Peter Gitau planting a seedling during a practical training lesson in Israel. The young farmer has ventured in short-term crop production for quicker income. Photo courtesy.
A young farmer from Kiambu County who ventured in short-term-crops such as cucumber and tomato production in August 2017 is earning Sh760,000 net profit a season thanks to a government sponsored trip to Israel for an internship program that equipped him with practical skills in the crops production.
Early 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed an agreement dubbed “The Jerusalem Declaration” or the “Declaration on Collaboration in Water and Irrigation” that would see fresh graduates from various higher learning institutions attend an 11 months practical training course in Israel.
Peter Kimani Gitau, 25, is among the 101 such students who benefited from such trip in 2016 at the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training (AICAT) in Sapir, Israel after applying and qualifying for the program.
“After applying for the free-to-undertake program, I was pleased to get invitation for an interview by AICAT Kenya which I performed well and got selected,” said the Bsc Land Resources Planning and Management degree holder from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT), 2016.
Kimani and the other selected students were therefore awarded air tickets in form of loans which they would later repay during or after the internship which involved hands-on trainings and the students were expected to take part on farm production activities.
“We would go to classes only on Mondays and the rest of the days we time in the fields with experts who trained us on general crop production process from planting to harvesting. During the time in the field we were being paid 30 shekels (about Sh900) per hour and we were working for 10 hours a day,” said Kimani.
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After the 11 months training, Kimani like other colleagues were able to save, repay their flight loans and remained with enough to start him off in his ventures back in the country.
“In addition to a certificate in Advanced Agricultural Technology from AICAT, I also saved Sh500,000 by June 2017 when they came back to Kenya.”
This is the money he used as capital, teamed with a friend who owned about two acres piece of plot in Thika and together they were able to install two greenhouses measuring 8x30m and one net house where they would start growing tomatoes and cucumbers by August the same year.
“We spent a total of Sh700,000 putting up the greenhouses and hiring two workers to manage day-to-day activities of the farm.”
They planted 1,400 Tylka F1 tomato variety plants and 1,000 Super Marketer cucumber variety in Thika. After three months they would start harvesting the crops.
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According to Kimani, one tomato plant was worth Sh1,500 and one plant of cucumber could yield 14-17kg per plant selling a kilo at between Sh45-60 in Nairobi’s City Park Market and Thika traders who come to the farm to pick as per their orders.
This very first season earned the two gross income of about Sh1.7m from tomatoes and Sh750,000 from cucumbers. These results have since motivated the two and they have been increasing the area under production from season to season with new farms leased in Keno, Sagana and Thika.
“We have increased our production and currently at our fourth season we have ventured into vegetables such as Kales and vegetables,” said Kimani.
There farms are already attracting visitors and learners for bench-marking. They charge Sh500 per head and Sh5,000 per group.
Today he is a horticulture consultant to other agricultural firms and individual farmers who seek his know-how in crop production. His services are charged depending on the amount of investment with the minimum amount charged being Sh180,000 per season for firms.
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His future inspiration is to venture into value addition of tomatoes to curb the problem of wastages that many farmers in the country always face during the crop glut in the market.
“This is an idea which I have well thought of but lack of enough funds and facilities is still keeping me away from implementing it,” said Kimani.
He has decided to fully make farming his lifetime career at a time many youth in the country are experiencing unemployment challenge with many of them viewing farming as a ‘dirty’ venture.
Peter Gitau (right), Israel Ambassador to Kenya, Eyal David and a friend at his farm in Thika. Photo courtesy.