Behind the Sh10,000 monthly profit each member of a self help group in Nyeri county earns, and a blooming flower business is the sweat and toil story of 11 young people who two years ago had the will but no means to actualize the will.
The members aged between 22 and 40 years belonging to Endarasha Charity Highland Self-Help Group in Kieni West district, Nyeri County, went for a loan from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) in 2012. Their idea of venturing into floriculture had already received support from a local company which agreed to supply them with seedlings and buy their flowers.
The group, initiated in 2012 with the aim of bringing the youth of Charity village together, had in mind a project which would generate income and help them fight runaway consumption of illicit brews and drug abuse among their age-mates.
“Our idea was to set up a flower project so that we could empower ourselves,” said group chairman Godfrey Mwangi.
The idea of venturing into floriculture was born after a local company, Wilmar Flowers Limited, bought them seeds of ornis flowers and promised to buy their harvests for export.
“We have been cultivating flowers since then and they have been buying them from us” he said. The ornis variety is easier and cheaper to manage than the rose variety, which must be grown under special conditions in greenhouses and on a large scale for one to make returns. Ornis flowers are grown in an open field under a shade, which can be made of nets or even polythene bags. According to Mr Mwangi, the flowers are exported to Holland, from where they are redistributed to other European markets.
The flower are measured in heights of 30 centimetres at a local price of Sh1.50 per stem. Every week the group harvests between 2,000 to 3,000 stems. “We harvest them once a week and we expect to do this for the next two years,” he said. Mr Mwangi said the longer the stem, the higher the price.
He said that once the flowers have matured they can be harvested for two years before planting them afresh.
The flowers take between four and six months to mature. Each member earns between Sh8,000 and Sh10,000 per month.
“Every member has his or her own portion which they take care of,” said Mr Mwangi. Prices are determined by the international market and seasons.
During the high season, Mr Mwangi said, they make good money, but in the low season — July and August when it’s summer in Europe — sales drop. This is because European countries produce their own flowers when the climate is favourable.
The public relations manager for the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Mr Benson Muthendi, while touring the group’s farm in Endarasha, said that members had approached them saying they had found a firm willing to buy their flowers.
Mr Muthendi said the group requested the fund to give them a loan. He said their officers went to Endarasha, inspected the land and sort expert opinion from area agricultural extension officers who assured them that the flower project was viable.
“We gave them a loan of Sh50,000 and the group has since repaid the money. They came back and borrowed another Sh360,000 which the group has been repaying for the last six months,” said Mr Muthendi.
The fund has given out 20 greenhouses to various groups in Nyeri County, totalling about Sh5 million, according to the official.
YEDF has set aside Sh350 million to train the youths in agri-business and enable them to venture into the sector.
Out of the amount Sh100 million will go towards greenhouse farming while Sh250 million will be used to diversify farming. Mr Muthendi said that agri-business was the only sure way to create jobs for, and empower, young people.
“Some of the youth groups such as this one have ventured into floriculture which is a good idea since there is a ready market both locally and in foreign markets,” he said.
He said that the fund was encouraging young people to venture into the farming since all that youths need is a piece of land, a loan and skills. “What they need is written authority from an owner of land stating that he or she has authorised them to use it for a certain period,” said Mr Muthendi. He said that the fund provides groups with a loan and training and links them with the market.
Milka Wangechi Karanja, another group member, urged youths to stop relying on searching for white-collar jobs and venture into agri-business.“Embrace agri-business and don’t shy away from farming, you can make good and quick money from the business,” she said.
She urged parents to consider releasing land to their children to encourage them venture into agri-business.