In February 2018, after working as a production manager in a farm based in Elgeyo Marakwet, Maxwell Kiptanui quit his job to start his own farm in Ziwa, Uasin Gishu. The farm has now become a model for others within the region.
“While working in the farm, I was inspired by how much someone could earn from farming as I went around marketing produce and creating networking opportunities,” said Kiptanui.
“The farm earned Sh9,000 in profits daily from lettuce sales and this was a great motivation considering I was earning Sh70,000 a month and as such I realized I could earn more,”
Kiptanui started his farming venture with two acres of land inherited from his father to plant courgettes (zucchini) and lettuce.
He bought courgette seeds at Sh1200 and lettuce 75g of lettuce seeds at Sh500 from Royal Seed Company, a brand of Kenya Highland Seed and the distributor of certified seeds in Kenya.
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He planted 5,000 seedlings of courgette on a 0.4 acre of land and 6,000 seedlings of lettuce on another 0.4 acre, two short season crops that mature within a period of 50 to 60 days.
“At maturity, I harvested at least 165kg of courgettes three times weekly for a period of three months selling a kilo at an average of Sh40. Lettuce on the other hand earned me Sh30 per kilo initially as I had not known the market well but afterwards this increased to Sh50 per kilo when I sold to an exporter in Eldoret,” said Kiptanui.
In December 2018, he used proceeds from the sale of the two crops to develop a greenhouse which cost him Sh100,000. In this, he planted Anna F1 hybrid tomato variety in which he harvested at least five kilos weekly at maturity for a period of three months at Sh50/kilo.
Since then, Kiptanui has never looked back; he grows tomatoes, potatoes, kales, cabbages, passion fruits, butternuts, red and yellow pepper.
“Currently I have two acres of passion fruits, 400 heads of Chinese cabbages under cultivation, three greenhouses for production of tomatoes and pepper,” said Kiptanui.
One of the greenhouses measuring 10m by 33m for instance is ready for transplanting of 1,500 plants of both red and yellow pepper which are currently in the nursery. He bought the pepper seeds at Sh4,800.
From his one acre under butternut cultivation, he expects to harvest 7,000 kilos of the produce and anticipates selling each kilo at Sh60. This would earn him Sh420,000 from the crop alone.
“One of the biggest challenges I faced in my first season was identifying the right market, I sold to brokers who reduce the value by 20 per cent, however, I have now created linkages directly with my clients,” he said.
Kiptanui also markets his produce through social media channels such asTwitter.
He also provides on-farm training on both greenhouse and open field horticultural production charging Sh2500 per head per day. In this, active and prospective farmers get an opportunity to eat fresh passion fruits and also take home a five kilo bag of vegetables of their choice. He trains at least 10 farmers weekly.
From his mixed farm, Kiptanui bought a starlet car three months ago at Sh190,000. He uses the car to transport his produce to the markets in Eldoret and Kitale helping him cut expenses.
Horticulture is ranked as the fastest growing sub-sector in the agriculture industry in Kenya. The sector’s earnings increased by 33 per cent from Sh78.2bn to Sh104bn during the first eight months of 2018 compared to a similar period in 2017.
In this, vegetable earnings increased by 9.6 per cent to Sh16.9bn from 50,000 tonnes of produce sold while fruit exports on the other hand fetched Sh8.7bn from 57,000 tonnes exported.