the bulk of the clothes to be washed,” said Silvia Mumbua, a beneficiary of the project.

“It was a delicate decision convincing the residents within the neighbourhood of the need to set up a physical location where their laundry could be done,” said Mr Wainaina during the launch of Jungle Nuts Foundation Initiatives.

“The first step involved lobbying for their registration and getting individuals who could vet them to know their background. We wanted to only work with individuals who had national identity cards for security reasons,” said Mr Wainaina.

Started six months ago, the laundry business has grown and the women each earn Sh500 on a bad day, and Sh800 when they have many clothes to wash.

Ms Mumbua said their main challenge is the high water and power bills. Despite the challenges, the laundry business has become a source of income for many single mothers. The women also do laundry for about 1,000 Jungle Nuts workers.

“Starting with Jungle Nuts employees was a good entry point given that we were assured of getting some money at the end of the day. This motivated us to stick around as the number of new customers grew,” said Ruth Wambui, a beneficiary of the project.

The women entrepreneurs are now eyeing more workers in manufacturing companies around Thika and students from institutions of higher learning with new laundry rooms.

They are also looking to enter into partnerships with companies in Thika to open up food outlets to serve the large population of casual and permanent employees who struggle to get affordable meals for lunch.

“Our main focus is to open more outlets and give more women jobs. We have identified the need for teamwork and we are ready to open more subsidiaries that can help scale up our profits,’’ said Lucy Waithira.

The business has a marketing manager and a secretary who oversee all transactions and divide revenue equally amongst the members. Mr Wainaina said there is a lot of potential in Kenya that can be actualised through financial support.

‘‘The profit factor should not be the backbone of any business, but helping when you can is key achievement any person should strive to pursue,” said Mr Wainaina.

As companies, we should focus on identifying talents and ideas that can be turned into businesses, he said. ‘‘This calls for collaborations that not only benefits individuals, but also help create positive change no matter how small it is.’’

[email protected]


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Group chat on Skype that gave rise to college

Star Institute of Professionals directors from right, Obuya Ochieng, Peter Kimilu, Kassim Masoud, Peter Muriithi, Shem Omunzi, Moses Kiilu and William Mwenda. Collince Gworo, is also a director in the college.  LABAN WALLOGA | NATION

Star Institute of Professionals directors from right, Obuya Ochieng, Peter Kimilu, Kassim Masoud, Peter Muriithi, Shem Omunzi, Moses Kiilu and William Mwenda. Collince Gworo, is also a director in the college. LABAN WALLOGA | NATION 

By Gitonga Marete
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On a hot afternoon at his Djibouti airport office, Mr Kasim Masoud logged onto Skype and connected with his colleagues in Democratic Republic of Congo, one in Dalu, and the other in Kisangani.

He cast a glance at the runway where passengers walked towards a plane, which was expected to depart for Nairobi in 15 minutes. The sun rays hit the tarmac with a vengeance, and the baking summer heat wave engulfed the travellers. He pushed his back on the chair enjoying the cool breeze from an office air conditioner.

The Skype feed came: “Hey guys, what is going on in Mombasa? We need to finalise this plan and capitalise on our synergies to build a formidable institution,” he said, recalling the years they had taught together in Mombasa, before securing jobs in the same company.

“The progress is impressive but we have a lot to do. We’ve been planning this for months but things seem to be moving slowly. Our colleagues in Mombasa should give us a comprehensive report by the end of this week,” Mr Shem Omunzi, in Dalu town, noted.

“Time is running out... remember, we’ve resolved to quit our jobs the moment we step back on Kenyan soil,” Mr Obuya Ochieng, in Kisangani, added.

The group chat had become a routine for Mr Masoud and his colleagues working hundreds of miles apart and in places that have five-hour time difference. However, they were not about to give up.

And although the chat would last for minutes for the young men working for an international maritime engineering company as account managers, it marked the birth of a training institute that is the talk of Mombasa today.

Resign from jobs

While Mr Masoud’s contract in Djibouti was expiring in a months’ time, Mr Omunzi and Mr Obuya would have to resign from their well-paying jobs and fly to Kenya to set up the college. That was two years ago.

“I was on contract for eight months and although I was coming back to continue with my job, I was not contented working for other people. I had the ambition to set up a business and I knew this was the opportunity,” Mr Masoud says.

In Mombasa, the trio teamed up with Collince Gworo, Peter Muriithi, Moses Kiilu, William Mwenda and Peter Kimilu, and pooled Sh4 million worth of resources to establish Star Institute of Professionals. The school trains accounting courses.

After obtaining relevant permits from ministry of Education, they scouted for an ideal location, which they say was challenging due to the design of many properties in Mombasa.

“We cannot say that our initial investment was sufficient but because we had a relationship with students we were teaching in various institutions before, we marketed for only three days and set off with 500 learners,” Mr Obuya, the administrator, says of the college that has churned out over 2,000 graduates within the last two years, and whose worth is about Sh10 million.

The school also offers business management, clearing and forwarding, shipping, human resource management, front office management and information technology courses.

“Since our interest is not only academic, we also have mentorship programmes for our students and seek job opportunities for them,” Mr Masoud says, adding that they offer consultancy in taxation, auditing, human resource management, restructuring and finance.

One of the most serious challenges facing group entrepreneurship is lack of focus by some members, and failure to strike a balance in leadership. To tackle this hurdle, the eight directors who own equal shares in the company say they have designated roles and nobody is senior than the other.

According to Mr Omunzi, they have braved challenges because of the respect they hold for each other.

“We all have a teacher-student relationship that continues even today since some of us are pursuing masters programmes in colleges where we also teach part-time,” Mr Omunzi says.

“We have specialised in different fields. We need each other. If we appoint a CEO, he might draw allowances that are not commensurate with the job, breeding discontent,” he adds.

Consult on all issues

Theirs is a unique model of administration that stresses the important role of college administrator who has to consult on all issues. Although Mr Masoud is the chairman of the board for instance, he also reports to the administrator on academic matters.

As they organise for their inaugural graduation ceremony next month, the eight have set their eyes on opening branches in Kilifi and Malindi to tap on the growing number of students from the two areas.

“Our dream is to open a university. We are determined to see that the institution is up and running,” Mr Mwenda says.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Man dumps ‘mitumba’ for cleaning startup

Infinite Cleaning Services Company founder, Mr Jay Govedi. The firm specialises in home and office cleaning. PHOTO | FRANKLINE AKHUBULA

Infinite Cleaning Services Company founder, Mr Jay Govedi. The firm specialises in home and office cleaning. PHOTO | FRANKLINE AKHUBULA 

By FRANKLINE AKHUBULA [email protected]

Ten years ago, Jay Govedi was earning a living selling second-hand clothes in Nairobi. However meagre the returns were, he had great hopes that one day he would create jobs for the youth. His investment of choice was clear in his mind, but lack of funds kept him on a short tether.

Determined to beat all the odds, he started making savings. And by the time he chose to go it alone, he had accumulated Sh100,000 which he used to start Infinite Cleaning Services Company in 2011. His entity specialises in cleaning items in homes and offices within Nairobi.

Mr Govedi used a half of the seed capital to buy a second-hand carpet washing machine. Through mutual agreement with his customers, Mr Govedi would often pick his customer’s vehicle as well as carpets from their house for cleaning.

Soon, his satisfied customers sparked a chain of referrals.

Today, for the three years he has been in the business, Mr Govedi has created a name for his business seeing him employ eight people. However, the number of workers increases upon demand. On average, each employee takes home Sh15,000 per month

The posh estates of Karen, Kilimani, Runda, Imara Daima, Donholm and Embakasi in Nairobi usually provide him with a reliable source of customers.

Customer trust

So what has been his business secret? Trust, he says, adding: “imagine a home-owner leaving his or her house keys to your staff for a whole day only to come in the evening and find that you have done cleaning and everything is intact. This is what many customers have been missing,” notes Mr Govedi who also washes sofa sets.

Depending on the location, car owners usually part with between Sh3,500 and Sh4,000. For sofa sets, it will cost you between Sh5,500 and Sh6,000 for a five-sitter and between Sh7,500 and Sh8,000 for a seven-sitter chair.

His company will charge you Sh300 per square metre to wash your carpet, he said.

And since his job is cleaning, it is no surprise that his main customers have been women.

“We charge after the service. I also provide free advice on how to keep household properties clean besides attending to them at any location without any extra costs,” he notes.

However, quite often, mishandling of customer’s properties while cleaning them has proven costly.

“This is the most challenging area because you can pay more than what we may have charged just to assure our customers that their goods are safe under our custody during service,” says the 30-year-old.

Service is guaranteed

On a good, the company offers services at least three homes. “The less the customers you have, the better since good service is guaranteed. We are looking at expanding into Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Nyeri and Kakamega towns in two years.”

“We also want to engage the government to offer our services besides targeting private businesses. Ours speciality is home and office general cleaning”, says the business management student at Kenya Institute of Management.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Briton’s plan to help city travellers hire reliable taxi drivers

Mr Daniel Nordberg, a software developer and co-founder of Sasa Cabs. JEFF ANGOTE | NATION

Mr Daniel Nordberg, a software developer and co-founder of Sasa Cabs. JEFF ANGOTE | NATION 

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If you hire a taxi quite often, one needs a trusted driver. But when Daniel Nordberg called his trusted driver in the dead of the night, little did he know that he was in for a rude shock. The driver never turned up.

This forced him to call another taxi driver whom he was not familiar with and ended up paying more because it was not his regular customer.

Mr Nordberg, a trained software developer and his friend Sebastian Wichmann decided to come up with a software where one would be able to request for a number of taxis. This, they hoped, would help solve over-reliance on one taxi driver.

“There was a serious lack of availability of good taxi drivers. We decided to create one marketing umbrella, one booking platform for all independent taxis in Nairobi. From that idea, we expanded and created a product that makes it easier for people to get the cheapest and most reliable taxis,” Mr Nordberg told Money.

From their software product, customers scout for taxis from a smartphone application where they send a short text message to all taxis registered within a four-kilometre radius from one’s pick-up location.

“When the taxi men reply, our system chooses the cheapest and closest quote of the ones received and passes it on to our customer. The information then exchanged, the customer receives the taxi information and the taxi receives the potential customer’s information,” said the 33-year-old.

All this happen in a span of five minutes and the customer ends up getting the fastest taxi with the least price quote.

Move to Mombasa

“We can come for you even from the most interior place, so long as it is in Nairobi,” says Mr Nordberg, adding, “we are seeking to move to Mombasa, we already have 20 taxis in place at the Coast and we will start operating once we have enough taxis to cover the population in Mombasa.”

Mr Nordberg who is a Briton by birth but has lived in Kenya and other parts of the world, says it was easy to start business in the country due to mobile money transfer platform, M-Pesa: “M-Pesa makes it favourable for starts-ups in Kenya, it makes it easy for one to get paid and even calculate his turnover.”

“We are currently focusing on how to wow our customers which will culminate in business growth.”

Interested persons seeking to register their taxis under Sasa Cabs only need to have a valid taxi licence. Mr Nordberg says they have kept the entry barriers at minimum to encourage as many taxis to register. Already, Sasa Cabs has 300 taxis in its pool.

The taxi man gets 90 per cent of the profits while Sasa Cabs gets 10 per cent of the value of the deal.

Mr Nordberg and his business partner are also planning to remain ahead of the game by registering bodabodas which have grown in the recent past.

“We want to move to different vehicle classes, we want to establish this in bodabodas, pick-up, delivery vans within Kenya then move regionally.”


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You can hardly get it wrong with a lawyer when buying land

Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu inspects title deeds at Kilifi land registry offices. If you are buying a piece of land, you should ascertain authenticity of the target plot from the ministry of Lands with the help of an experienced conveyance lawyer. FILE | NATION 

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Within a period of five months starting November 2011, 500,000 acres of land were controversially acquired by 22 companies in Lamu County. How? One wonders. This is the question that has seen the government lock horns with land buyers.

On one hand, the firms say they acquired it legally. On the other, the ministry of Lands has been showing how the said land owners are ghost investors if not land grabbers.

Inevitably, as this war ensues, the unsuspecting small and medium land buyer who bought a parcel of the controversial block of land will inevitably be in for a huge loss. Evidently, land problem is not only constrained to Coast. Quite often, many investors across the country have found themselves caught up in a web of deceit that has come to characterise land business in Kenya.

Take Thomas Wanyonyi for instance. He had been saving Sh26,000 per month for two-and-a-half years in order to buy a plot of land and build his home. His pursuit neared fruition in June last year when he came across an ‘on-sale’ placard on a 50-by-100 plot in Kiambu County.

“I was confident that the plot was the best investment decision I could make. It was near the tarmac and the location was secure,” he says. He contacted the seller. “The respondent said he was the owner and we agreed to meet on the site with his lawyer and surveyor.”

Although Mr Wanyonyi had thought of hiring a conveyance lawyer to ascertain authenticity of the land, he was put off by his fees. “He charged Sh70,000. It was too much for me.”

His suspicion that his lawyer could have overcharged him seemed vindicated when he saw the land documents.

“They looked genuine with official stamp and logo. The seller’s lawyer attested to this,” he says. The surveyor explained how the land had been demarcated, erasing any iota of doubt in Mr Wanyonyi’s mind.

Out of excitement, Mr Wanyonyi handed the seller Sh600,000. “We signed an agreement witnessed by his lawyer and surveyor that I’d pay the balance, Sh100,000, on getting the title deed.”

Two days later, he called the land owner to find out the progress, but his phone was off. “Even the following day, his phone was switched off.”

Worried, he visited the site again only to find a new placard saying the plot was family land and the owner would not be responsible for any fraudulent transactions.

Hurt and in hurry to help salvage his case, he hired a conveyance lawyer who checked the plot’s ownership with ministry of Lands. “I was shocked to learn that I’d been conned. The land belonged to a different person.”

Mid-last year, Elsa Atieno was shocked to read an advertisement in the dailies saying that the land she owned belonged to Kennedy Onyango and it was up for sale by public auction in Kisumu.

On going to Kisumu lands office to verify its details, Ms Atieno realised that her particulars had been altered and the certificates had the name of Kennedy Onyango as its owner. The land was registered as Kisumu/Ojola/4330.

Although Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu and Kajiado counties have prevalent cases of fraudulent land deals, other parts of the country are not immune. Take Ol Kalou town, in Nyandarua County.

Since inception of county government, multiple cases of double land allocation, illegal land allocation, public land sales, and bloated land rates have come to the fore. Currently, residents in the town have been barred from buying, selling or developing land, pushing house rent upwards even as demand soars.

As Money found out, most of the land cases where buyers have been duped into buying non-existent plots, or acquiring doubly-allocated ones, have involved quick transactions devoid of verification.

Sell, buy history

Which begs the question, what can one do to steer clear of fraudsters? According to an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, Mr Murigi Kamande, conducting due diligence is very important.

“Begin by conducting a search to confirm genuineness of the title to find out the real owner,” he says.

Your search should start at the ministry of Lands. “Thereafter, you could carry out a physical search of the land to find out whether it is developed by anyone else or if there is a caveat on it. You should also ask about the land from neighbours who are likely to know its sell, buy and ownership history.”

If you are buying from a company, conduct a search at the company registry to establish if it exists and who the owners and, or directors are. When signing the land buying agreement, make sure that it contains your name and that of the seller, your identification details, the plot’s proper description, agreed buying price, mode of payment, any conditions that may accompany the sale and, or possible refunds, and the terms that will dictate its sale.

Mr Kamande notes that you should always be wary of land without a title deed.

“A fraudulent seller is likely to dupe you into paying the entire price if he or she does not have a ready title deed. If the land encounters issues thereafter, the transaction from him to you is bound to be difficult to push through.”

Similarly, potential land buyers ought to demand that sellers provide them with land rate and land rent payment receipts.

“Always ensure that the seller has fully paid any pending land rates with area county authorities. The rate receipts should contain authentic details of the land owner,” Mr Kamande says.

Often times, this is a process that many land buyers are unwilling to undertake.

Get lawyer through referral

While a buyer may opt to get a lawyer, many others have no idea how or where to get a good lawyer as Japheth Okinyi who is searching for a 40-by-80 piece of land in Kajiado says: “I have been presented with five offers but I don’t know how to authenticate them. I fear that I may get a lawyer who is out to take my money without conducting due diligence.”

Similarly, land buyers think that lawyers are expensive. But according to Mr Kamande, the best way to get a good lawyer is through referral.

“A good lawyer must have a proven record in conveyance,” he says. The minimum cost that many will charge in Nairobi is between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000. “There are those who will include this fee in total cost of the entire land transaction,” Mr Kamande notes.

Despite the cost, a land buyer will hardly get it wrong with a lawyer. “He’s well versed in the subject and will be better placed to abort any booby traps.”

Essentially, your lawyer will prepare a document that will transfer all rights regarding the land from the seller to you.

“This document should contain passport photographs of you and the seller, your ID or passport numbers, signatures, PIN numbers and should be witnessed and certified by your respective advocates,” Mr Kamande says.

Apart from a conveyance lawyer, you will benefit by hiring a registered surveyor with a proven track record on land deals.

“The surveyor should identify and verify the land beacons and check whether they are correctly marked at the land’s office,” says Isaya Oketch, a land surveyor in Nakuru. This will enable you to see the land on the ground, know how it is shaped and where the boundaries are.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Busia’s dairy farmers milk benefits of ‘achak’ weed

Cows feed on a dairy block made from achak. It reportedly increases milk production in pedigree cows. PHOTO | EVERLINE OKEWO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Henry Musungu walks the breadth and width of his one-acre farm in Busia County plucking  the leaves of a weed. From afar, one may think he is clearing his farm of the unwanted plants. But he has use for them.

“These weeds are ingredients for animal fodder,” he tells Business Daily as he stuffs them inside a sack.

Until two years ago, Euphorbia heterophyllus popularly known as achak in local dialect was considered a wild poisonous plant. But for Mr Musungu, the plant acts as a component of dairy feeds which not only boost milk production but the animals’ health.

“I have started domesticating this plant because when my cows feed on it, the litres of milk I get per day triple,” says Mr Musungu.

The plant grows between 30 centimetres and 70 centimetres in height and has no petals. The weed has flowers which produce seeds that are planted directly into the soil.

Dr Geoffrey Kamau, a senior researcher at the Kenya Agricultural Institute (Kari) says the weed which  is common in western, central and eastern parts of Kenya is palatable to livestock.

“We analysed samples of the plant in 2010 through a project on local innovations,” he said. Dr Kamau says the feed sample was analysed from a farming group in Busia called Pembe Tatu.

The group was combining achak, Desmodium, maize and Leaucaena to make a local dairy meal to boost milk production. “I use the plant to make a dairy block which my Friesian cow consume,” says Mr Musungu.

He says in 2009 when he was grazing his  three Friesian cows, he noticed that they preferred a particular weed that flourishes in the bushes. According to Mr Musungu, whenever his cows fed on the wild weed, the amount of milk he got per day from each cow would increase five-fold.

Since its approval by Kari in 2010, the weed has drawn the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture which is encouraging farmers to embrace and domesticate it. The name achak is coined from a Dholuo word meaning milk. This is because of the white liquid content produced when its leaves are cut.

“Achak is green. It is a leguminous crop and the roots have nodules hence its ability to fix nitrates and improve soil fertility,” he says. He says when the leaves produce a white content which is rich in iron hence its capacity to increase milk production in dairy animals.

“We have  about 30 farmers embracing this crop. I uproot the seeds of achak weed from the nearby bush and replants them. The seeds are planted directly into the soil and takes about one week to germinate,” says the 39-year-old. “I can start feeding my cows on achak after one month,” he says.

Kari trained Mr Musungu to supplement the weed with other products. To make a  dairy block, he mixes achak leaves with Desmodium plant and mixes it with molasses grass scientifically known as Mellenis minuti flora and sweet potato vines. The mixture is dried under a shade and is taken to a posho mill for grinding.

“Mix the flour with water, add molasses and then put in a mould. The mixture, now in form of brick is dried under a shade for about one week. Agricultural lime is used to make it compact. The cows can then lick it.”

Unlike before when he would spend a small fortune on feeds, Mr Musungu currently spends only Sh1,500 both for animal feeds which are now readily available and treatment.

“Previously, I spent at least Sh8,000 a month on the two Friesian and Zebu cows. The litres of milk I got did not match the expenses incurred on animal feeds,” says Mr Musungu. Most farmers fed their animals on napier grass and supplemented it with dairy meals which were expensive for small scale- farmers in the region.

“A 90 kilogramme bag of dairy meal retails at Sh4,000 and one cow can consume one bag in a fortnight. This is very expensive for low- income earners,” he says. He says despite spending too much on the animal feeds, the milk he got was still much below his expectations. According to him. He says 27 litres was too little.

Thanks to the innovative achak dairy block meal, milk production has increased between 35 and 40 litres per day from each cow. Initially, he would get between 20 and 25 litres of milk per day.

[email protected]


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Roles business owners should play for growth

Success or failure of business startups depends on how effectively the business owner implements his vision and systems before seeking help from consultants and employees. PHOTO | FILE 

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A certain lady who wanted to start a business while working asked a business guru, "What exactly does the owner of business do to ensure success of an enterprise?"

The guru replied, “The business owner does only three things. First, they set the overall vision and strategy of the business and communicate it to all stakeholders. Second, they recruit, hire, and retain the very best talent for the business. And finally they make sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”

The lady seemed not satisfied with the answer. She wanted to hear something to do with delegation. For she wanted to get tips on how to delegate operations of her business to an able manager and keep her job until an opportune time.

“Where does delegation come in?” she asked the guru. “Well, that comes only after you have performed the first three roles personally and effectively,” the expert said.

The business guru added that all business problems can be traced to a weakness in at least one of these three key functions of a business owner. In essence, nothing else will work optimally in a business if the manager fails in any of the three main roles.

Any startup business requires the touch and fine tuning of the owner before other people can step in to further his or her cause. Many start-up entrepreneurs make the common and costly mistake of delegating the operation of a venture too soon even before their vision and systems are established.

Setting the overall vision of the business is primarily your role as a business owner. You must decide which business you want to start, what you want to achieve and communicate it well to stakeholders so that they can support you.

Some people with high business ambitions go to consultants expecting miracles. They expect a total solution comprising of exactly the kind of business to start, how to start and grow it. This does not work in practice.

The role of a business expert is to help you refine your already defined goal. The consultant will guide on how to reach where you have chosen to go but not decide for you where to go.

The second function is also very important. To actualise your vision, mission and core objectives, you need a strong team of competent and dedicated staff. The people you employ are vital for the take off and growth.

If you employ incompetent or people out to hung as they look for a better job, you court trouble. Look for people who are trainable, are passionate and ready to grow with you.

The rise and fall of any business largely depends on the quality of staff hired and retained by the business owner. For example, the success and outcome of a school, hospital, or a restaurant does not depend on the buildings, assets, or even the owner. It depends solely on the quality of employees, who execute the owner’s vision and strategy.

Finally, cash is to a business what oxygen is to a human being. You need enough of it and in continuously orderly flow to function well.

Even if you have the best business plan and you have hired the best employees, you need enough cash to empower and facilitate them to execute your strategy. Employees get frustrated when they are expected to perform but have no resources. Undercapitalisation and cash flow problems are the major killers of good ventures.

Once you have effectively done these key functions, you can delegate, appoint board of directors, managers or simply call yourself chairman and watch your business grow.

Mr Kiunga is the author of The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market.

[email protected]


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nuts export ban opens the way for Sh400m factory

Deputy President William Ruto samples nuts during the launch of Wondernuts International’s processing plant in Athi River last week. Looking on is the company CEO Boby Thomas (centre). PHOTO | DPPS 

By Benson Kathuri

When the Wondernuts International processing factory was opened in Athi River last week, the event was not marked with pomp and colour like most that are graced by top politicians.

But two men, Deputy President William Ruto and Boby Thomas looked excited, although for different reasons. To Mr Thomas, the opening of the Sh400 million Wondernuts International processing plant marked the greatest achievement in his business endeavour spanning 15 years.

For Mr Ruto who commissioned the factory, a legal notice he signed during his short stint as Agriculture minister in 2009 that banned the export of raw macadamia, cashew nuts and bixa had borne fruit as it had sparked a transformation of the once chaotic nuts industry.

“It was not very easy. Some people even demonstrated against the export ban in the streets, but we were convinced that was the best decision for our country,” said Mr Ruto, defending the decision to ban to export of raw macadamia and cashew nuts.

Mr Thomas, who eight years ago put substantial amount of money in a cashew nut processing factory in Kilifi County, got the drive and confidence to scale up his investment and diversify into macadamia processing.

“Our products are now selling in major supermarkets across the world in Europe, USA and Asia,” said Mr Thomas.

“Our main customers are amongst the largest nut processors and users in the world including Kraft Foods North America Inc and Trophy Foods from Northern America, C. G. Hackings and Sons Ltd and Delinuts B. V from Europe and Regency Spices LLP from the Asia, making us one of Africa’s most successful nut exporters,” he said.

Wondernut started cashew nut processing in Kilifi 15 years ago. It remains one of the largest processors and exporters of cashew kernels in Kenya.

“We value our customers so much and have ensured that we always provide them with quality products,” he said. “Our macadamia factory in Nairobi is ISO 22000 compliant, equipped with all modern equipment and facilities. We employ 500 people on permanent basis and are guided by qualified managers.”

The entry of the new processor is set to intensify competition in the sector with farmers being the winners as prices are likely to go up while production growth remains sluggish. Competition is expected from Equatorial Nut processors, Kenya Nut and Jungle Nuts which are already processing nuts for the local and export market.

Wondernut and Jungle Nuts, however, might have a competitive edge as both are operating within the Export Processing Zones where they enjoy tax incentives and other facilities such as good infrastructure and cheaper electricity.

Mr Thomas says his company plans to integrate other oil crops and start producing macadamia oil next year. He believes the single act by the then Agriculture minister did not only boost Wondernuts (K) Ltd, but all the other six nuts processors, some that were facing closure due to low supply as most farmers exported them raw to Asia and mainly China and India.

Mr Thomas was among a group of stakeholders in the nuts industry that visited the then Agriculture minister to convince him that Kenya had the capacity to process all the produced nuts.

Mr Ruto then appointed a four-man taskforce headed by former Kilifi Cashew Nuts Company managing director John Safari Mumba to assess the situation and make a recommendation. The taskforce recommended a blanket export ban on raw macadamia, cashew nuts, peanuts and bixa.

According to the Nut Processors Association of Kenya secretary general Charles Muigai, production of macadamia has risen from 13,000 tonnes to 27,000 tonnes. Farmers’ pay has also gone up to Sh130 per kilogramme compared to Sh30 paid earlier.

“Our association has six member companies that process the largest volume of nuts produced in Kenya. We have combined processing capacity of over 45,000 tonnes of macadamia, 25,000 tonnes of cashewnuts and 20,000 tonnes of peanuts,” says Mr Muigai.

However, the industry suffered a major blow when the former Agriculture minister Sally Kosgey lifted the export ban for six months between December 15, 2010 and June 2011 in an attempt to mop out excess nuts that had caused producer prices to fall.

The six companies went to court to challenge the decision . Six other companies among them AfriChina International, Trima Trading, Top Nut, Dahiraa Enterprises, Hexin Kenya and Qwei Foods Products joined in, calling for the ban to be lifted permanently.

Court ruling

By the time the High Court gave a ruling, six months had lapsed and the ban still was automatically upheld though the new Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act (Act No 13 of 2013).

The Act that became effective on January 25 last year states in part, “A person shall not export raw cashew nuts, raw pyrethrum, raw bixa or raw macadamia except with written authority of the Cabinet Secretary issued with approval of the National Assembly.”

Mr Ruto has assured investors in the industry that the government will safeguard the industry that has employed over 10,000 people directly and supports over 20,000 farmers.

However, the processors have expressed concerns over the rampant smuggling of raw nuts that has seen the government intercept 90 containers destined to the Asian countries in the last one year.

“Smuggled macadamia nuts estimated at 25 per cent of our national production leads to massive job losses and loss of government revenue,” says Mr Muigai.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

To pay or not to pay goodwill: The tough choice for tenants

Most owners of business premises will ask for some goodwill amount from potential tenants. 

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When starting a new business, an entrepreneur needs to have enough capital for the initial stock.

But this is not the only dilemma that start-up businesses face, especially in major urban centres.

Besides the start-up capital, those who have to rent business premises are in almost all instances required to pay a "goodwill" amount.

In Nairobi, landlords are asking for up to Sh2 million as goodwill from potential tenants for an empty stall.

The new tenants have then to furnish the room to make it ready for business.

The term "goodwill" is used in business to refer to the assumed value of a business and its assets.

Business premises located in strategic places — such as on a busy street or on the ground floor of a building — attract huge goodwill amounts.

Though goodwill is not enshrined in the Landlord and Tenant (Shops, Hotels and Catering Establishments) Act, most landlords will require that it be paid before a tenant is given the keys to the premises.

Most tenants would, however, prefer not to pay the goodwill money.

This is because, contrary to its original meaning and purpose, most landlords ask for goodwill for empty buildings or stalls.

Most landlords ask for huge amounts in goodwill even on empty space

However, in most cases, tenants do not have much choice, because of stiff competition for business space.

James Kimani, a businessman in Nairobi’s central business district (CBD), says he has had to part with money in the form of goodwill to several landlords.

This money, he says, is never refunded once a tenant moves out of the rented premises.

As such, Mr Kimani is among many tenants who have lost their goodwill money to landlords.

“My understanding of goodwill is an amount you pay for an existing business that you can run as your own. We are, however, always being asked by landlords to pay them goodwill for a new stall that has nothing,” said Mr Kimani.

He added that the practice of paying the non-refundable goodwill has existed for a long time.

“Most businesspeople have now devised a way of recovering the goodwill amount when they leave their rented premises. They look for another tenant to whom they rent out the stall and who in turn refunds to them the goodwill they had paid to the landlord. The new tenant then continues paying the monthly rent,” said Mr Kimani.

According to Gichaura Wachira, an advocate who represents tenants and landlords in cases filed at the Business Premises Rent Tribunal (BPRT), goodwill is purely an agreement between the tenant and landlord that the tenant can choose to pay or not pay and opt for a premise that does not require goodwill.

“It is purely a choice and depending on how badly the businessperson needs the premises, one can choose not to pay and opt for (other) premises,” said Mr Wachira.

According to Mr Wachira, the only way to avoid extortion on the issue is to ensure the goodwill agreement stipulates key issues, such as the lease period for which the amount is valid.

“Since the law does not provide for goodwill arbitration, the agreement needs to mention that the amount is for a period stipulated in the lease to ensure the landlord does not kick out the tenant in favour of another one who pays a higher goodwill,” he added.

According to Mary Simiyu, who owns a business near the old OTC bus terminus in Nairobi, the trend has discouraged many young entrepreneurs who are unable to raise the required goodwill amount.

“It has become too expensive to rent a stall and this has contributed to the increase in the number of hawkers who would rather sell their wares along the streets,” said Ms Simiyu.

She added that a body ought to be constituted to regulate the lease terms given by different landlords to those intending to rent commercial spaces.

Traders have now formed associations to rent bigger spaces as groups so as to be able to raise the required goodwill amount.

Several buildings, mainly along Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue in Nairobi, have an open space that is subdivided to house different businesses.

Goodwill rates in the CBD range from as low as Sh100,000 to Sh2 million, depending on the location of the business premises and the distance of a particular stall from the entrance.

Along Race Course Road, the goodwill amount can be as low as Sh50,000 or as high as Sh600,000, depending on the landlord.

“Some landlords even increase the monthly rents without notice before the end of an agreed leasing period, especially if they notice an increase in the number of customers visiting your business,” added Ms Simiyu.

The tribunal that arbitrates disputes between tenants and landlords with lease agreements not exceeding five years has been of great help to tenants who face arbitrary rent increases or unlawful evictions.

Mbichi Mboroki, the chairman of the tribunal, said a landlord can only change the terms of an agreement if he or she gets a notice from the tribunal after having demonstrated convincing reasons for wanting to change the terms. The landlord must also comply with the requirements that allow for such changes.

“A landlord can apply to evict tenants if he wants to renovate the premises, but this can only be granted after satisfying certain requirements and having taken into account the agreement made with the tenants,” he added.

Mr Mboroki, who was gazetted as the tribunal chairman in February 2014, said goodwill is not illegal as long as a lease agreement is designed correctly and the tenant is willing to pay.

“The market has distorted the payment of goodwill from its original meaning of (the) amount paid for an existing business when transferring ownership to paying for a new premise.

“It is, however, one’s choice whether to pay goodwill or not, depending on the location (the tenant) is looking for,” said Mr Mboroki.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Counties pool resources to cope with doctors’ exodus

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Early this year, health workers at public hospitals expressed discomfort at the national government’s decision to devolve the sector and have them managed directly by county governments.

Despite their protests through union officials, the government went ahead and implemented the plan, explaining that the aim was to bring services closer to people.

What followed were mass resignations by senior doctors and other health workers from public health facilities.

Counties in western Kenya were among those badly hit after more than 13 senior health professionals resigned in February from public hospitals to join private health facilities and medical colleges.

The disgruntled workers cited poor working conditions and delays in salaries.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union secretary-general Fredrick Oluga, and chairman of the Kisumu Chapter of the Union of Clinical Nurses Eric Ondieki, confirmed that the resignation of the health workers were not only a result of delayed salaries, but also because of numerous other unfavourable workplace factors.

They singled out uncertainties about career progression, and interference in the delivery of health services by county officials. At the Kakamega General Hospital, seven out of 14 doctors tendered their resignation between November last year and February 2014.

At the Vihiga District Hospital, four doctors, including the medical superintendent and the only surgeon, resigned about the same time. At Kisumu County’s Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital, two doctors left.

Dr Francis Odira explained that he resigned as the medical superintendent in Vihiga to pursue other interests, such as going back to the lecture halls.

The matter has got area MPs looking for ways to reverse the trend, and learning institutions stepping in to locally train more doctors.

Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir said: “Devolving health (services) without considering the capability of the county governments was a major setback... In my own understanding, the transition was totally wrong.”

With that, he announced that a bill would be discussed in parliament to push for the reversal of the devolution of the management of public hospitals.

Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi, who is a member of the health committee in parliament, hinted at a possible return of the health sector to the national government due to failure by county systems to run the health function effectively.

In view of the ongoing, some counties have embarked on partnerships with higher institutions of learning and other investors to locally train health professionals so that the sector’s demands can be met.

Ten counties in western Kenya have teamed up with Maseno University to train health specialists. The move, it is said, will help address the doctors’ shortage in the region.

Under the arrangement, each county will sponsor some of its health workers for postgraduate training on Family and Emergency Medicine at the university.

The programme will be sponsored by the Massachusetts General Hospital of the Harvard Medical School, US, Sagam Community hospital and Funzo Kenya, an IntraHealth International-led project funded by the USaid.

Maseno and Funzo Kenya have dedicated Sh1.2 million to start the project. The university will be the first in Kenya to offer Family and Emergency (F&EM) Medicine training under one programme.

The dean of the School of Medicine, Prof Wilson Odero, said the course would train a cadre of physicians to effectively prevent and manage diseases at the community level.

“It is a concern that our county hospitals, most of which act as referral institutions, lack specialists in family and emergency medicine to provide first aid skills to patients before they can decide on the kind of operation or treatment to be administered,” said Prof Odero during the launch of the programme in Kisumu on July 24.

He announced then that eight applicants from eight counties had been admitted to start the course in September. Among the counties on board are Kericho, Bomet, Vihiga, Kisumu, Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Trans-nzoia, Bungoma, Homa Bay, Migori, and Busia.

The practical sessions will be done at Vihiga Referral Hospital, Siaya County Hospital, Maseno Mission Hospital and Sagam Hospital.

Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony confirmed that his administration would offer scholarships to some of its health workers to undertake the new course to increase the number of senior health professionals in the county.

“With this kind of partnership, the county governments will revolutionise the entire health sector in the next 10 years,” he said.

The five-year project aims to transform health worker education and training systems. The objective is to increase access and quality of training at the pre-service, in-service and post-graduate levels.

To qualify for the postgraduate course in family and emergency medicine, one must be a doctor with three years’ working experience.

Additionally, the County Government of Vihiga has set aside Sh100 million for expansion of the existing Kenya Medical Training College in Mbale town. Work begins this month and will be completed before end of the year.

The expansion, said Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga, involved training more health workers to avert the looming shortage of qualified medical staff in the county.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

More employers take to graduate trainee schemes

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A google search for “graduate recruitment in Kenya” yields over three million results, most of them from companies declaring themselves the best place to begin a career.

From March to June, many company representatives visit universities to sell themselves as the choice employer.

This has become the main way for many companies to fill up entry-level positions, choosing from thousands of students who graduate each year.

For university students, the last year of school is a time of rigor, attempting to be the best in order to catch the eye of at least one of the HR managers who come calling.

The recruitment is thorough, involving several levels of tests and interviews. The first would be an online application, where companies weed out graduates who lack the minimum requirements.

These minimum requirements are academic and experience based. For example, at Centum, the requirements are usually a minimum of an A- at high school, and a minimum of Second Class Honours (Upper Division) at undergraduate level.

This first step alone is enough to weed out many prospective candidates.

The second level involves an online aptitude test, where the candidates face a series of questions that do not involve any pre-existing knowledge, but rather, innate skills that the candidates should have acquired over the 16 or so years of school.

Depending on the particular company and the skills they need, this step could be broken down into more steps, including detailed essays on the company and the particular role. The candidates who make it past this step are then invited to the company for an in-person interview.

This is sometimes a group event, whereby the candidates are divided into groups of six to eight. A business case study question is posed to them and they are observed as they attempt to solve it. This is to test how they work in groups.

The successful candidates after this stage – meaning that they have good grades, have the technical know-how and can work well in teams – then proceed to one-on-one interviews, or are interviewed individually by a panel.

The ones who make it through this process are usually in for a wholesome learning process once they join the companies concerned.

Centum, for instance, takes in its 2014 graduate trainees at the end of July. The trainees are then enrolled into a departmental rotational programme that seeks to ensure that they gain an understanding of all the business processes.

Centum’s management says that the programme places heavy emphasis on developing the graduates’ leadership potential by assigning them mentors and coaches at each of the functional areas.

Centum, a regional investment firm, has invested in this process to ensure a steady stream of capable graduates in its team.

The result of the graduate programme is usually a cadre of smart, driven and most importantly, well trained young professionals, on which a company builds its future.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Don’t let your past define your future

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If all you can talk about today is what you used to do or who you used to be, it is obvious you are not doing much today.

You are stuck in the garden of your own success.

Many people, companies and even nations. get stuck in their past. The greatest deception about progress is thinking it has been made when in reality, there has been a lot of motion without progress.

Meanwhile, others are stuck in something totally different: their failures. They use failure as their yardstick and use it as a reference point for everything else.

Every idea or opportunity is interpreted within the context of their last failure. I cannot imagine the number of people who are today not stepping out to do something new because they are not giving the new a fair hearing.

They are always interpreting it from a position of yesterday’s failure.

There is yet another category: people who are stuck in the failure of others. They have only heard stories of other people’s failure and have based their lives and decision-making on that. 

The big question is, how do we get unstuck? How do we move out of the limitations that our past and present have imposed on our future? How do we live the life we were born to live in spite of the experiences we have undergone?

It all starts with the mind. Never allow your mind to get stuck in success or failure. Neither success nor failure is permanent. If we do not allow our minds to move on, we get stuck.

One of the greatest attributes of the human mind is its ability to paint pictures. This is called imagination – creating images in your mind. Then there is the function of the mind that creates pictures. This is the memory.

If we get too stuck in our memory, we render our imagination impotent. If we get too lost in our imagination, we will make the same mistakes over and over again.

We need to get to a point where we strike a balance between memory and imagination – where our memory should not to hold us back, but rather, propel us in a new direction that will avoid the pitfalls of the past but help reach out for future opportunities.

Relevance is not a function of how good or bad you are right now, but of how fast your mind can conceive what tomorrow will be like. Your vision of where you are going must be greater than the comfort of where you are if you are to make progress.

Your vision of where you can be must also be greater than the pain you have been through. In essence, your imagination must be more active than your memory. Your expectations must outweigh your experiences.

Every success you experience is not a destination. It is a point on the way to greater success. Each failure you experience is not a destination. It is also a point on the way to greater success.

It therefore follows that success and failure are really not opposite sides of a coin. They are merely destinations on the way to greater success. The confining power of failure or success comes from how they are interpreted.

Wherever you are stuck today, remember, there is more to you than meets the eye. Reach out for where you can be. There are people who failed more than you and still went on to succeed greatly. Similarly, there are people who succeeded more than you and went on to achieve even greater success.

You are on a journey. You will never stop until your mind stops. The engine for getting unstuck, therefore, is your mind. Never let it stop creating pictures of where you can be.

Dr Wale, an organisational and personal development coach, will be talking more on this subject at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi on Saturday.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Professional maturity comes through patience

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When a person’s professional life is like a catalogue of success, curiosity is bound to get the better of observers.

Such curiosity takes us to the office of Eng Job Ndege, the managing director of Protocol Solutions, a fairly new ICT firm in East and Central Africa.

His education features Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, University of South Africa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of Nairobi’s Faculty of Engineering, and Alliance High School.

Eng Ndege was the first black African to be awarded Africa’s Satellite Engineering Personality of the Year, a recognition he got in 2011 from SatCom Star Awards. This is an annual competition that recognises exceptional talent in satellite engineering.

He was the also the first to win the award at an age below 40. Before taking up his present job, Eng Ndege had worked at Afsat Communications, a company he had joined in 2000. Afsat Communications later rebranded to iWay Africa.

Internet connectivity was still a new idea in Africa then, and Afsat had less than 100 customers.

In the decade under his stewardship, the company amassed over 60,000 corporate clients across 41 countries in Africa. For that, the World Communications Association in 2007 named Afsat the “Best Operator in the Developing World”.

Before iWay, Eng Ndege had been at Dyepol, also an entrepreneurial ICT firm, and at Huawei. How has he done it? First things first. Eng Ndege, 43, begins by giving a hint about his personality.

He describes himself as a “situational extrovert”. He says: “I am a very quiet, shy person, but when necessary, I become the outgoing person who is the life of the party.”

From his office in Westlands, Nairobi, the engineer says that “challenging” does not describe his journey to the top. For him, it is good education, persistence and patience.

From an early age, he says, he had made up his mind to know all there was about telecommunications. “I not only wanted to be the best technical engineer, but the best administrative engineer, so I planned and worked along that plan.”

After sitting his Certificate of Primary Education examinations, the knowledge-thirsty Ndege was admitted to Thika Technical Institute for his O-Level schooling. It was this institution, he says, that made him fall flat “in love” with what has become his career.

“By the time I was in Form Three at Thika Technical Institute, I had been taught enough to dismantle a car engine and wire a building,” he recalls.

In 1987, after four years in secondary school, Ndege enrolled at Alliance High School for his Advanced Level education, majoring in Maths, Physics and Chemistry. He emerged the ‘Best science student’ in 1988.

While many people would credit his marks to high intelligence quotient, he disagrees, saying:

“You have to give anything you do your all, such that if it fails, you know you did all that was within your power… Luckily, much of my hard work has always been rewarded.”

Ndege’s leadership qualities started to show when he became the chairperson of the University of Nairobi Engineering Students Association. He had joined the university in 1990 to study electrical engineering. He majored in telecommunications when he got to Second Year.

As chairman of Engineering Students Association (ESA), he teamed up with other students, among them the current Mukurweini Constituency MP Kabando wa Kabando, and helped to form the Student Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu).

It was during the two-year stint in student leadership that, he says, he resolved he would always aim to be at the managerial level of any company he worked for.

“I scoured around for any tips that would aid me to that position, and I discovered it was education, persistence and patience,” he says.

In the three companies he has worked for, Eng Ndege swears, he has refused to be poached by rival companies. He spent 13 years at iWay Africa and five at Dyepol.

“It takes about five to six years for any entrant professional to master his or her career and develop a niche. You have to be patient to achieve that professional maturity,” he advises.

The engineer adds that any job, no matter how mechanical, is a project and the human resources component plays a very crucial role.

For this reason, he took up postgraduate classes on human resources management, communication and finance.

Vice President Biden also spoke at the the Business Forum today, describing the strengthening relationship between the United States and Africa and highlighting the economic progress across the African continent.“You many need to hire a creative for the communication department, and you need to learn how these people operate,” he reasons.

The engineer says he tries to balance being an analytical perfectionist that comes with his job and his social life.

“One mistake in an engineering design and you put the lives of people using a building or a satellite device at risk. That calls for perfection, something I am not apologetic for.”


Friday, August 1, 2014

What you must do to get high yields from sheep and beans


Our farm is in Ndaragua, Nyandarua County. We currently have Merino sheep but they offer little economic value. We want to sell them all and begin taking sheep farming with the seriousness it deserves. We want to know what sheep breed will earn the most returns and what rearing practices we need to adopt and where is the potential market. I am also considering rearing rabbits, what is your advice?
Kavoi Maina

Ndaragua is in Nyandarua County in the north, where it borders Laikipia County. Climatic conditions of the area are an amalgamation of both the wet conditions characteristic of Nyandarua and hot conditions of the Laikipia County. Initially, Merino sheep were kept for their wool, which over time has lost market due to importation of cheap clothes. Compared to other breeds, it is relatively low in mutton production consequently lowering expected income.

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Oljoro Orok sub station has breeding stock for Corriedale and Hampshire Down where you can further inquire to purchase stock. Corriedale is a dual purpose breed, being a cross of Merino and Lincoln sheep. When well-managed, it is a good producer of both wool and meat.

On the other hand, Hampshire Down is a meat sheep and is also a crossbreed of Hampshire and South Down breeds of UK. Both the breeds are good grazers and can do well in climatic conditions and terrain in Ndaragua. Mutton market is readily available from local and external butchers abundant in Nyandarua and Laikipia. Rabbits will also do well in Nyandarua and its surrounding.

Wangui Chege,
Egerton University
[email protected]


Of the three new bean varieties from Egerton University, which would do well in Nyahururu and how many kilos per acre? Gacanja

Egerton has three new bean varieties namely Chelalang, Tasha and Ciankui for medium and high potential areas.

In slightly high potential areas like Molo and Nyahururu, we recommend you plant Chelalang. For an acre, you will need to plant 25kg, costing Sh250 per kilo and will yield between 800 to 1,000kg if you manage it well by controlling weeding and spraying against insects.

Prof Paul Kimurto,
Director of Agro-science Park
Egerton University

I am very excited to learn there are more-improved high-yielding beans variety like Chelalang and Tasha. I have three-quarter of an acre in Banita, Nakuru and would like to plant Chelalang variety around mid-August. How much seeds would I need for this acreage? What’s the best spacing and where else in Nakuru can I get the seeds other than Egerton University? 

Sammy Kimotho

Egerton varieties are now popular among farmers and seed growers under contract farming after signing an agreement with university through Agro-science Park to enable Kephis inspection.

On an acre in Banita, we recommend you grow Chelalang or Tasha and for your three quarters of an acre and you need 22kg at a cost of Sh250 per kilo. Egerton bean seeds are distributed by Mea Ltd Nakuru, Menengai Veterinary Nakuru and Faida Seeds. Please Get in touch with me in case you have a problem on 0725309162.

Prof Paul Kimurto
Director Agro-science Park
Egerton University


I have quarter an acre. I have subdivided a section for sukuma wiki and I want the rest to plant traditional vegetables, especially managu, cowpeas and sagaa. Where can I get high quality seeds.
James Ongeti

Kenya Seed Company would be most ideal for good quality seeds of vegetables
Seeds of Gold Team
Egerton University

Agriculture course

Kindly furnish me with a course that can help me learn about dairy, poultry and potato farming and any other course that would assist in production and trade.

Collins Odhiss

The suitable programme for you depending on your qualifications will be diploma or BSc in Animal Sciences, Agricultural Extension and Education or Agriculture, all of which are offered at Egerton University. For further details, kindly visit the university website at
F N Kigen, Animal Science Department, Egerton University [email protected]

Dairy farming
I am keen to start dairy farming in Kabarak where I have an acre. Already, I have established underground water tank and bought three Ayrshire heifers and five dairy goats for a zero grazing unit with a store to hold 500 bales of hay.

I will be selling the heifers soon. My house, underground tank, zero grazing unit and hay store sit on quarter acre. Kindly I need your assistance in the following areas.

a. Where to get Ayrshire breeds and Saanen goats of high genetic potential that can yield between 20 to 25 litres and 2 litres of milk per day respectively.
b. To establish a standard zero grazing unit and milking parlour for cows and goats.

c. How to utilise my small piece of land to plant animal fodder.

d. How to make bunkers for feeds.

e. Where to fetch good price for milk (both cows and goats). Currently I am told one litre of milk fetches Sh50 in Nakuru and a litre of goat’s milk goes at Sh75.


I will first direct you to Aryshire Cattle Breeders Association of Kenya offices housed at Kenya Breeders Association in Nakuru ASK grounds where you can obtain details on where to get excellent cattle. Again, kindly contact Nyanza Dairy Goat Association who are the breeders of Saanen goats in Kenya.

About construction of a modern zero grazing unit for cattle and goats, maximising pasture production and construction of feed bunkers, you will need to consult an animal scientist who will visit your farm and guide you on both the site and appropriate ways and technologies to maximise output from your farm and animals.

The animal scientist may also offer ideas on how to add value to your dairy products to maximise returns and profitability from your farming. Such animal scientists are at Egerton University, Department of Animal Sciences or your sub county livestock production office.

Wangui, James Chege
Department of Animal Sciences,

Egerton University
[email protected]

I need Normande or Girlando cattle

Please advise on where I can get the Normande X, Girlando, Sahiwal, Zebu, Friesian or any other heifer crossbreeds that can survive in dry places, with higher productivity. I would be so grateful for your assistance and guidance on this.


Kindly note that there are no commercial farms producing sufficient Normande or Girlando cattle in Kenya for sale but one can get the Sahiwal cattle from Kari Naivasha Farm and other ranches in Laikipia, Kajiado and Nakuru where you can also source crossbreds of Zebu with Boran, and Friesian with Boran.

It is important to give your farms location for easy direction. I advise you to visit the offices of Kenya Breeders Association in Nakuru ASK grounds where you can obtain further details on these cattle breeds.

Musyoka Duncan Mbai, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University
[email protected]


Friday, August 1, 2014

Small animals with five yields, big cash

Stanley Rono in his rabbit farm in Bomet. ANDREW | NATION 

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Some years ago, rabbit keeping was a children’s activity, with many keeping the animals as pets.

However, with most people embracing rabbit meat and more opportunities arising from the animal’s by-products, farmers are now making good money from rabbits.

Stanley Rono is one such a farmer. For many years, he was struggling with maize at his semi-arid home in Siongiroi, Bomet until he heard of rabbit urine fertiliser.

Still undecided on when to start keeping rabbits, Kenya Com Rabbit Consortium Ltd (KCRC), which makes the fertiliser, set up a small factory near his home.

“I did not need any more convincing that I should start keeping rabbits. I knew I would get money from the animal’s meat, fur, manure and urine,” says Rono, who bought his first brood of 40 rabbits in December last year from a neighbour at Sh200 each.

“To start selling urine, one needs at least 20 rabbits. I had the numbers since my rabbits had multiplied in the previous months to 100.”
He has a simple hutch made of timber and wire mesh where he keeps 130 rabbits that produce up to 15 litres of urine daily.

He feeds them Black Jack and Pig Weed (Amaranthus). “When I feed them on grass, they produce less urine. Black Jack and Pig Weed are the best.”
Since he started, he has supplied over 1,000 litres to the company.

He also sells each rabbit at Sh800 each to farmers and hotels. The last time he sold in June he earned over Sh50,000. Robinson Runyenje, the director of KCRC, says they picked on rabbits because they are easy to keep and to encourage farmers to use the organic urine fertiliser for planting.

“The fertiliser is made from a mixture of the rabbit urine and compost manure made from cow dung, wood ash, and foliage from plants. The mixture is put in a special digester and what comes out is an organic fertiliser called Rabbit Urine Extra.”

Rabbit Urine Extra contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium as well as several macro-nutrients that are important in keeping plants healthy,” Runyenje says.

The company’s coordinator in Bomet, Moses Langat, says they have registered more than 600 members who currently have over 17,000 rabbits.
“Some farmers will get over Sh100,000 each. We buy at Sh100 per litre of urine from farmers.”

To tap rabbit’s urine, a hutch is constructed in such a way that the urine seeps through the wire mesh into corrugated plastic sheets, to the gutter and finally into a bucket.


“It takes three to four rabbits to collect a litre of urine per day,” says Agnes Sorim, the co-ordinating director of KCRC.
She adds the fertiliser can be used as an insecticide in both vegetables and maize farms. The urine should be mixed with water in the ratio of 200ml to 20 litres. This is able to spray an acre of land.

The liquid fertiliser, which is sold at Sh650 per litre, is produced through an organic process that takes one-and-a-half months.
To get high quality fertiliser, farmers are advised to feed their animals with dry matter, which also helps in fattening them.

Evans Kiplagat, a livestock production officer, encourages farmers to get into rabbit rearing.

“The bunnies reproduce very fast thus multiplying one’s stock is easy. One then gets fur, skin, meat and urine. Not many animals offer such high returns.”

A Kenya Agricultural Research Institute study shows that rabbit urine is a concentrated liquid manure rich in macronutrients for plants and soil.

Reports by Andrew Mibei, Magdaline Wanja and Caroline Chebet


Friday, August 1, 2014

How farmers can take Kenya to first-world

Israel Ambassador Gil Haskel. 

The wettest part of Israel is drier than Kenya’s driest areas yet the country is a net exporter of food and horticulture. Israel Ambassador Gil Haskel shared with Francis Mureithi the secrets Kenyan farmers can adapt to change their lives.

Q: Israel is a net exporter of food and horticulture, yet a good part of it is dry. What is it that Kenya is not doing right?

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions. Israel has invented and is still innovating technologies of how to grow more with less (more yield with less resources), through drip technologies, smart greenhouses and so on.

The idea is to widely implement these technologies, even though they might initially seem costly and complex, but in time pay themselves back.
Kenya should import these technologies, which are cheap, and spread them, with country wide extension services to assist and train farmers.

Only a nationwide, government supported, professional network will turn agriculture in this country around and elevate it to its correct position.

You are also big on fish farming. What can Kenya learn from it?

We have fish ponds in deserts, which to many Kenyans might sound strange. Fish needs good quality water, feeds and a systematic method of breeding. To make sure we have quality fish, we even cover the fish pond with shades.

We do breeds such as ornamental fish, cold water fish, tropical fish and water lilies that are exported to Europe fetching good money.

What is Israel’s biggest challenge in agriculture today?


Initially, the biggest challenge was how to transform the desert country into an agricultural country. That headache we have solved, but the current challenge Israel is facing is how its products can compete in the world market considering that labour costs are very high and the price of land is also escalating.

In Israel, unskilled farm labourer is paid Sh87,000 ( $1,000) per month while a skilled labourer is paid Sh870,000 ($10,000). That is why when you produce an apple in Israel, it is difficult to compete with the prices of an apple that is grown in China.

So how has Israel tackled this problem?

Our farmers, through advanced technology, have increased efficiency such that from one acre they are able to double their produce through irrigation and proper use of fertiliser. This is why a trader in Europe would still prefer to buy an apple from Israel because of its high quality.

What programmes does Israel have for Kenya’s small-holder farmers?

Our Agency for International Cooperation initiates and implements development cooperation programmes, through which Kenya’s smallholder farmers can benefit from our expertise and technologies that have assisted Israel in its path to development. They can also benefit from training in Israel on site and long-term demonstration projects.

The Israeli experts can also train farmers in Kenya on invitation on specific topics such as water management, agribusiness, vegetable production, dairy, aquaculture, horticulture, bee keeping, pest management and post-harvest management of crops.

What agricultural technologies can Kenya borrow from Israel?


The irrigation technology we have is undoubtedly one of the best in the world. This is one area Kenya should take advantage of and partner with Israel fully because a large part of the land in Kenya is still virgin with quality soils. This if well-developed can turn the country into a developed economy.

Israel is ready to bring its technology to Kenya and I would like to see it happening now that President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared Galana Irrigation Scheme one of the flagship projects of his administration. However, this would only be achieved if such an ambitious project is managed efficiently.

What specific measures has Israel taken to promote agriculture in Kenya?

We have exposed and trained thousands of Kenyans in the field of irrigation, water management and currently we have more than 100 Israeli experts in agriculture in Kenya.

Israeli companies are working hard to change the mindset of Kenyan farmers so that they do not rely on rains while they could utilise the rainfall by having water tanks, reservoirs and still practice drip irrigation and enjoy good returns.


Friday, August 1, 2014

From computers to greenhouses

Food Africa Enterprise Limited director John Maingi (left) in his farm in Kahawa Sukari, Nairobi with a friend Bob Martin Kinyua. ANTONY OMUYA | NATION 

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When Seeds of Gold meets John Maingi, he is ecstatic. He had earlier spoken to a high-profile client he had been introduced to and there were prospects he was going to offer him a job.

The client was a former government official who owns 10 acres in western Kenya. He was consulting Maingi on the best crop to plant this season.

And he had another sweet deal for him. He wanted Maingi to manage the farm. Maingi arranged to visit the farm in a week’s time for a survey before he could advise him on the way forward.

“Today is a busy day for me,” says Maingi as we settle down for an interview. That morning, he had spent some time in a five-acre farm in Kiserian where he is overseeing the installation of a full drip irrigation system for one of his clients, Kevin Salaash, 25.

“The system will be up in a week’s time, after which I will help him plant watermelons and later manage the farm.”

At 24, Maingi is the director of Food Africa Enterprise Limited, an agricultural company that offers services such as setting up of greenhouses, installation of drip irrigation systems, dam liners, fish ponds and soil and water sampling.

His love for farming began five years ago when he was a first year student at United States International University. What began as a side hustle to earn him some pocket money has crystallised into a full-blown business. When he started, farming was something he could do, but now, farming is the only thing he wants to do.

“I was watching a programme on CNN about young farmers in India. The young people had started small and were doing very well. Some of them were my age. Then I was 19. Their experiences jolted me. I soon after started to research on greenhouse farming,” says Maingi.

His parents, equally passionate about farming, were happy to support their son.

“I convinced my mother, my elder sister and brother to come on board. With a capital of Sh350,000, we set up two greenhouses measuring 30m by 100m in our compound at Kahawa Sukari, Nairobi and bought seedlings. At first, it was trial and error as we started with farming capsicum.”

The trial worked. They harvested five tonnes of capsicum and sold the produce to two companies, Fresh n Juici and Veg Pro, getting a profit of Sh500,000. Maingi did not need further convincing that farming is the ‘‘next big thing’’.

He set up his company in 2010, but he did not start with offering drip irrigation system services. He started with supplying food to restaurants and hotels around Nairobi. This opened his eyes to an untapped market of agricultural consultancy.

“I realised that greenhouses are expensive to set up for the common farmer because they could not afford the Sh300,000 on average companies are charging. I thought of introducing a cheaper option.

I partnered with a Turkish company, Vatan Plastic Istanbul, to provide farmers with cheaper polythene to set up greenhouses,” says Maingi, who searched the Turkish company online but met them for the first time in an expo last year.

The deal saw him start importing plastic materials from Turkey to make greenhouses for farmers at a cheaper price. To install a 5m by 10m greenhouse, he charges Sh95,000.

Having found market for the greenhouses, Maingi set to expand his business. His next frontier was learning how to set up drip irrigation systems that many small-scale farmers avoid because they are deemed expensive.

“Drip kit system is great for open field farming because it reduces the cost of labour significantly. Farmers stand higher chances of getting better yields from the irrigation,” explains Maingi, who got most of his knowledge by consulting experienced farmers, reading farming books and researching online. Drip irrigation costs Sh65,000 for an eighth of an acre.


Maingi says that a lot of farmers get into farming without consulting an expert on the basics such as what crop to grow and how to go about it.

“Before we start any project, the first step is to do a soil analysis and the second is water testing so that if there are any pests, they are killed before we start farming. If the soil lacks nutrients, we also know what to do to correct this,” he says.

“We don’t allow farmers to grow anything. We advise them on what grows best, at what time of the year and what fetches good prices.”

In the event that a farmer decides to farm in an area that does not have a constant supply of water, Maingi normally advises them to construct a dam.
“It is important to dig and set up a dam using dam liners, which are made from block polythene,” he says.

With an income of Sh500,000 per month, the computer forensics and cybercrime graduate has found his calling in farming and he is creating jobs.

“Many people who take up farming have made it their side-hustle alongside their busy careers. In most cases they are holed up in offices chasing their careers and they hardly have time to check on their farms as often as they would wish. Consequently, their farms are neglected and the return on investment becomes dismal.”

Maingi notes that such farmers need a manager who will check on the farm constantly and give a detailed report on the progress.

“We have ground agents who are agronomists who visit clients’ farms three or four times a month and give reports. Technology is the next frontier in farming and we have developed a mobile app that makes it easier for farmers to track their crops through photos sent from their farms in real-time,” he says.

Maingi has employed 19 workers, including 15 groundsmen, two technicians who survey farms and give recommendations as well as finance and marketing staff.

“When we get big jobs, the number gets higher because we sub-contract a lot.”

When business is good, Maingi sets up about 12 greenhouses in a month, two fish ponds and a dam in a week.


Maingi, who sharpens his agronomy skills by attending training sponsored by seed companies, also trains farmers on food safety, Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) regulations and basic agronomy. A week before the interview, he had attended training on soil and water sampling hosted by a company known as Crop Nutrition in Nairobi.

“It is important for any serious farmer to know about the GAP safety regulations especially if they want to target the export market.”

His clientele ranges from small-scale farmers who want to set up greenhouses in the compounds to women’s groups (chamas) and large-scale farmers.

“There are many opportunities in farming; you do not have to start big. Start at your parents’ kitchen garden. Once you produce something, you will see the benefits. A farmer will never sleep hungry.

If for instance I am broke today, I will harvest capsicums, sell them and get money to buy food,” he says.
So, shall he one day return to computer forensics?

“Not to fight cybercriminals. I will only go back to computers to figure out how we can use them to farm.”


Friday, August 1, 2014

Where dairy cows live on the fast lane

Mr Terer, a veterinary officer at Technology Farm in Njoro, Nakuru County SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION 

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Many travellers on the Nakuru-Njoro Road marvel at the black and white cows because they are spotlessly clean and have huge udders sagging with milk.
This is Technology Farm, where cows live on the fast lane, eating the ‘‘finest’’ feeds in life and getting the best treatment.

Technology Farm, which is managed by Rift Valley Development–Registered Trustees, has close to 1,000 Holstein Friesian pedigree cows.
David Cheruiyot, the manager of Technology Group of Farms, says all cows in the farm are divided into groups depending on their production and reproduction stages.

This is well-documented and is registered with the Kenya Stud Book.

The expectant cows are the most pampered. They are separated from the main herd two months to delivery and placed into what is dubbed as the Maternity Wing.

Here, they are watched round the clock and treated to specially prepared, highly nutritious feed rations in preparation for calving and milk production.
Then there are the milk producing cows, which are equally treated well to maintain high production.

The 2,700-acre farm has a Sh20 million milking parlour, complete with a 15,000-litre cooling tank.
The last categories are the less producing cows and calves, which also have their own sheds.

“We are a free range farm because we have a vast land although we are now introducing zero grazing. The cows graze in open fields in the farm and at the Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology (RVIST), which is our sister institution.”


So, besides the separation of the animals, how does the farm keep them happy?

“The cows are bathed at least once a week, their hooves are trimmed regularly while those on a pilot zero-grazing project have bedding,” says Cheruiyot.
“There is no need to bath the animals daily since they are free range and they always have clean grounds to rest on.”

The animals are fed on commercial dairy feeds, which are supplemented by silage and fodder.

“Friesians are great feeders. We cannot sustain them on dairy meal only. We grow maize and sorghum from which we make silage,” says Cheruiyot, adding that the farm has a storage of 3,000 tonnes of silage, which can sustain them for a year.

This excludes hay and other fodder crops on the farm.

“The cows feed according to their production capacity. For the elite group, which produce 50 litres of milk a day, we give them Total Mixed Ration (TMR). This comprises of silage, hay, lucern, minerals and dairy feeds.”

The cows in the maternity wing are also fed on TMR, although they reduce the amounts of protein in their portions to prevent them from gaining a lot of weight.

“We do not shave our cows because we have to maintain their beautiful colour, but we polish them once in a while,” adds Cheruiyot.
The farm does not encourage keeping of bulls as well as male calves. They are sold, some after a week and others after three weeks, for breeding and beef purposes.
“We dispose bull calves at an early age after we ensure they have had enough colostrum to sustain their immunity. At one week, they are sold at Sh5,000. Farmers who want to use them for breeding buy them at three months at between Sh13,000 to Sh15,000.”
Those bulls that are not sold are castrated and kept as steers for meat.
However, Cheruiyot quickly adds that keeping steers in a dairy farm is discouraged because it is uneconomical. On the other hand, heifers are sold at Sh150,000. A mature steer goes at Sh80,000.
“We sell our milk to processing factories at between Sh28 and Sh35 per litre. We produce more than 5,000 litres daily. Most cows produce an average of 25 litres daily.”
The farm sells about 80 in-calf heifers a year while the demand is close to 1,000. The waiting list for this year alone is now at 658.

“In 2013, we had an order for 900 in-calf heifers and this year we are selling across the borders as Tanzanian government has placed an order for 100 cows.”

Because of the high demand, the farm is working with the East African Agricultural Productivity Programme to use sexed semen to improve availability of high-yielding cows.

“We also have another farm called Deloraine Estates where we breed cross Ayrshire cows with the hardy and disease-resistance Sahiwal breed,” he says. Their main challenge is to get protein sources for their cattle feeds and the fluctuating milk prices.

“Protein sources are cotton and sunflower cakes, which are expensive. A kilo of cotton cake sells at between Sh65 and Sh70 with sunflower going at Sh30.”

Milk prices change with seasons and supply. Sometimes they dip to as low as Sh19 per litre while the production cost stands at Sh30.
The two farms, together with RVIST, have exposed students to both theoretical and practical skills on animal husbandry.

The facility has partnered with local universities where students undertaking animal husbandry courses go for their attachment.

Cheruiyot urges Kenyans to embrace dairy farming saying it is possible to rear a dairy cow on a small portion of land through zero grazing.

He adds that farmers can enrich homemade feeds using maize, sorghum and lucerne thereby enhancing the nutritive value of feeds.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Brighter prospects for avocado farmers

Maina Karuiru tends to his avocado trees at Kiarithaini villlage in Mathira. FILE / NATION 

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Wilson Ombongi looks at his lush green farm located on a hill at Riomoro in Kisii County with pride.

The one-and-a-half acre is flourishing with beans and potatoes. This is not what is putting a smile on his face, though. He has at least 200 avocado trees, which he is expecting to harvest the fruits in a few months’ time.

As he takes Seeds of Gold round his farm, clad in a red hat and a bluish overcoat and black trousers, he is optimistic that he made the right decision to plant the fruit.

His optimism stems from the fact that the Kisii County government is in the process of setting up an avocado processing factory, which will require farmers like Ombongi to supply it with the fruits.

The plan was revealed recently by Governor James Ongwae, who said a Turkish investor will put up a Sh300 million avocado processing factory in Kisii town.

Trial runs have been completed and full-scale processing is set to begin. “We have registered farmers to be contracted to deliver the produce. The venture will create more than 600 direct and indirect jobs for our people,” said Ongwae.

It is expected that the factory will process up to 80 tonnes of avocado daily. Presently, the area produces about 80 tonnes of avocado each day, which is sold to hawkers and middlemen who export them to markets in South Africa.

“The factory will save farmers’ from exploitation by middlemen who buy the commodity at a cheaper price. It will produce juice, cooking oil and syrup extracts,” Ongwae said.

Ombongi, who also keeps cattle on his farm, says he started planting avocado trees in 2010, following a visit by officials from Export Promotion Council, who convinced him and other farmers to try it out, promising good returns.

“At first it did not work for me. Some of the seedlings I planted dried but I did not give up. I am eagerly waiting for my first major harvest. I am yet to sell the avocados to a major buyer but I know for sure that the returns will be great.”

On his farm is a new variety known as the Golden Hass, which produces all-year round. Hass Avocados are oval shaped, with a small to medium sized seed. They have a creamy texture and great taste. They also have a distinctive skin that turns from green to purplish-black when ripe.

Cyrus Nyakundi, another farmer, equates planting this variety “to a life time investment”.

“One avocado tree, after three years, is capable of giving you Sh70,000 annually. If you plant at least 280 avocado trees on your one-acre farm, you can make a cool Sh19.6 million annually.”


It is also very nutritious, he says. “It has at least 13 minerals. The fruit has 32 per cent oil content as compared to the local ones that have between two and eight per cent.”

Before venturing into the trade, Nyakundi used to work for a horticultural firm in Nairobi where they would deliver seedlings of various plants to prominent individuals.

“I asked myself what these powerful people get from farming. It was only later that I learnt that horticultural crops had money. So I fully ventured into the trade.”

He is now not only a proud owner of an avocado farm at Magena having 260 trees, but also has a nursery where seedlings are grown and distributed to farmers in parts of Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western as well as Central provinces.  The nursery was set up with the help of USAid. 

“Avocado seeds are first treated before they are planted. This is to ensure that they don’t get diseases like drips or scales. We also sterilise the soil in which we transplant the seedlings. Farmers can purchase them at a cost of Sh100 per seedling.”

“During weekdays, we have at least 20 people coming to our nursery to help us plant the seeds. We have given them a target of about 700 seedlings a day,” says the farmer, who has at least 270,000 seedlings through his firm Agro Plant Technology Nursery.


Friday, August 1, 2014

I fish Sh45,000 from my pond every three weeks

Margaret Kinyua in her farm in Meru. CHARLES WANYORO | NATION 

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Meru is known for miraa more than anything else, but there are many farming activities taking place here.

The newest one is fish and I am happy to be among those spearheading fish farming in the region, particularly in Meru South sub-county.

My business entails keeping fish and hatching fingerlings. Thereafter, I sell them to residents for meat and farmers, who are growing in numbers.
I started the business four years ago. Two things made me go into fish farming. One, the government was promoting fish farming, mainly keeping Tilapia, and two, there is a stream that passes through my farm in Kibumbu village, where I get water.

When I first heard about fish farming, I was hesitant to engage in it because I didn’t know if I will find market; mainly because people in Meru traditionally do not eat fish, and secondly, I did not have the knowhow.

Besides, I was used to tea and dairy farming, activities that I had been doing for years, but I have now scaled down to concentrate on fish.
However, a visit to the fisheries department in Chuka changed my perception about fish farming.
The officers taught me how to engage in the practice, including building ponds.

I, thereafter, bought fingerlings worth Sh20,000 from Sagana Aquaculture Research Station. Each fingerling was going at Sh20.

In total, I invested Sh45,000. I used Sh15,000 to dig the fishpond and the rest to put in manure to colour water in the pond to protect fish from predators.
My first batch of fish, which I sold in 2011 through the fisheries department gave me over Sh200,000. This encouraged me.

Later, I also ventured into production of monosex fingerlings for sale.

When you rear monosex fish, you don’t mix female and male fish. I have specialised in rearing male fish. Getting male fish is an easy process. First, you put mature male and female fish in the pond and after 21 days, the latter would lay eggs. You then extract eggs from the mouth of the female fish.

This is done by opening the mouth when the fish is facing downwards. You then take the eggs and put them in a container and later in a hatchery. After three days, you put hormones in the feeds that ensure the eggs hatch into male fish. I get the hormones from Chuka Fisheries Department.

People prefer male tilapia because it matures faster - in eight months. At this age, they have attained at least half a kilo and you can sell in bulk. When they are mixed with female, they breed and this interferes with their weight and size. Mixing the breeds also brings competition for feeds.

I learnt all this information at the Sagana Aquaculture Research Station in Kirinyaga County. I usually attend field workshops there and get professional information regarding fish.


As in other farming ventures, you can only succeed in fish farming if you work with experts.

With the male fish, you must feed them enough food to keep on growing and attain good weight. They grow fast because they are not breeding.

The fish takes eight months to mature. A kilo goes at Sh350. Most of the time I hatch 3,000 fingerlings after three weeks, which give me good money. I spent about Sh30,000 on the fingerlings and sell each at Sh15.

My take is that fish farming is lucrative. I have put my fish ponds on a quarter acre but I get more money from the venture than what I make from tea, which is on more than an acre.

I also engage in poultry and dairy farming.

The main challenge with fish is feeds. Getting pellets is a problem since a 20kg bag goes for about Sh3,500. Sometimes I buy dairy meal and mix it with fish meal.

I plan to buy machines to make my own feeds using sunflower and other ingredients that we have been taught by specialists.

We sell the fish locally since the residents now eat the delicacy. Chuka Fisheries Department assists us a lot. They have a deep freezer where we store our fish and they help us in distribution.

We are happy that there is a firm called Mt Kenya Fish Company that intends to give us feeds and other inputs and then recover it after we harvest.
The company is setting up a fish factory with a capacity to process over 20,000kg per day. It is in Tunyai, Tharaka South sub-county.


Friday, August 1, 2014

We’ve defeated Osama with simple silos

A farmer removes maize from the silo in Nakuru . Farmers have been challenged to use the East Africa Community (EAC) market to sell maize, instead of calling for an end to imports. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The name Osama normally sends shivers down the spines of many cereals farmers. But it is not Osama bin Laden, the terrorism kingpin killed in Pakistan in 2011.

For the farmers across the country, Osama refers to a deadly weevil that can decimate thousands of bags of maize or beans in a short period.
They nicknamed the weevil known as Larger Grain Borer Osama because of its harmful effects.

Farmers in Wanyororo, Bahati sub-county, Nakuru are among the worst hit by the weevil. Osama started terrorising them about three years ago. To avoid losses, they would sell their produce soon after harvesting.

But that is all in the past. Today, the farmers have found a new gadget that enables them to conserve their maize and beans without even adding pesticides.
The gadget dubbed Metal Silo is cylindrical and was designed by Catholic Diocese of Nakuru (CDN).

“It enables farmers to store their maize as long as they wish after harvesting. They can, therefore, not worry about weevils, rats and other destructive pests,” said John Muraya, agricultural programmes officer with CDN.

The farmers buy the metal silo, which costs Sh18,000, in groups.

“We first started with each farmer contributing Sh3,000 for registration with CDN. One must be in a group of at least 10 farmers. Those are CDN conditions,” said Florence Kamonjo, a member of Karucua Farmers Group, whose home is being used as a demonstration centre to showcase the effectiveness of the storage method.

Thereafter, each of them paid Sh1,250 for 12 months to have completed the total cost of Sh18,000 at which point CDN sells the silo. However, one can pay in cash at once.

When the Seeds of Gold team visited her home, Kamonjo was happy, with her maize having remained clean, uninfected and with no chemicals.
“The metal silo ensures there is no oxygen or moisture in it to avoid decomposition of maize, which leads to pests,” explained Muraya.

To use the gadget, one puts the grains inside. One then places a lit candle in the silo and covers the lid. Immediately all oxygen burns, the candle goes off.
Farmers fetch the produce from the gadget that should be placed on a raised platform from an outlet at the base.

Maize, according to Muraya, is supposed to have not more than 13 per cent moisture context before being put in the silo.

The officer says the metal silos have great advantages. “They take up very small space compared to gunny bags. The silos occupy a space that can accommodate two bags of maize, yet store maize that fits in 10 bags,” said Muraya.

Farmers growing other cereals like rice and wheat can also use the method of preservation to not only curb post-harvest losses, but also ensure convenience and save space.

Since CDN came up with the technology in December last year, they have sold 64 silos to farmers mostly in Nakuru County.

Before releasing the silos to farmers, CDN sought approval from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, according to Muraya.
“I have so far preserved 10 bags of maize in my silo without using any chemicals,” said Wallece Wamwangi, a farmer.

Last year, Wamwangi had to sell his 12 bags at Sh1,800 in February having harvested in December to avoid losses.

Sh3,200 A BAG

Having invested in the new technology, Wamwangi expects to sell his 10 bags of maize this time round for at least Sh3,200 per bag in the coming months.
“That means I would have made Sh1,400 per bag compared to what I did last year yet I did not buy pesticides,” said Wamwangi

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) senior researcher Paddy Liahayo says the Metal Silo works by ensuring the level of oxygen within the tank is not more than 10 percent.

He adds that farmers need to raise their silos by placing them on wooden pallets.

“Raising the pallets is necessary as it ensures the silos do not get into contact with moisture, which can cause the metal to rust. Rusting would not only damage the silos, but also make room for oxygen entry thus, creating a conducive environment for insects’ survival.”

Though farmers can raise their silos at a low level depending on availability of space in their stores, Liahayo recommended that they should be placed one metre high.

The tanks come in different sizes. The one in the market currently holds 900kg of maize or beans, which is an equivalent of 10 bags.
However, there are others that carry five, eight, 20 and 30 bags, with the biggest going for Sh35,000.

Muraya said the technology was introduced to CDN by International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), a Mexico-based NGO. CIMMYT paid half the cost for the first 30 farmers.

CIMMYT, he added, also funded Kari to research on the technology as it had to confirm it before CDN would start selling the silos.


Friday, August 1, 2014

New on plate: Biscuits made from crickets

Researcher Jackline Oloo with fried crickets in Bondo. TOM OTIENO | NATION 

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Prof Monica Ayieko sits calmly in her office at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) in Siaya County waiting for her next lecture.

She keeps on checking her watch as she answers questions from Seeds of Gold, relating to her love for insects.

Her area of specialisation is edible insects, specifically termites and crickets, and for the past 13 years, she has been doing research on them and others with an aim of increasing food production.

“People are becoming cautious about animal protein, that is why we scientists are shifting focus to insect-rearing to provide alternative source of proteins,” says the professor of Consumer Economics, Department of Food Security.

Prof Ayieko has done research on production of termites, lake flies, locusts and black ants. Her recent research is on cricket-rearing, which she says has a sustainable production.

Crickets are brownish black insects. They have round heads, long and thin antennae and their wings turn down on the sides of their bodies. They live in the soil and hide under dead plants and bushes.

She started the project in 2012 after a thorough research that included their nutritional components and value addition aspects.

According to the lecturer, crickets, which have been proved to contain a concentrated protein, can be processed into muffins, biscuits, sausages, meat loafs, porridge and chapati.

With her undergraduate students, Prof Ayieko says she went to a bush near the university in search of crickets.

“We trapped 30 crickets after a three-hour expedition,” she says. They then put the crickets in a glass cage to observe their behaviour.

“After putting a cotton roll moistened with water, we realised that they could survive outside their habitat. The crickets started reproducing small, yellow and cylindrical eggs, which hatched to produce pin heads (baby crickets),” recalls Jackline Oloo, a student researcher.

Prof Ayieko says they harvested 20kg of crickets, which were distributed to farmers in Siaya and Homa Bay counties.

Currently, there are a total of 561 farmers who are rearing crickets in counties in Nyanza. Also on board are some 25 farmers in Bomet, who were recently trained on the same project by the university.

“Our role as the university is to research and disseminate knowledge on how we can improve food security by embracing edible insects.”

Following successful research, JOOUST through Prof Ayieko received a funding of Sh450,000 from an organisation in Netherlands to expand cricket production.

With the funding, they bought 100ml buckets for farmers to rear the crickets. Each bucket retails at Sh1,200.


The university has put the farmers in groups of 50. Each group rears the crickets, dries them and later uses them to make muffins, biscuits, crackers and sausages.

Japheth Alula, a beneficiary of the project, says he now supplements maize farming with crickets to improve his income.

“Crickets reproduce fast. If you keep them in a warm place and provide them with water and vegetables, you are certain of better returns after a week,” says Alula.

Every week, he harvests between 15 to 20kg of the insects. A kilo of cricket goes for Sh500 and a petri dish of cricket goes for Sh200.
He sells his products to households, retail shops and supermarkets in Nyanza.

Prof Ayieko, who is currently researching on large-scale production of crickets, says the insects are rich in iron, zinc and copper. 

She is also working with two doctorate students who have secured Sh24 million to do research on the viability of crickets for commercial farming.

To make cricket biscuits, mix cricket flour, baking powder, salt, margarine and sugar until it becomes creamy. Thereafter cut the dough into small pieces and bake.

The insects can also be fried, crushed and the powder mixed with amaranth flour to increase nutritional value. The flour can be used to make dough for baking.

For sausage, the crickets are pounded and mixed with additives to add flavour. Thereafter, they are mixed with special bread crumbs and then deep fried.

“It takes about three months to harvest crickets, but we are now working on a possibility of reducing that time to eight weeks,” says Prof Ayieko.
She has done cricket presentations in Italy, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania.

When kept under refrigerators, the product’s shelf-life can extend to six months.

She is looking forward to processing biscuits for nursery kids since they are healthy for children.


Friday, August 1, 2014

GREEN MARKET : Where buyers and producers meet


EGGS: We need 100 trays of eggs per week. Any ready farmer out there?
Contact: Mister Eggs Supplies 0722763441
Email: [email protected]

CHICKEN MASH AND ANIMAL FEED: We’re seeking distributors and buyers of high quality pelletised and non-pelletised chicken mash and other animal feeds.
Quantity: As per demand
Contact: Msafiri 0752545468
Email: [email protected]


EGGS : Looking for steady supply of eggs within Nairobi.
Contact: 0726985975
Email: [email protected]

BEANS: I am looking for the new bean varieties, Chelalang, Tasha and Ciangui.
Contact: 0725847608
Email [email protected]


LAND: I am a young man with an interest in conservation agriculture. I am looking for land to lease long term (five years) within a 30km radius of Njoro Town, Nakuru, approximately 30 acres with at least five acres and accessibility to water.
Email: [email protected]

SIMSIM SEEDS :We are looking for simsim seeds over 20 tonnes and a regular supply. Please advise availability price and quantity. Either in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Email: [email protected]


TILLER/POWER MACHINE: I want to know if anybody knows where I can buy a tiller/power machine for personal tilling? This machine is good for medium agribusiness people.
Email: [email protected]

RABBITS: We want to purchase 12 rabbits (10 females and two males). Please give price and specify type (local or exotic).
Location: Nasewa, Busia County
Contact: Emmanuel 0727847720 or Collins 0727840397
Email: [email protected]


GOATS: I am looking for Toggernburg goats. Please state price and how they can be delivered.
Location: Thika
Contact: 0724803940
Email: [email protected]


KIENYEJI EGGS: I am looking for a supplier for fertilised kienyeji eggs
Quantity: 250
Location: Murang’a
Contact: Charles 0722303002
Email: [email protected]



WATERMELON: I have four acres full of watermelon. I am looking for potential buyer
Location: Shimba hills, Kwale County
Contact: 0710845788
Email: [email protected]


ARROW ROOTS : From Meru County
Quantity: As per demand
Price: Sh80 per kilo
Location: Nairobi
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: 1,500 bags (green grams) and 2,000 bags (white maize)
Contact: 0725055887
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: As per demand
Location: Nyeri
Contact: 0705922288
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: As per demand
Location: Ruai, Nairobi
Contact: 0726946938
Email: [email protected]


INCUBATOR: Fully automatic 96
kienyeji egg capacity incubator. It automatically turns eggs every two hours. Hatch your own chicks every 21 days to grow your poultry business quickly.
Price: Sh26,000
Location: Nairobi
Contact: James, 0717622485.
Email: [email protected]


HONEY: Natural pure and refined honey
Quantity: As per order
Location: Aberdares Apiaries, Maragwa, Muranga County
Contact: 0770191789
Email: [email protected]


INCUBATOR: Automatic chicken egg incubator
Quantity: 100 different sizes
Price: Ranges from Sh25,000 to Sh180, 000
Location: Nairobi
Contact: Cyrus 0722519547


Quantity: As per demand
Price: Sh700 to Sh1,000
Location: Kitui County
Contact: 0722563672
Email: [email protected]


LAND: I am selling 1.6 acre agricultural land next to a dam near Machakos town.
Contact: 0770527432

LAND: Three-and-a-half acres available in Red Hill, Kiambu County.
Contact: Charity Mwaura, 0733563722
Email: [email protected]


LAND: I have a quarter acre plot at Ruiru, next to Spiners&Spiners, 150m from tarmac, ideal for greenhouse and chicken rearing. Water and electricity is available. Cotton soil. I want to lease it.
Contact: 0722932122
Email:[email protected]

LAND: Three acres piece of land at Joska area, about 4km off Kangundo road for long or short-term lease. The land is generally flat, good for any agricultural activity like poultry, pig keeping and dairy cattle rearing.
Contact: 0727818184
Email: [email protected]


FRIESIAN HEIFERS: In-calf Friesian Heifers
Quantity: 10
Price: Starting from Sh150,000
Location: Githunguri, Kiambu County
Contact: 0724216178
Email: [email protected]

Quantity: 120 birds
Price: Sh38,000
Location: Ruiru, Kamiti Road
Contact: 0722 286 269, 0722 286 272,0722 854 191

GREENHOUSES: specially built for the tropical regions, greenhouse crops management, drip irrigation, special irrigation (bananas, coffee, fruits, trees and gardens lawns. Quantity: As per demand
Price: Negotiable
Location: Nakuru
Contact: Ngari Mugo 0723834721
Email: [email protected]

GUM TREES: Mature blue gum trees, eucalyptus grandis species.
Quantity: 300 trees, 10,000 seedlings
Price: Sh1,000 per tree and Sh20 per seedling
Location: Essunza near Mwichio shopping centre, Emuhaya Constituency.
Contact: Charles Butiko 0723119111

Grafted purple passion fruit seedlings
Quantity: As per demand
Location: Eldoret
Contact: 0721235029
Email:[email protected]


Quantity: As per demand
Price: Sh1,200 per kilo
Location: Nairobi
Contact: Ali, 0789347737
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: Sweetrose. Planted on an acre
Price: Farm gate, Sh30 per kilo
Location: Oluch-Kimira Irrigation Scheme-Homa Bay County
Contact: David 0724527294


Purple passion fruit seedlings. Already sprayed with foliar fertiliser.
Quantity: As per demand
Price: Sh40 per seedling
Location: Kericho
Contact: 0724062800
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: 20
Price: Sh3,000
Location: Kitengela
Contact: 0719106000
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: As per demand
Price: A kilo @ Sh650
Location: Nairobi
Contact: 0723681558


Quantity: As per demand
Price: Three days old at Sh50 and three weeks old at Sh220
Location: Nairobi
Contact: 0728343327


DAM LINERS: For water storage and agricultural uses.
Quantity: As per demand
Price: Sh200 per metre
Location: Nyeri
Contact: 0704586333/0721355142


Quantity: Weekly harvest  of 100kg
Price: Sh150 per kilo
Location: Ruringu town, Nyeri
Contact: Patrick Nduhiu 0722607152
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: All incubators available at in terms of 50 to 100 pieces.
Price: 36 eggs at Sh20,000, 164 eggs at Sh45,000, 176 eggs at Sh55,000, 328 eggs at Sh65,000, 528 eggs at Sh70,000 and 1,056 eggs at Sh100,000.
Location: South C, Nairobi
Contact: Jimleen, 0722237617 James Gitonga or 0722965010
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: As per demand
Price: Sh130 for one-week-old and Sh150 for two-weeks-old
Location: Rongai
Contact: 0726130418
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: As per demand
Location: Kasarani, Nairobi
Contact: 0771 982852


Quantity: 100 kienyeji two months old chicks and auto incubators with a capacity of 264 eggs and a humidity pump.
Location: Gesonso, Kisii County
Contact: George Kiriama, 0728 732 389
Email: [email protected]


TREES: Trees for sale in Nyandarua
Quantity: As per demand
Price: Negotiable
Contact: Simon 0725694224
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: 200 per month
Price: Sh400
Location: Katito, Sondu
Contact: Erastus Ouma, 0725177356
Email: [email protected]

FARM TRACTOR: MF 240 (Reg. KAC) complete with new two bottom Faima Plow available
Price: Sh800,000 (negotiable).
Location: Fort Ternan, Kericho County
Contact: Roy, 0724377685/ 0736065613
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: Place your order and have it ready in two weeks. 40 per cent deposit on order.
Price: Sh95,000
Location: Eldoret
Contact: Sylvia, 0700187667/ Emily 0722620615
Email: [email protected]


DAIRY COWS: Type, Friesians, Holsteins, Ayshires, Guernseys and Fleckvieh
Quantity: Lactating and In-calf producing 20 to 40 litres of milk.
Price: Sh100,000 and above
Location: Kiambu
Contact: 0789628809/0721736200
Email: [email protected]


COCONUT OIL: Virgin coconut oil
Quantity: As per demand
Location: Mombasa
Contact: 0722806261
Email: [email protected]


Quantity: 1, 000
Price: Sh200
Contact: 0733732851


Quantity: 50
Price: Sh1,000 and Sh1,500 each
Location: Ongata Rongai
Contact: Daniel Gachara. 0722639875



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Garden City targets energy savings with solar panels

An artist's impression of Garden City Mall. The mall plans to install a solar panel-covered car park to generate energy for use by tenants. 

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Garden City mall plans to install a solar panel covered car park to generate energy for use by tenants.

The plan was announced by Actis’ Investment Principal Koome Gikunda on Wednesday who said the plan will take advantage of the country’s solar resources.

“We were looking for a turn-key solution that could produce clean power and pay for itself with the energy it produces,” said Gikunda.

The panels to be installed on the roof of the 50,000 square meter mall are expected to produce approximately 1,246,000 kWh per year.

The solar energy project is also set to reduce emission of Carbon Dioxide by an estimated 492 tonnes per year.

Garden City, the new 32-acre integrated residential, retail, park, hotel and office development on Nairobi’s Thika Superhighway, is being developed by Actis using a ‘green-by-design’ approach.

The installation of the solar panels will help Garden City achieve its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The planned solar system will be installed by NVI Energy who will operate and maintain the system for 12 years.

The system will automatically switch over to provide power together with back-up generators during times when the power goes off, reducing diesel use and saving money.


Solar energy is being adopted in the country to provide cheaper power with Strathmore University being the latest entrant with 0.6MW solar system on its Madaraka Campus roof top tied to the national power grid which started lighting up the university last month.

The solar system was first adopted by Unep headquarters in Gigiri that produce 500 KW followed by Williamsons Tea Factory with its 1 MW produced at its Changoi farm in Bomet County.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Coffee farmers may miss pay due to elections

Coffee farmers attend a special general meeting of Barichu Farmers Co-operative Society in Nyeri on July 22, 2014. The board of Kenya Planters’ Co-operative Union has warned that payment of coffee farmers’ arrears is in jeopardy due to uncertainty brought about by calls for elections. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI 

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The board of Kenya Planters’ Co-operative Union has warned that payment of coffee farmers’ arrears is in jeopardy due to uncertainty brought about by calls for elections by the ministry of industrialization and enterprise.

They have demanded the ministry officials to declare their interests over the controversial elections they have called for August 31.

Speaking during a media visit at Dandora plant that is under renovation, the board said they were surprised about the way the ministry was handling the matters concerning the revival of the farmers’ union.

“We want the Cabinet secretary, the principal secretary and the commissioner of co-operatives to declare the interests they have in the elections that they have called without informing board members,” said the managing director, Mr Joseph Kioko.

They said the elections could scuttle the plans to bring the union back into operation as the funding that resulted in lifting of receivership was tied to the stability in the board’s tenure of office that ends in 2016.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Innovator’s portable bio-gas unit boon for farmers

AquaSanTec Group chairman Chandu Shah. BILLY MUTAI  


After 50 years of working in the corporate world — both as a lawyer and owner of AquaSanTec Group, the holding company for Kentainers Ltd (manufacturers of Kentank) — Chandu Shah has decided to focus on helping small-holder farmers improve their livelihoods.

For the last four years the Kentainers Ltd chairman has travelled across continents, meeting experts as well as researching and printing information on sustainable agriculture. The knowledge and exposure received has seen the businessman manufacture a portable biogas plant, BlueFlame BioSurriGaz, to help farmers increase production and improve their lives.

The 3.2 cubic metre digester and three cubic metre gas holder is noticeable among hundreds of large tanks at their Embakasi, Nairobi, factory.

Uptake of the portable biogas unit is picking up, with more farmers’ organisations buying it. Kenya National Domestic Biogas Programme (KENDBIP) and Kenya National Farmers’ Federation (KENAFF) are some of the institutions drumming up support for the unit.

New Kenya Co-operative Creameries (New KCC) has already committed to making the unit available to its 6,000 dairy farmers.

“Our concept does not call for any resources from the central or county government (unless they want to assist) and a smallholder with a cow or two is encouraged to rely on their own resources,’’ said Mr Shah.

Transform lives

His BlueFlame Gaz crusade is aimed at helping farmers use what they have to better their yields without spending more on farm inputs and labour. To him, a biogas plant and other basic needs like water are enough to transform poor farmers’ lives.

Mr Shah said that he is out to offer farmers a new lease of life and transform them economically through adoption of the Sustainable System of Crop Intensification (SSCI) practice.  The system embraces use of slurry (a by-product in the production of biogas) as fertiliser.

“Farmers don’t have to buy more fertiliser to get more yields. They can use what they have sustainably to get more. For instance, they can adopt the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) or SSCI to lower the cost of inputs and labour,” he said.

SSCI advocates use of slurry in farming, adequate spacing of seeds, growing fodder using hydroponics, wise use of fertiliser and good use of water. These are simple things that have increased yields by over 30 per cent in India, Cuba and Ethiopia among other places.

Unlike cow dung, slurry has a high composition of phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen, vital soil nutrients. This is where the BlueFlame brand comes in. Farmers get to have clean energy for cooking and also use the slurry to boost production of crops and fodder for cows. The gas and the bio slurry are made by mixing cow dung with water and pouring it inside the unit.

“A mixture of cow dung and water is fed into the BlueFlame twice a day to produce slurry, a nutrient-rich organic fertiliser. The biogas is enough for most household needs saving them costs of charcoal, firewood, kerosene and time. Farmers can also apply slurry on their crops for amazingly high yields and superior quality of produce,” he said.

Alfred Kilonzo and Charles Mbuvi, farmhands at a farm in Kimangu, Machakos County, attest to the usefulness of the BlueFlame unit. The two were fond of using firewood to boil water used in cleaning milking utensils. But this has since changed. A mixture of a 20 litre bucket of cow dung and 20 litres of water is enough to serve their daily cooking energy needs.

Installs units

Aside from that, Mr Mbuvi, says the biogas unit has helped them increase yields at the once barren land. It all started with a shrivelled mango tree at the edge of the farm. “I just dug a hole around the tree and poured slurry and mixed it with soil. To my amazement the tree was back to life in just three weeks,” said Mr Mbuvi.

Excited, he went on to dig a large composite pit where he keeps excess slurry. “We pour it here (the pit) and later use it in the farm,” he says.

They collect more than 40 litres of the fertiliser each day. He applied the organic fertiliser on maize during the last planting season and was not disappoint. But his happiness lies more in increased mango yields. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently published information on slurry in which they referred to it as brown gold.

“Millions of smallholders all over the world are adopting the use of slurry and other practices of SSCI on a wide variety of crops and fodder. We must enable our farmers to produce more with less from the same land and labour.  Such rapid adoption will be a key driver of more equitable and balanced rural development,” said Mr George Nyamu, the KENDBIP project co-ordinator.

The portable biogas unit costs Sh95,000. The package includes a BlueFlame unit, loan to buy the product, milk purchase by New KCC and an IT platform. Kentainers sells and installs the unit for farmers. The firm additional provides a two-burner biogas stove.

As Mr Shah leaves the work of selling the units to his team as he continues to research on sustainable farming, innovative farmer-friendly products, sourcing for cheap credit for farmers, and pushing the government to zero rate equipment used in biogas units. Last year, his plea to the Treasury went unanswered but he remains undeterred.

[email protected]


Monday, July 28, 2014

Young techies click on idea for easier shopping and delivery

From right, Savana Kenya founders Jason Oteng-Ngame, Bradley Opere, Anthony Maina and Morgan Muchemi during the interview with Business Daily. Savana Kenya is an online shopping platform with a delivery service. DIANA NGILA  

By Annie Njanja

Rarely do you find teenagers deliberating on starting a business. In most instances, their minds are on completing high school and joining tertiary institutions. But the case was different for the founders of Savana Kenya.

The group of six met while attending the Africa Leadership Academy. Although they followed different paths on completion of the training, they shared a common dream of becoming entrepreneurs.

It came as no surprise that they started their entrepreneurial journey by launching Savana Kenya, an online shopping and delivery service portal. The inspiration behind the product was the heavy traffic experienced in major city roads, which makes it difficult to visit a shop, and long queues in the supermarkets during rush hour.

Launched last month, the platform, created by Jason Oteng-Nyame and Anthony Maina, is designed to bring convenience to shoppers by allowing them to buy goods online and have them delivered to their doorsteps within two hours at a cost of Sh300.

“There are a lot of opportunities in e-commerce and we are striving to offer Kenyans a great online shopping experience for consumer goods,” said Mr Maina, Savana’s co-founder and chief executive.

Commenting on the viability of the business Mr Maina said: “An in-house study revealed that middle-income earners are tied up at work most of the time, especially during weekdays, and find little time to check into supermarkets. Our service is tailored to give them convenience and make it possible for them to engage in other businesses when they are free.”

The founders are well-organised with each having a defined role. Three Kenyans – Bradley Opere, Mr Maina and Gabriel Wamunyu – serve as executive-director, chief executive officer and chief technical officer respectively.

Mr Oteng-Nyame from Ghana is the chief financial officer, Tapiwa Lionel from Zimbabwe is the online marketing manager while Dofan Aziz Kone from Cote d’Ivore has no defined role but is involved in decision-making.

The founders, all still below 22 years, hope to attract venture capitalists to provide counsel and much-needed capital to improve the business. They are currently growing their online presence and hope to increase the number of visitors to their website from the current 400 a day and convert them into business. They are also working to improve the website to make it more user-friendly.

And to offer what they term affordable rates to consumers, one of Savana’s strategies is to strike a deal with manufacturers to provide consumer goods at competitive rates. Their long-term plan is to own a warehouse to ensure a constant supply of goods, which will allow them make deliveries at their own convenience.

Although the online shopping culture is yet to catch on locally, they are optimistic their portal will change this trend by engaging the growing number of tech-savvy but busy people.

“The service is customised to every individual. If you want shopping dropped at your office that is exactly what we will do,” said Mr Opere.

As they wait for domestic business to pick up, they are currently focused on making deliveries to offices at a cost of between Sh500 to Sh1,500. They have segmented the areas of operation and will roll out their services countrywide gradually. They are also increasing manpower for faster delivery of orders.

To cover a wider network, they are in talks with the developers of Sendy, an app that connects senders and a network of transporters.

Because half the founding team is set to return to the US for studies, they are making arrangements to ensure uninterrupted business in their absence. Savana’s head of recruitment, John Njoroge, and the chief operations officer, Morgan Muchemi, will oversee local operations after the other members fly out in August.

[email protected]


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Success in Australia helps investor see IT potential back home

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One of the most difficult decisions that Ahmed Yusuf has ever had to make was to leave Kenya with his family in 1998 and head to Australia to start a new life.

Life in Kenya then was uncertain and the business environment difficult. The Kakamega-born Yusuf had worked for various local and international firms in Nairobi.

A company he was working for during the reign of then president Daniel arap Moi closed shop due to dwindling business.

Kenya then was a good example of what The Economist magazine termed “The Hopeless Continent” in 2000.

However, 16 years later, the Kenyan-born Australia-based businessman could not resist the temptation to come back home to exploit the opportunities in Kenya and in much of the continent that The Economist would later in 2011 refer to as “The Hopeful Continent”.


“I went to Australia because I wanted a change of scene for my family. Security was a problem, corruption was at its height, and things were really bad in Kenya.

“Even when I was in Australia, the reports I received up until 2002 were disappointing,” he said during an interview.

Yusuf established several businesses that he now says are worth at least $10 million (Sh870 million). 

He has been in business since 2010, when he stopped working as a general manager for a firm in Australia.

The businesses he established range from a college that offers courses in building and construction from certificate level to advanced diploma and an early childhood enterprise that assists working or at-school parents who may be working or studying full-time to care for their children from the time they are born to the time they start school.

He also started a technology firm specialising in software development for firms back in Australia.

He is now exploring prospects of extending his business to Kenya and other parts of Africa, where he sees a lot of potential for growth.


“We have a range of businesses that operate in Australia. The first one is a college that trains people building and construction from certificate level to advanced diploma.

“Often, people who come to the college hope to get a certificate or licence to become builders. In Australia, you cannot build a house until you get a licence,” Yusuf said. 

The technology firm, Plycode, is a custom software company that offers services and systems to companies seeking to automate their revenue collection, accounting, or car tracking software.

Currently, Yusuf is exploring partnerships with young technology companies in Eastern Africa for purposes of engaging their respective strengths to deliver outsourcing services to firms abroad or within the region.


The partnership with local companies would entail collaboration in the development of information technology projects depending on the respective strengths of the individuals or firms involved.

In Australia, he also runs an ICT recruitment board, Kazileo, for IT jobs in Australia.

“Within a year, we are going to introduce it to Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore. We have introduced another one for Africa, Employfy, a database for job seekers and employers,” he said.

With blue-chip firms like Toyota and non-profit organisations in their portfolio, Plycode has also built revenue collection systems for firms in Australia.

Yusuf believes that Kenya now has the desire to grow and achieve a lot more for its population and that IT is one of the areas that will help drive the economy forward.

There are many opportunities to be exploited, especially on the ICT front as many things in the country are still manual.

“If Konza City becomes a reality, there will be more business outsourcing in ICT firms and opportunities coming here,” he said, adding that opportunities in the IT sector lie in automating accounting systems and discarding the old manual ones.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sh200 treat blooms into lucrative venture

Mr Norman Kuria at his stall that he started after being released from jail. Photo | SULEIMAN MBATIAH

Mr Norman Kuria at his stall that he started after being released from jail. Photo | SULEIMAN MBATIAH 

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After he was released from jail and without a cent, Norman Kuria bumped into a friend who gave him Sh200 for a meal.

In 10 years, Kuria had turned the Sh200 into a multi-million shilling project.

Kuria invested the money in a few pairs of socks, which he hawked in Nakuru town.

The business has now expanded to property such as land, houses, and car firms. “It was still early in the day when I was released. I was confused since I did not have even a shilling.

A long-time friend offered me Sh200 to buy lunch. I quickly approached a hawker to introduce me to the business,” Kuria told Money.

His aim was to make a little more money to pay for his lunch and fare back to his parents’ home.


The hawker led him to a wholesale kiosk where he bought a dozen pairs of socks at Sh190. He headed to the busy bus terminus where he started hawking the socks.

“In half an hour I had exhausted my stock. With the profit, I bought one-and-a-half dozen socks, which I also exhausted. I even lost interest in going back home, where I had nothing. I wanted to focus on making a living,” said Kuria.

Within a week, he had upgraded his stock to include undergarments and handkerchiefs, making a net profit of Sh10,000.

His aggressiveness in business and new perspective of life saw him rent a house for the first time.

This, he said, came after spending cold nights in hotels and streets for about a week.


A month later, Kuria had expanded his business to include watches, phone covers, and spoons, which saw him earning a tidy profit of over Sh50,000.

A few years later, however, Kuria was involved in a road accident on his way home, injuring his leg. For a while, he was on crutches.

“But this did not stop me from doing my work. I rented some space in town where I could operate as my leg healed,” he recalled.

Gradually, Kuria’s business expanded. In 2007, he managed to buy a piece of land and a taxi.

Besides paying school fees for his four children in secondary and primary school, he has managed to buy another piece of land and a motorbike.

He has also opened a rabbit and chicken business for his wife. “Through her business, my wife is able to invest in other family projects,” he said.


His developed plots within the suburbs of Nakuru town are worth over Sh5 million. His other businesses have also grown over the years.

According to Kuria, the obsession with white-collar jobs among the youth needs to be addressed.

“The youth should not just fight for jobs in big offices; they should open their minds and start businesses of their own. In turn, they will employ others,” Kuria said.

He has, however, engaged many youths from Nakuru County in his businesses, giving them ideas on how to utilise their untapped opportunities.

“There are many business ideas. The youth should be aggressive in taking advantage of them,” he said. Kuria now wants to open a wholesale market and expand his businesses in Nakuru.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Karen eco-friendly mall sets new standards for developers

The Galleria Mall in Karen.

The Galleria Mall in Karen. The Hub is a new mall which, once completed towards the end of 2015, will feature six separate buildings connected by open-air walkways with retail and office spaces, a medical facility, a fitness centre, restaurants, cafés and even a lake in its grounds.   Photo | FILE


Karen has long been recognised as one of Nairobi’s greener areas, with its abundance of indigenous trees and proximity to both the Ngong Road Forest and the Nairobi National Park.

Over the last few years, however, the leafy suburb has become a hotspot for developers seeking high returns from commercial and residential buildings, a construction boom that is threatening to damage the environment.

There is one developer, though, that has recognised this risk, and is determined to sustain Karen’s natural charm.

The Hub is the new mall which, once completed towards the end of 2015, will feature six separate buildings connected by open-air walkways with retail and office spaces, a medical facility, a fitness centre, restaurants, cafés and even a lake in its grounds.

The second phase will see the addition of a hotel and a conference centre.

CLICK HERE to read the full story in the Business Daily.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Talented youths feted at new Rising Star awards

By Annie Njanja
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The inaugural Rising Star Awards aimed at recognising local talent was held last Tuesday.

The event, organised by BlackBark Productions and which will be held annually, is designed to appreciate entrepreneurs and other professionals who have made remarkable efforts in growing both the private and public sector.

The awards, which appreciate individuals under the age of 40, will raise awareness on available local talent, trigger competition among youths, and draw young entrepreneurs and other professionals together to network.

“Many talented individuals often go unnoticed as they either have not been given the opportunity to showcase their skills or demonstrate their capabilities.

CLICK HERE to read the full story in the Business Daily.


Monday, June 30, 2014

How brothers turned textile firm into multi-billion shilling bakery

From left: Keblest Limited directors Mayur Shah, Anju Shah and Jinit Shah at the company's factory in Thika. MARTIN MUKANGU 

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When media reports early this year revealed that baking firm Kenblest Limited was negotiating a Sh1 billion loan with KCB to finance expansion of its Thika-based operation, keen followers of Kenya’s dynamic business scene took in the news with some degree of disbelief.

As far as brand recognition goes, Kenblest is arguably among Kenya’s top – its popular bread (of the same name) having landed on nearly 80 per cent of the country’s breakfast tables. But then again it is just bread – one of the simplest consumer goods to make and the entry bar is not so high.

Yet the bread maker says growth has been steady in tandem with the continuing expansion of the middle class as well as the general population.

Anju Shah, one of the directors, says Kenblest plans to invest the money in its wheat and maize milling plant, raising its production capacity to 300 metric tonnes per day up from the current 200 metric tonnes.

The investment is also expected to generate 200 more jobs in addition to the 700 people already employed. At Kenblest’s base, the three brothers in charge of the operation have kept a modest demeanour about their entrepreneurial achievements.

“Out there it is not possible to really see what is behind these outcomes,” says Anju, the eldest of the trio that runs the business.

This is the product of a successful business succession in a company that was founded nearly eight decades ago when Kanji Ladha Shah established a textiles and general goods outfit targeting the small Indian population that operated clothing stores in Thika.

Located in one of the then little known corners of Thika, Shah Kanji Ladha Company has since walked through a series of transformations and management transitions to become one of Kenya’s most profitable companies with an annual turnover of Sh2.5 billion.

The series of transformations began in earnest in 1962 with the passing away of Kanji Ladha Shah who had long mentored his cousin, Hemraj Sura Shah, to take charge of the business.

As fate would have it, Hemraj also passed on two years later leaving the company in the hands of Mohanlal Dharamshi Shah, who had joined the business in 1950.
Dharamshi , now aged 83, is the chairman of Kenblest Limited – a company he runs with his three sons.

“It was under my father’s tenure as managing director that the business grew by the largest margin and diversified into many areas including food supplies,” said Mayur, another of the brothers. It was the diversification drive that in 1968 gave birth to Thika Household Suppliers – a manufacturing firm that supplied mainly foodstuff to government agencies, schools and hospitals.

Dharamshi introduced Anju, Jinit and Mayur to the supplies business in the 1960s , but only after they showed an interest in pursuing business as a lifetime career.

“He enrolled us in local primary and secondary schools so that we could join him in business and learn the ropes after school. We all attended Gatumaini Primary School in Makongeni, Thika, and later proceeded to Chania and Thika High Schools,” said Jinit.

Anju was the first of the trio to join the business in 1974 when it primarily dealt in corporate supplies. Four years later, Jinit joined after finishing college. Mayur was the last to get on board in 1981 after finishing a diploma in baking course. 

Thika Household Suppliers later opened a subsidiary, Anjim Fabrics, on Nairobi’s Biashara Street that dealt in bedsheets, blankets and khangas.

“Years of experience and a strong  field presence gave us a clear picture of the emerging market trends that convinced us it was time to enter the baking market,” said Mayur.

In 1982, the eating habits of most Kenyans had started to change as the migration to urban areas intensified. The Shahs decided it was time to introduce a breakfast pack for the newly urbanised – a decision that would see the formation of a bakery division, Kenblest, and spur the company’s growth in the next three decades.

Kenblest initially produced 80,000 loaves per day, but that grew almost three-fold to 230,000 in just four years creating a packaging crisis that was only resolved 12 years later with the establishment of Nav Plastics – a subsidiary that dealt in plastic extrusion and bags.

“We also started producing polythene paper in large quantities targeting the mass market,” said Anju.

The subsidiary got a boost in 2005, with the arrival of new machinery to produce millenary paper bags for both local and export markets. The Shahs also saw a business opportunity in the increasing use of plastic bags in the manufacturing sector and responded to it with the establishment of a recycling plant that produced plastic bags and roofing materials.

In 1993, the baking business had suffered its biggest setback after Kenya was hit by an acute shortage of wheat that almost grounded production.

“We opted to buy inputs very exorbitantly from other manufacturers to survive the crisis. We clearly understood that consumers are very keen on consistency and quality, making it imperative that we cultivate their loyalty even at the risk of suffering huge losses,” said Anju.

In 2006, Kenblest’s total daily production had grown to 330,000 loaves.

Kenblest had earlier acquired the assets of Kenya Taitex Mills, which was in the business of weaving, dying and printing textiles. The company was rebranded as Kifaru Industries Limited and transformed into a Sh30 million water bottling and maize milling unit that produced Acacia water and sifted maize meal ‘‘Two Ten.’’

The subsidiary also manufactured wax paper that it sold to Orange Kenya. Kenblest Limited later opened another subsidiary McNeel Millers Limited to mill wheat flour it used in the baking business and also sold in the consumer market under the “Two Ten” brand.

Mayur admits that it has not been smooth sailing for the family conglomerate, citing Acacia bottled water whose growth has been disappointing in a market dominated by giants such as Coca-Cola with its popular Dasani brand.

The brothers – now in their 60s – say unity of purpose is the bond that has kept the business steady and helped it grow over the decades even as its management changed through generations.

“We argue as brothers in the boardroom for the welfare of the business. We discuss ideas and decide what to implement and what to pull out. All of us understand that we are in serious business. We cannot allow family disputes to destroy,” said Anju.

To ensure long- term survival of the business, the three directors have mentored their sons and daughters to take over the business leadership when they retire.
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jua kali lobby seeks office for members

Jua kali artisans at work in Nairobi’s Gikomba market on May 1, 2014. PHOTO |  ANTHONY OMUYA | FILE

Jua kali artisans at work in Nairobi’s Gikomba market on May 1, 2014. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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A lobby group for informal sector workers has entered into a partnership with PTA Bank to provide operating space for members.

The Kenya National Federation of Jua Kali Association, the bank and Nairobi County authorities are now on a mission to identify more space within the Central Business District from where members can operate without interference.

According to KNFJKA chief executive officer Richard Muteti, many informal sector workers operate from home or open markets which are often disorganised. This has made the working environment very difficult for them. 


“But, this is a new concept where corporate institutions like PTA Bank have partnered with the federation to dignify the way this industry is run. Traders have been selling their wares on the ground and without any sheds to shield them from the sun or rain,” he said.

According to PTA Bank head of corporate affairs and investor relations Mary Kamari, financial institutions have largely ignored the micro and small enterprises sector, leaving them to chance despite the sector’s contribution to job creation and the economy.

Added Mr Muteti: “We are also working with the county government of Nairobi to identify space where small businesses can make their products and from where they can also sell. Very soon, you will see some designated streets put aside by the county government where small traders can operate from twice a week or so.”