In 2015, Silas Rutto started farming short season crops to supplement his income as an Information Technology Officer at a Nairobi firm, a venture that that is now earning him approximately Sh780,000 in profits every three months.
“I started with one acre but I have now expanded to 16 acres, 10 under potato production and six under peas, the two crops mature within 72 to 90 days and I cultivate them three times annually,” said Rutto, whose farm is based in Olposmoru, the border between Nakuru and Narok County.
Rutto started the farming with five friends who contributed a total of Sh100,000 as initial capital investment.
In this, they used Sh8,000 to lease the land, Sh48,000 to buy 16 bags of seeds, land preparation cost Sh12,000, fertilizer Sh12,000, labour, weeding & planting Sh15,000 and pesticides Sh5,000.
“From our first harvest we got 25 bags which was too low than the expected production of 70 bags and that’s when I realized we made mistakes in the production process such as using uncertified seeds, wrong pesticide application and untimely weeding,” said Rutto.
According to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, the informal sector in Kenya accounts for about 60-70 per cent of most seeds planted by farmers across the country. Most farmers recycle seeds from previous harvests therefore denying them the chance to maximize yields.
“In the next season I decided to farm alone by investing Sh200,000 from my Sacco savings, from which I used Sh16,000 to lease two acres of land, tractor and clearing expenses cost Sh30,000, certified seeds from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization Sh80,000, labour and pesticides Sh20,000 and fertilizers Sh24,000,”
Silas Rutto spraying his potatoes at his farm in Olposmoru. Farmbiz Africa.
Since then the Strathmore University graduate has never looked back, he has seen his production soaring high expanding from the initial two acres to the current 16.
He has employed a farm manager and four permanent employees who take care of the farm on a daily basis. However, he often engages 10 to 20 casuals daily depending on the nature of work. He visits the farm on weekends and at planting/harvesting stages.
In a good season he harvests between (60-80) potato bags of 90kg per acre and three tonnes of peas per acre.
“I sell the produce in Marikiti, Kisii and Sirare markets but sometimes the brokers (middlemen) come up to the farm to collect the produce,” said Rutto.
“The price changes depending on the time of the year, at the moment potatoes retail at Sh40 per kilo at Marikiti below the recommended price of Sh50 per kilo by the National Potato Council of Kenya,”
His main challenge is the changing weather patterns which hampers his production. In May to July 2018 for instance, he lost 10 acres of his potatoes due to heavy rainfall which affected the crop at the flowering stage. He now prefers cultivating the crop between September and March short season rain season to prevent losses.
With Kenya’s population growing at a rate of 2.5 per cent annually according to World Bank, Rutto’s motivation is to grow more food needed to feed the increasing population.
“In the next three years, I intend to expand my farm to 50 acres and invest in a lorry so that I will be doing my own delivery to the market,” said Rutto.
In the 2019 season he plans to lease 28 acres out of which 10 acres will be under potatoes, six acres under peas, four acres – cabbages and another four acres under traditional vegetables.
More than a million farmers in Kenya grow potatoes contributing Sh50bn to the economy each year. In this, small scale farmers contribute 83 per cent of the total production.
In 2017, Kenyan farmers produced 1.5m tons of potatoes against a potential of eight million tons according to the 2018 Economic Survey Report.
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has developed 51 varieties of potato seeds since 2012 to boost production with 17 varieties from Kenyan breeders, 33 from Dutch breeding companies and one from Scotland with imports of 602,450kg of seed.
Rutto can be reached on +254 712 082 452