Jeremy Musila applying fertiliser to his French beans at his farm in Kitengela. Photo courtesy.
In 2014, Jeremy Musila dropped out from Technical University of Kenya where he was pursuing a Diploma in Information and Communications Technology due to lack of school fees. He would start French beans farming two years later, a venture which is currently earning him over Sh0.5m net income a season
“Opting out of school was never my wish but it was as a result of financial challenges though I no longer regret it having converted it into a great opportunity over the years,” said the 27 years old farmer.
Before farming, Musila worked as a cashier at Uchumi Supermarket’s Capital Centre branch along Mombasa Road in 2014 and 2015 then was retrenched early January 2016 together with other employees following the ailing state of the retail chain.
He in vain tried looking for another job before bumping into his longtime friend, Erick Kioko who was also faced with joblessness after quitting his job from Tuskys supermarket.
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Kioko would later convince him (Musila) into French beans farming back at Ngoliba along Garissa Road near Matuu where Kioko’s family has a four acre piece of land which was not being fully utilised.
“The idea looked good after we both did a small research on French beans market and possible production per acre. It was more feasible given many farmers in the area were also practicing the crop production and it would be easy doing consultations and learning from them,” said Musila.
He used Sh10,000 part of his Sh100,000 savings from Uchumi job to lease an acre piece of plot from Kioko’s family as the friend also acquired an acre where they would begin farming each separately.
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They then visited Phyma Fresh Produce firm, an agricultural fresh produce exporter located in Embakasi, Nairobi to seek for French beans production contract.
“To my amazement, the company offered us a one year contract each with good terms to produce and supply them with French beans. They also offered us agronomical support that would enable us choose the right seeds, chemical, fertiliser and irrigation methods,” said Musila.
He then used Sh20,000 to buy a 20kg bag of vanilla seeds variety of French beans, Sh3,000 on ploughing, Sh1,000 in furrowing and Sh7,000 on chemicals.
These would pave way for him to start planting beginning February 2016 targeting market from mid to end of March when there is high demand of the produce in both local and international markets as advised by Phyma Fresh Produce agronomists.
“French beans take between 45-50 days to mature and once ready the crop can be harvested for three weeks of continuous inflow of cash,” said Musila.
The first season saw him harvest 2.5 tonnes which to him was below the target of four tonnes which a farmer can realise from an acre piece of land.
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Fortunately, his harvest came at the right time when the crop was fetching Sh150-200 a kilo in export market. This saw him rake about Sh375,000 gross and Sh220,000 net income from the that very first season.
“This was below the target, I remember there was a neighbouring farmer who harvested three tonnes from just a half an acre piece of plot.”
However, through further consultaions he has since improved the quantity and quality of his produce from season to season leaving no chance to diseases and pests such as thrips and whiteflies which affect the crop causing rejection of some produce by exporters.
“Of the two pests, thrips are the most dangerous. They attack the crop at flowering stage making the final produce look crooked unacceptable for export,” said Musila adding that also failure to water the crop during dry season even for a week can lead to 50 per cent loss.
Today, he has four acres of land in different locations where he cultivates French beans on rotation. First is a two acre farm at Ngoliba he leased at Sh10,000 per acre and another two at Kitengela leased at Sh100,000 each and both have a potential of producing 3.7 tonnes and 4.5 tonnes of French beans a season respectively.
At Ngoliba, he uses free water from Athi River tapped through government built canals which supplies homes and farms with fresh water via gravity while in Kitengela he spends about Sh15,000 on water per season during dry seasons.
He is also currently selling to other five fresh produce exporting companies on order. He has three seasons of production a year earning him about Sh1.04m gross and over Sh0.5m net income a season.
Musila who has since turned into a French beans farming consultant runs a Facebook page, ‘French beans for export’ where he advices various farmers especially starters on how to grow the crop and further helping them access markets by linking them to exporters.
Other than his Facebook, ‘French beans for export’ page, Musila can also be reached on +254 719 566978