A branded three-wheeler vehicle (Tuk Tuk) stops at a compound in Kisian, Kisumu County, and soon, two crates are offloaded by a man dressed in a white overcoat.
Inside the crates are tens of day-old chicks delivered to a farmer.
Soon, the farmer and the worker from the firm named Chicken Basket count the chicks one by one before the tuk tuk zooms off to another farm.
On this day, the firm is distributing the day-old chicks to several farmers. On another day, Chicken Basket would be distributing feeds to farmers or collecting eggs and chickens, which are added value to and then delivered to clients.
Chicken Basket is a one-stop shop for poultry matters and is run by Abisai Nandi.
"I started as a poultry farmer some three years ago, specialising in hatching and selling day-old chicks,” recalls Nandi.
The business in which he had pumped in Sh200,000 from his savings, with the money going on construction of chicken houses, incubator and feeds, among others, did well as demand for Kari Kienyeji chicks was high then.
“The business was good and I even added two incubators of 1,200 egg capacity in January 2015,” recalls the 31-year-old, who was selling chicks at Sh90.
However, challenges soon set in. Sometimes he would buy fertilised eggs from farmers, which ended up to be of poor quality.
“The eggs produced low quality chicks that when I sold to farmers, there were so many complaints. The chicks were prone to infections, some had stunted growth and there was high death rate generally.”
Nandi says he had to offer free chicks to farmers as he tried to save his business.
“I did the maths and realised I was making losses.”
But as he grappled with sustaining the business, Nandi has seen another opportunity.
“The farmers I was dealing with had intimated to me that they were also facing challenges of getting quality feeds, extension services and selling their products. I realised that I can start a firm, work to deliver all these services to them,” says the 2010 holder of Diploma in Business Administration from Kenya Institute of Management.
However, as he readied to start, there was a challenge as the kind of business he envisioned required a huge capital.
SOLD IDEA TO TWO FRIENDS
He sold the idea to two of his friends and they came on board, helping him raise capital. One of them offered to buy the branded Tuk Tuk.
Nandi registered Chicken Basket in 2016 as a business based in Kisumu town, and currently, he works with 200 contracted farmers from Kisumu, Bungoma, Vihiga, Nandi, Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay counties.
“I get farmers I work with through referrals though I also market my business in farmer events. Our three pillars are quality input, training and finally marketing,” says Nandi, who is the CEO.
Nandi gets day-old Rainbow Rooster chicks from Kuku Chicks in Eldoret and sells them at Sh100 to farmers. On the other hand, he sources Kuroilers from Uganda.
“I also have a partnership with Bidco Feeds. I get orders from farmers and the company supplies me the feeds. I then distribute the chick, Kienyeji and layers mashes,” says the former administration officer at Aga Khan Hospital in Kisii, who quit his job to farm.
Farmers who buy chicks from him get free training and vet services from a veterinary officer he works with.
“Before a farmer buys our chicks, we tell them what it takes to raise them until they start laying or are ready for sale if they are for meat. We also take them through feeding regime, diseases to watch out for, among other things,” he says, adding the veterinary officer normally vaccinates the birds for farmers and treats them in case of disease outbreak.
Nandi further offers market of produce from the farmers he has contracted.
“We buy birds from contracted farmers at Sh500 and slaughter at Mamboleo abattoir, pack in branded containers and do free household delivery via our branded Tuk Tuk. A 1.8kg chicken goes for Sh650. A kilo of wings and liver at Sh350, gizzards Sh400 and drumsticks and necks cost Sh450 and Sh300 respectively.”
In a good day, he sells up to 50 birds to hotels, homes and eateries in the county, besides other products like eggs and drumsticks. He also gets monthly or weekly orders of up to 200 live birds.
He has employed four salespersons who deliver the birds earning him good income in a month.
REQUIRES RESOURCES AND KNOWLEDGE
“I am now dealing with a wider market, which is better than my initial business. Right now if I have an order of 1,000 birds, I check the system and make calls to farmers to have the birds delivered. Initially, I would not honour such an order,” says Nandi, who has attended various agricultural forums to gain knowledge in agribusiness.
Pamela Oriedo, a farmer from Kisian, who is contracted by Chicken Basket, has 77 improved Kienyeji birds and 300 three months old chicks.
“I started keeping the chickens because I knew I had market and reliable source of feeds and vet services. All they do is to call and ask me to prepare my birds for sale, and they come and pick,” says the member of Agia Women Group.
Amos Amenya, an agronomist at the Lake Basin Development Authority, says it is cheaper to get day-old chicks and sell them as one doesn’t incur any cost on feeds, brooding, vaccination and space for poultry housing.
Prof Matthew Dida, a lecturer at Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture, says the business model offers one better control and potential to achieve success in the whole poultry value chain.
“With this model, one is in-charge and able to curb the challenges that arise in poultry production, management and marketing. He has the advantage of turning the gaps into opportunities,” says Prof Dida.
He, however, says this kind of model needs a lot of resources and knowledge to deal with challenges that might arise in the whole poultry value chain.
He says that partnership with financial institutions and expertise in whole poultry value management can help edge out the potential challenges.
By Elizabeth Ojina
IN WATER MELONS I'VE FOUND GREAT WEALTH AND CREATED JOBS
Igambangombe in Tharaka-Nithi County is semi-arid, with little food crops doing well there, but David Muriuki has found the right crop for the area.
The 34-year-old grows mainly watermelons on several acres, with the crops performing well enabling him to reap handsomely from the soil.
The former farmhand says he was introduced to melons by an agronomist in 2014 after trying his hand on millet, which earned him so little.
“I had returned home after working in Embu at a farm and wanted to change my fortunes. Back home, I prepared my one-acre farm and planted millet and after four months, I harvested 180kg, which earned me Sh3,600.”
Dissatisfied, Muriuki says he sought the help of Kiambi Kiriiro, the agronomist, who introduced him to melon farming.
“With his guidance, I planted melons on half-an-acre and harvested 8.7 tonnes, which I sold to buyers from Nairobi at Sh15 per kilo earning Sh130,000,” he recalls.
With the money, he purchased a water pump and a generator as he sought to expand his agribusiness.
Muriuki now pumps water from River Ruguti, and grows the crop on 10 acres, earning a fortune as he grows the fruits twice a year.
To grow melons, he starts with ploughing the land, then digging holes that are a feet deep and two feet wide. Then he adds a spoonful of cow dung in each hole few weeks before planting.
“The holes should be a metre apart and the rows at least a metre-and-half apart for good growing. Besides the dung, I also add some spoonful of DAP fertiliser a day before planting seeds of either Sukali F1 or Milia F1 varieties of melons.
I normally put two or three seeds in each hole, just in case one does not germinate,” he explains, adding he top-dresses with CAN.
Melon seeds germinate in 5-7days and he plants half kilo of seeds on an acre, with the package going for Sh10,000. It is important to mulch the plants to avoid damage, but this is tricky on a large farm like his.
“To curb weeds, I spray the field with herbicides a few days before planting. I use scarecrows to scare away birds which damage seedlings,” says Muriuki, noting he prevents waterlogging especially during the rainy season by digging trenches between the rows.
The fruits are ready for harvest in about three months and to know if they are mature, they produce a hollow sound when tapped. Each plant offers him four to five melons.
“I harvest the fruits by cutting their stems with a sharp knife, breaking them with a hand causes damage.”
Muriuki, a form four graduate, says when the melons are about to mature, he informs buyers from Nairobi who visit his farm with trucks and buy.
The fruits are weighed with a kilo currently going at between Sh25 and Sh30. “Some melons can weigh as much as 20kg and others as little as 7kg,” he says, adding that the fruits are in great demand with most buyers making orders when the crop is still on the farm.
On his leased ten acres, he produces about 200 tonnes of melons in a single harvest earning a fortune as he grows he crop twice.
SEEK PROFFESIONAL ADVICE
“The cost of production per acre is about Sh100,000. The money goes to wages for labourers, pesticides and fertiliser.
I hope to increase my acreage to 20 acres by the end of this year,” says the farmer, noting anthracnose is among the diseases he grapples with.
Using the money from farming, Muriuki has been able to buy a lorry, start a hardware and buy several parcels of land.
“I would farm for life because it is well paying. If young people embraced farming, the level of unemployment would go down. My take is that what young people need to do to succeed in farming is seek professional advice, identify the livestock or crop to farm and don’t fear to invest.”
His wish is that the government facilitates irrigation activities across the country so that farming become easier. In five years, Muriuki who has five workers, hopes to be farming on 40 acres if he overcomes water scarcity.
Frashia Mwebia, an agricultural officer at Tharaka-Nithi county government, says a farmer should ensure there are no weeds around watermelon plants because they hide pests, which cause diseases and also compete for nutrients and water.
She adds that the crops must be well watered especially during fruiting stage to make the fruits juicy.
By Alex Njeru
Prof William Kirwa, an agribusiness consultant based at the Strathmore Business School, says to succeed in agribusiness, the youth must have the passion and drive to venture into the practice.
“A deep insight, skills and knowledge on what you want to practice are vital, and these can be acquired through attending classes and lessons on agribusiness,” he says adding that one should also prepare a good, working business plan to guide him.
Prof Kirwa calls for patience as success does not usually come easy, hence the farmer has to be prepared to incur losses, which however should not dissuade him.
“Pests and diseases that affect both crops and livestock and can wipe out an entire chicken flock or crops cultivated, lack of markets for produce, unfavourable climate and weather conditions, and lack of finances and funding, among others, are some of the challenges one will contend with in agribusiness,” he says.
He however advices one to always seek insights from certified agribusiness extensional officials, experts and trusted, successful agribusiness individuals in case of challenges.
“As agriculture moves into technology, it brings with it advantages especially to the youth who are technology savvy, which is an added gain in their course of agribusiness,” says Prof Kirwa.
He adds that the government should facilitate institutions that offer youth funding and financing in agribusiness, rather than those that operate like banks, whose major intention is to earn from the young people they should be supporting.
– Brian Okinda
- The crop prefers a hot, dry climate with mean daily temperatures of 22 to 30°C. This is the climate for lower parts of Tharaka-Nithi County especially Tharaka-South and North Sub-Counties and Igambang’ombe division.
- The crop is very sensitive to frost. Maximum and minimum temperatures for growth are about 35 and 18°C respectively while the optimum soil temperature for root growth is in the range of 20 to 35°C and is sensitive to frost.
- Watermelons grow best on soils that hold water well and have good air and water infiltration rates with a pH of 6 to 7.