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Quest for healthy diet births a fruit and vegetable agribusiness for Kitui farmer

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Munuve’s farmhand watering tree tomato plants at his farm in Kitui. The county then gave him an acre piece of plot at Mwingi where he used to grow maize, beans, green grams and cowpeas among other crops. Photo courtesy.

Justine Munuve quitted his job in 2000 to start a botanic garden to improve the diet of his ailing mother is now running a lucrative agribusiness, a venture which has seen him mentor over 30 youth besides earning Sh1m annually from it.

He worked for Nakumatt (a Kenyan supermarket chain) Mombasa branch at its purchasing department until his mother was diagnosed with diabetes 18 years ago.

Since there was no one to attend to her, Munuve had to leave his job to look after his sick mother by helping with the doctor’s recommended foods such as vegetables and fruits among others.

“My mother fell ill. She needed support especially with the right diet to enable her improve on her nutrition as a way to complement the doctor’s prescribed medication,” said Munuve.

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Buying fruits and vegetables for the sick mother everyday was not easy. “I could spend almost Sh300 per day buying some fruits and greens,” said Munuve. This was too expensive for him.

He therefore decided to start a small botanic garden where he would plant bullet chillies, eggplant, zucchini, some indigenous vegetables, bitter gourd (Karela), guava and oranges among others to cut down his budget and that the produce could be of help to his diabetic mother.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), fruits such as oranges, passion, watermelon, apple, kiwi, and guava among others are loaded with good-for-you vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, a powerful nutrient that can help regulate blood sugar levels and decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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To his surprise, the garden yielded enough produce and the surplus could be sold in the nearby open air market to raise some money to cater for other needs.

“I was happy that the health of my mother gradually improved courtesy of the small garden which yielded enough vegetables for food and sale,” said Munuve.

This was his turning point in his new career. After the mother fully regained her health, he decided to move his farming to another level. In 2010 he wrote a proposal to the county government of Kitui for support.

“When my mother’s health had improved, I decided to increase my farming but lack of enough resources was a challenge. I therefore opted to look for support from the county government,” said Munuve.

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The county then gave him an acre piece of plot at Mwingi where he used to grow maize, beans, green grams and cowpeas among others before moving into greenhouse farming of tomatoes, kales, amaranths, pumpkins and onions a year later.

Munuve is currently running Skyway Hotel in Mwingi Town. The hotel which is in Kitui County is the main consumer of his produce further cutting down his budget.

“I do not spend a lot in purchasing vegetables and fruits I need to prepare meals for my customers because I produce most of these from my farm,” said Munuve.

He also supplies his produce to colleges, schools and also sells to open air markets in the surrounding where he says there is great demand.

I am able to make over Sh1m every year from the agribusiness venture and this is motivating, he said.

Munuve has since dug a well worth Sh200,000 from which he draws water to irrigate his farm during dry periods which according to him is between July and October.

The well has enabled him further venture into tree nursery business, where he sells avocado, orange, passion, grapes and jack fruit seedlings besides selling pumpkin seeds.

He has since increased the number of youth he mentors from 12 to 30 and together with them they have been able to plant trees covering over 11 administration locations in Mwingi.

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