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An IT consultant finds alternative cash from passion and pawpaw farming

Margaret Mutheu passion farmer
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Margaret Mutheu (left) and her friend tending to their passion crops at Kaewa in Machakos County. Photo courtesy.

An Information Technology expert who began passion and pawpaw farming in September 2017 is earning Sh100,000 gross income per month to supplement a monthly salary that comes from the main job.

Margaret Mutheu is the managing director of Elevate SMES Ltd, a revolutionary business outsourcing partner which offers range of services to small and medium-sized enterprises but her passion in entrepreneurship drove her to start farming as a way of increasing her income and helping other farmers get favourable market for their produce.

“I am a tech lover with 10 years experience in IT service delivery, software development and business process reengineering. I am also passionate about enterprise development and entrepreneurship,” said the former Britam IT branches operations support team leader.

When she quit the insurance provider in 2016 she decided to go into watermelon farming on a two acre part of family land at Kaewa that her father had bequeathed her using Sh450,000 from her savings and additional financial support from her husband.

Mutheu would lose almost her entire investment in this first venture as the crop was hit bay diseases, wild animals’ invasion and theft.

“I can remember that the day before harvesting some porcupines invaded the farm and ate a good number of mature fruits, some had withered away because of drought and diseases while others were stolen,” she said.

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This did not kill her passion and morale in farming. In September 2017 she was approached by some two friends- Stella and Faith and together they started Tefama Group Limited, a company through which they would grow commercial passion and pawpaw fruits.

They raised Sh150,000 capital to start the new venture after consulting an agronomist who advised them to grow yellow passion and pawpaw fruits, viable crops in the area.

They then bought 1,000 certified seedlings of solo sunrise pawpaw and sweet yellow passion seedlings at Sh80,000 in total and begun planting on an acre Kaewa farm in December 2017.

Irrigation costs between Sh1,000 and Sh2,500 per month.

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After nine months maturity period for the two fruits, they would start harvesting them for the market. They harvest 50kg of pawpaw and 150kg of passion every two weeks with the harvest of every fruit increasing by 10 kilos per harvest.

They sell a kilo of both fruits at Sh150 thanks to a ready market that the young entrepreneurs enjoy. This earns them Sh30,000 in two weeks and over Sh100,000 gross income per month.

“We supply our fruits to a value addition firm in Nairobi and we cannot meet their high pawpaw demand while passion is marketed through social media where we get many orders from our wide network of former work colleagues and other friends,” said Mutheu.

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She also sources from other neighbouring farmers who face market challenges and together she supplies up to 300 kilograms passion fruit after every two weeks directly to consumers earning her Sh45,000 per supply and Sh135,000 gross income a month.

Besides farming, she also runs 1 Million Startups East Africa Chapter, a global entrepreneurship community. The community works with entrepreneurs tackling sustainable development goals challenges through entrepreneurship by helping them access capital, mentorship and business advisory.

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