When he was dismissed as a driver with a book-publishing firm nine years ago, 49-year-old Sammy Tanui thought his life had come to an end.
To make matters worse, the sacking came hot on the heels of a three-month unpaid leave which he had asked for to attend to a domestic problem.
“After the initial shock, I collected myself and with the Sh200,000 that I had saved, I put a down payment for a Toyota pick-up and ventured into the dairy business,” says the father-of-three.
The business involved buying milk from farmers in Bomet and selling it to milk bars and hotels in Narok town and its environs.
The business, he says, paid well and enabled him to clear the outstanding balance for the vehicle, which he had bought on credit.
“To maximise profits, I opened a milk bar and restaurant called Carsam in Bomet town,” says the businessman, adding that his wife Caroline runs the venture.
The milk business lasted two years before his licence was cancelled by the Dairy Board of Kenya on claims that he had not paid cess amounting to Sh67,000.
Even though he won the subsequent court case, he did not go back to the business. “When one door closes, God opens another. Owing to links I had made when supplying milk to hotels, I ventured into the charcoal business,” says the born-again Christian, adding that the business earns him an average of Sh40,000 in profit a month, much more than he earned as a driver.
In 2008, he tried his hand at poultry farming, an avenue which he says now brings him good returns. “The 300 layers give me an average of 270 eggs a day, which translates to Sh2,000 daily or Sh75,000 a month,” says Mr Tanui.
Demand for eggs in the growing town and neighbouring urban centres has been overwhelming, prompting the trader to order for an additional 300 layers from Kenchic.
So what are the challenges?
“Poultry feeds are expensive and not within the reach of many farmers. For instance, a 70kg bag of layers’ marsh currently goes for Sh2,600, up from the previous price of Sh840,” says Mr Tanui.
The trader-cum-farmer has also taken advantage of greenhouse technology to grow tomatoes. He now has more than 1,200 plants in his facility.
He spent Sh150,000 to construct his greenhouse and buy seeds and now earns more than Sh40,000 a month from the sale of tomatoes. His ventures bring in almost Sh200,000 a month.
Mr Tanui asks officials from the ministries of Agriculture and Livestock Development to visit farmers in order to help them acquire skills to improve their income.
Bomet district agricultural officer Josphat Kioko praised the farmer for maximising production on his small piece of land and asked other farmers to follow his example and take advantage of new technology.