In 2009 Mathew Tejeu registered for a Bachelor’s degree in law at Africa Nazarene University. He would source farm produce from farmers in different locations and transport to Nairobi to sell during his free time as a way of making pocket money and savings.
Little did he know that this was part of training which would usher him into a lucrative cucumber and lettuce production, a venture which is currently earning him up to Sh160,000 a month since he started it in 2014 shortly after graduation.
“While in school, I worked as farm produce broker. I would source some tomatoes from farmers in Nyandarua to sell at Marikiti Market in Nairobi. I also connected some sheep and goats farmers from Kajiado who wanted to sell their livestock to prospective buyers and if the deal went through, I earned my commission.” Said Tejau
It is from this job, he managed to save Sh50,000 which he used to hire the farmhand and buy the inputs. He paid the farmhand Sh2,000 to run the daily activities on the farm, Sh15,000 he spent on installing drip irrigation, Sh10,000 on fertiliser and some to buy lettuce and cucumbers seeds.
He would then plant the two crops within a partitioned three acres piece of a plot at Birika between Isinya and Kiserian in Kajiado County in November the same year targeting to start harvesting end of December and through January when the vegetables are trailing high in most local markets.
“During this time there is always drought in most parts of the country and vegetables are hard to get hence the there is always high demand against low supply. It therefore becomes the best opportunity for vegetable farmers to make a good income,” said Tejeu.
According to him, Lettuce takes 40-60 days to mature depending on the weather while cucumbers take 60 days to harvest.
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The law graduate has since mastered the art of producing the two crops. He plants 5000 pieces of lettuce every two weeks while cucumbers he plants after every four weeks rotationally and continuously throughout the year to spread his harvest and income.
He harvests 2,000 pieces of lettuce after every two weeks and 2,000 kilos of cucumbers in every four weeks.
A piece of lettuce goes at Sh30 at Marikiti Market while a kilo of cucumbers sells at Sh50 at the same market at a maximum price. This translates to Sh160,000 gross income per month before deducting Sh16,000 transport cost per week among other expenses.
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Today, Tejau has further employed five farmhands whom he pays between Sh9,000 to Sh13,000 per month depending on the work done.
One big challenge he faces is the government’s high taxation on pesticides that shoots up the price of the farm input. “If I were to spend Sh10,000 per week on pesticides, for example, with the new VAT regulations, the figure will rise to Sh75,000 increasing the cost of production,” said Tejeu.
Despite the challenges, he is planning to put up a grocery in Birika, which will enable him and other farmers sell their produce directly to consumers and big retail outlets without passing through middlemen, who he says deny farmers their full returns.
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Besides farming, Jejeu is also the CEO of Centre for Advocacy Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse, an NGO advocating for a drug-free society.