Flowers gave me the nice job I searched in vain

Friday May 19 2017

NehemiahWachira on his agribusiness in Eldoret.

NehemiahWachira on his agribusiness in Eldoret. PHOTO| NATION MEDIA GROUP| PHOTO BY JEFF ANGOTE 

By JEFF ANGOTE
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Nehemiah Wachira, 26, is all-smiles as he takes us round his family’s two-acre land full of trees and flowers in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
The Bachelor of Commerce graduate of Catholic University says while growing up, he watched his father farm trees and flowers as a hobby, before turning the venture into a business in 2003 under the name Flower Land.

Then, Wachira says he viewed the work as dirty as his mind was set on a white collar job.
However, in 2013 upon completing his education, reality set in for Wachira as he tried job-hunting in vain.

“I had never imagined being on the farm planting trees and flowers for a living. I knew that work belonged to my father Reuben Mwangi, who was also using the plants to create a beautiful scenery for another of his business, photography.”
After finding the going tough, Wachira learnt the job from his father, getting tips on how to plant flowers and trees, a business he has now expanded into a serious entity where he also makes flower pots, enabling customers to buy complete products.

“We grow a variety of flowers and tree seedlings from seeds, suckers and cuttings that include shrubs, magnificent palms and ornamental grasses.The price ranges from Sh10-Sh3,000,” says Wachira, noting Flower Land now employs 20 people and sells the plants starting from three months.

The process of moulding the pots starts with sourcing clay from Kakamega, some 200km away.

“Once we get the clay, we drain water from it for a day, mix with a special type of soil that helps to strengthen the pot during baking, then the clay is kneaded removing impurities such as small pebbles and sticks to make a fine dough. Various pot sizes are then moulded,” he says.

The cost of the pots depend on the sizes, with the smaller ones going for Sh300 and the larger ones Sh8,000.
“Customers asked us to bring them planting buckets but I thought that moulding pots from clay and beautifying them will make them happier,” says Wachira.

The flowers and tree seedlings need regular spraying with insecticides and herbicides once in every two weeks.

“One should use well-drained soil mixed with animal manure during planting soil. One should also watch out on the use of chlorinated tap water which affects flowers. Besides pest control, the flowers should be pruned for attractive shape.”

In a good month, the business generates up to Sh200,000 in profit, noting some of his clients are the top athletes living in the county and prominent political leaders since they buy in bulk.
Other customers come from Kisumu, Nairobi, Lodwar, Kericho, Kakamega and Kitale.

“I do most of my marketing on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to reach to more people,” he says, noting competition in the business is tough, therefore one has to be unique to stand out.
Lawrence Mwangi, the flower production manager at Baraka Roses, says flower farming is a profitable agribusiness through which even a smallholder farmer can earn a livelihood.

For small-scale flower farming, he says the farmer may cultivate seasonal flowers such as Apple blossom, Bird of Paradise, Brodea, Calla lily, Cherry Blossom, Corn flower, Cosmose, Dahlia, Delphinium, Delwood, Forsythia, Freesia, Gardenia, Heather, Helleborus and Hollyhock, among others, depending on the prevailing seasonal climate conditions.

He, however, notes that, while flowers can grow well in a range of ecological conditions, those cultivated in high altitude areas tend to give more quality flowers than those cultivated in low altitude areas.
Spider mites, Greenfly, Rose Sawflies, Rose scale and Metallic flea beetles are some of the pests flower growers should watch out for while diseases such as powdery mildew, sooty moulds, canker, downey mildew, blackspot and rust are diseases that attack flowers.
He further advocates using social media among others, in advertising especially for a small scale farmer, noting it is easier to use and cheaper.

Additional reporting by Brian Okinda