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Quest for healthy diet earns Kitui farmer Sh1M annually from botanical garden

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vegetablesMunuve’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 quit­ 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.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Women group earns Sh10,000 in three months from in­di­gen­ous ve­get­ables flour

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.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Pro­gramme to pro­mote in­di­gen­ous ve­get­ables gain­ing mo­mentum

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.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: In­di­gen­ous ve­get­ables prom­ise farm­ers nu­tri­ents and profits in cash

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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