What started as a farming hobby for Mercy Chemutai Too, then a fourth-year agricultural economist student at Karatina University has turned into a money-making venture earning her enough money to sustain herself.
Kenya experiences two rainy seasons (bimodal), namely the long-rains (March to May) and the short rains (October to December) seasons.
However, as the supply is normally low during the off-season period in December to March when there is no rain, this is the time Chemutai harvests her produce for sale ensuring she reaps maximum profit.
“I usually plant my crops in the off-season period when there is no rainfall so as to maximize profits due to high demand at the time,” said Chemutai.
Chemutai grows short-season crops such as kales, cabbages, and spinach which take between one-half and three months to mature.
She started the venture in 2014 in her first year with Sh2,000 higher education loans board cash that is normally lent to Kenyan students in higher institutions of learning by the government and since then she has never looked back.
In this, she used Sh300 to purchase kale seedlings for planting on her eighth-acre farm acquired from her father in Kericho County. The rest of the cash was used to till the land and weeding
She planted kale seeds three inches apart and applied chicken and cow manure at the rate of one handful per hole. The manure was obtained from her father’s farm.
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“I thinned the kales when they were about five inches tall to reduce competition for nutrients and also ensure that mature leaves have space for growth,” said Chemutai.
She waters the plants manually twice a day using water from a well in her home.
Her first harvest gave her three 100-kilo bags of kales which she sold to markets in Kericho town. She sold each kilo at Sh14 compared to eight shillings per kilo during the rainy season.
Since then she has been doing crop rotation to prevent pests from attacking the crops.
In this, she utilizes the long holidays which normally take five months each year to grow the crops making an average of Sh8,000 monthly in profits.
Kenya’s earnings from fresh produce exports in 2018 jumped to Sh153.68bn, a 33 per cent increase over 2017 earnings, according to the statistics released by the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), and Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK).
In this, vegetables earned Sh27.68bn in 2018 from Sh24.06bn earned in 2017, respectively.