Two years were enough for Isaac Ndirangu to have a full experience as a driver in the chaotic matatu industry and start a new life in potato farming, a venture he says gives him much peace besides Sh180,000 gross returns a season as compared to Sh20,000 monthly salary.
Ndirangu worked as a driver in Nyandarua County from 2014 to 2016 and he could not cope with the ups and downs which came about with the everyday harassment by the traffic police on what he says were even petty issues.
“It is unpredictable sector to work in. As a driver or conductor, one can just work up early in the morning with the morale to work only to be arrested regardless of the time of the day even on petty offences that one can just be warned,” he said.
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Sometimes they were forced to work either very early in the morning or late in the night to avoid arrest just to get something to take home. This is besides the deafening noise that the industry is associated with.
With Sh30,000 savings that he had, Ndirangu left the his job end of 2016 and borrowed an extra Sh20,000 from a friend to begin potato farming, a venture which most farmers in the area were engaged in hence it would be easy for him to get along.
“Potato farming was the best option because I could get seeds easily, and know the right variety to grow and how to grow it from the experienced farmers,” said Ndirangu.
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He therefore spent Sh20,000 to buy two acres of plot costing Sh10,000 each for a period of one year. Sh12,000 went on six bags of fertiliser, drugs took away Sh4,000 and labour took Sh3,000.
He then planted on the two acres Shangi variety of potatoes by March 2016. The variety as a fast maturity rate taking only two and a half months to fully mature while the other potatoes take approximately 3 months and above.
Ndirangu would soon harvest 60 bags weighing 130kg each which sells at Sh3,000 earning Sh180,000 gross income a season. He sells majorly to brokers who come to buy the produce at the farm.
This motivated him and he has since ventured into other farming activities such as greenhouse tomato production and dairy farming among others.
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He has also formed Nyandarua Farmers Association, a group which comprises of 10 farmers currently who are engaged in various types of farming. Through the group, they also ensure they have a uniform market price for their produce to avoid any sort of exploitation by the middlemen.
Also to the farmers’ advantage is the newly launched Engineer Food Processing plant located at Engineer Town in Kinangop, Nyandarua County which is expected to address the perennial problems of low prices and lack of market for the popular produce.
“We hope to rip full profit from our produce when the plant’s agents will reach us to buy our produce,” said Ndirangu.