A French beans farmer in Ngoliba, Kiambu County, who lost about Sh100,000 four years ago due to the lack of a ready market as she harvested, has since adopted relay planting on now 15 acres to give her a constant harvest that is generating an income of Sh150,000 a month.
Starting off in French beans farming from her banking job, Jecinta Ngina invested Sh400,000 of her savings and loans to lease an acre of land and invest in farm inputs.
After 45 days, the 36-year-old former banker with no experience in farming harvested her first crop only to reaslise that there was no ready market, which saw her sell the entire product=uction for the best price she could get, of Sh24,000.
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This saw her reconsider her market and production, and attend training organised by horticultural and chemical companies in Thika, where she networked and attracted clients.
As a result, today, she has leased 15 acres, where she grows tomatoes, French beans and baby corn.
For French beans, she has divided her farm into blocks of an acre each where she plants the crop so that at any given time she has a young French beans crop, another awaiting maturity and a mature one ready for picking. She then plants French beans for two seasons, and rotates with tomatoes or baby corn.
“I get an average of Sh150,000 from an acre of French beans a month, which is my profit,” said Ngina.
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A kilo of French beans fetches between Sh50 and Sh180 depending on supply and demand. She harvests an average of 2,000kg a month, while a crate of tomatoes goes for between Sh1,000 and Sh2,000.
The French beans and baby corn are mainly for export, while she sells the tomatoes in the local market where she makes about Sh40,000 from an acre of tomatoes monthly, which goes to running the entire farm.
She sells the tomatoes to traders who come to her farm and pay in cash.
She plants baby corn on about three acres and sells it to an exporting company at Sh25 a kilo. From exports through one company, she now has tens of clients and ensures their demand before planting.
The exporting companies give her a list of chemicals she is allowed to use and those that are prohibited. The chemicals keep changing. She is also instructed on the pre-harvest intervals after spraying.
She grades the produce at a shed in her farm, to ensure only quality ones are delivered.
“Farming needs some knowledge and passion. I do not have a background in agriculture, but I had the passion to learn and farm.
”This has helped her meet many challenges, including erratic weather. When it is dry, she uses drip irrigation and pumps water from the nearby Chania River. But “when the rains are heavy, my crop is destroyed,” she said.
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Ensuring a market is also an ongoing challenge. “Sometimes clients fail to honour their promise to buy produce even after they agreed before the planting season.”
Her plan is to export her produce directly, but she is still mastering the many licences, which, she says, are rigorous and costly.
Her farming practice has seen her won an award by the Ministry of Agriculture and Elgon Kenya for being the top young farmer in Murang’a County.
She now has a full-time farm manager and also employs casual labourers from time to time to help with planting, weeding, and harvesting.
Jecinta Ngina canbe reached on :0714723004