Joshua Maina Kamau due to harassment by Eldoret municipal council policemen in January 2018 left his second-hand clothes or ‘mitumba’ selling business which was earning him an income of Sh300 to Sh500 a day to venture into passion fruit farming which earns him 10,000 to 70,000 gross income a week.
“Every day we were involved in running battles with the town policemen or ‘askaris’ for several reasons one being business permits and when they caught up with us, we would be forced to bribe them to the extent of using all the daily sales besides losing some of the business property,” said Kamau.
However, his journey to being a successful passion farmer did not start easily. Kamau has tried his hands on various menial jobs to make ends meet.
After dropping out of Kakitui primary school in class six in 1992 due to lack of fees, Joshua now 42, went to work as a shamba boy for two different farms. The first farm was in Lugari , Kakamega county, and his second farm was in Elgon View Eldoret town, where he worked for eight months and three months respectively.
This helped him gain experience in running a farm and he contemplated about starting one of his own but at the time he was unable to raise enough capital. The money, Sh600 a month, he earned was only enough to cater for his needs at the moment.
From ‘shamba boy’ he ventured into a kaimati selling before mechanic services and then to a household goods hawker. These were some of the odd jobs that he did for 15 years but in 2007 he was employed by a lady in Eldoret to help sell second-hand clothes. He did this for five years and then he decided to start his own second-hand clothes-selling business since he had enough experience and market knowledge. So in 2010, Joshua opened his own business in the town.
“I could not manage to raise enough money to take care of my family and pay for my children’s school fees with the little I was earning from the second-hand clothes-selling business. I wanted to supplement my income or venture into a new line of business that would comfortably sustain my income,” said the father of three.
In November 2017, he decided to gather information by researching passion fruit farming on the internet. He also visited other farmers in his town, who were also doing the same kind of farming to get more insight. From this, he was taught how to graft passion fruits and the best irrigation methods for the fruits.
After gathering enough information, he approached Equity Bank for a loan of Sh100,000 and topped it with Sh40,000 from his savings to sum up to Sh140,000 as starting capital.
Joshua was given an acre from their family’s 82-acre land in Eldoret, he set aside a quarter of that for the passion fruit farming.
He spent Sh2, 100 to buy seeds, Sh41, 000 on manure, paid seven workers Sh10, 500 each to dig 700 holes in the land, Sh13, 000 on transport, Sh12, 500 for planting, and the rest he spent on miscellaneous.
He grafted yellow and purple passion fruits, which are drought-resistant and, therefore, take only six months to mature and produce fruits that are of good quality. He also sells to other farmers the grafted passion for Sh50 a seedling. He prepared the land for planting for two months which was by soil testing, digging holes, and applying manure.
Joshua began planting on 12th January 2018. He planted 700 vines of grafted passion of the variety B12 but due to drought and pests, he lost 100 vines and remained with 600.
After six months, he harvested seven-kilogram purple passion fruit and from then he has been harvesting from 100kg to 700kg of passion fruits a week. He will be harvesting for the next three years before planting again.
He sells his produce to brokers with a kilogram of passion fruit going at Sh100 earning him Sh10, 000 to Sh70, 000 a week.
Aside from passion fruit farming, Joshua also grows vegetables such as cabbage, sukuma, butternut, cucumber, beetroot, and thorn melon. This earns him at least Sh20, 000 a month. He has one permanent employee and two casual workers.
He also keeps 60 sheep and two indigenous cows. He is happy being a farmer and currently has acquired another acre from their family land to expand the passion fruit farming.