BY STEVE MUCHERU
- Fresh from high school, Beth Wahu decided to start hawking onions in Naivasha town, a move that attracted curious stares from peers
- With capital from her mother she set off to do what her peers dismissed as an odd job
- Together with a friend who had a similar interest, they ventured from door-to-door to sell the commodity
- But it was their entry into the populous Karagita estate where flower farm workers reside that their fortunes grew making a profit of Sh200,000
When she started hawking onions in Naivasha town soon after completing Form Four, Beth Gahu attracted curious stares especially from her peers.
Understandably so, because it is not a job for the faint-hearted considering one has to walk under the scorching heat with a heavy load on the backin search of customers.
But just fresh from high school with results yet to be announced, her friends wondered what the hurry was all about. Had she given up hope so fast? Did she anticipate to fail in her Kenya certificate of Secondary Education results that she had decided that’s the career path she would take?
Unperturbed, Wahu worked even harder and got a friend also willing to venture in the same business to work with.
It was a springboard she needed and with a backing from her mother and a close friend, she ignored the derisionand chose to follow her heart.
“Accompanied by my friend we normally go to the market to buy onions which we hawk within our residential area moving from door to door,” she opens up.
Initially, the sales were nothing to write home about. Their door-to-door strategy seemed to work against them as some envisaged customers did not take lightly someone knocking at their door to disturb their peace.
Wahu and her partner decided to change tact and decided to move their hawking business to hotels and butcheries and at the same time selling within their estate where they were familiar with the clientele.
They also moved to the populous Karagita estate where hundreds of flower farm workers reside. It is here that the gates of fortunes opened up with the demand outstripping supply.
The magical move, turned golden as their customer base grew rapidly. Within three months, they were able to make a profit of Sh200,000.
“We were so motivated and decided to go the whole stretch. Despite the initial challenges, it was payback time,” Wahu said.
On a good day, they canmake between Sh2,000 and Sh5,000 each, heralding a new dawn for the high school leavers.
Even as the business continued to thrive, Wahu knew this was going to be short term as she still needed to go to college. When time came to join college several months later, she reluctantly had to close her business. So the two friends decided to split their earnings with each able to pocket more than 100,000 shillings after months of toiling and moving from house to house.
Wahu is currently a student atNakuru African Institute of Research and Development where she is pursuing a diploma course in community development.
“With my savings I was able to comfortably purchase the required items for college as well as service my whole year hostel charges without a sweat,” said the 21-year-old.
But that would not be the end of her interest to become an entrepreneur. While still in college, Wahu decided to make use of herfamily farm in Kasuku, OlKalouto grow maize and other farm produce.
In her first attempt the crop did not do well, instead eating into her savings. Wahusays the weather was to blame for the poor yields given the area is not good for maize farming.
“In my first attempt at farming last year, poor yields coupled with fluctuating market prices conspired to deny me my first earning. I did not even manage to break even,” she explains.
That, however, did not deter her from trying again this year.With the support of her mother sheplanted potatoes on six acres of land and with expected good pricing, she might be smiling the way to the bank when she harvests.
“With all factors constant, I expect to harvest between 170 and 200 bags and hope the pricing will be good,” says the 21-year-old who is juggling school life and farming.
“So far the tidings are good and we hope with a good pricing, I shall be able to rake in between Sh400,000 and Sh500,000,” she says.
So far she has spent close Sh60,000 and expects to use extra cash as overhead costs including labour.
She hopes to add extra acreage as she attains experience in the farming and probably also think of value addition.“I want to fully concentrate with farming even after I complete my course. Value addition would be my next frontier in the coming years,” she says with optimism.
She hopes the county government would continue enforcing the packaging rule that has seen farmers being exploited for years by some unscrupulous middlemen.
The Crop Production and Livestock Act (2005) set the standard packaging for potatoes at 110 kilos but middle men use extended bags often over 150 kilos to fleece the farmers.
In a move aimed at increasing potato production, officials from Nakuru, Kiambu, Narok, Kericho, Kisii, Nyeri, West Pokot, Bomet, Nyandarua and Baringo joined forces to improve farming methods, packaging and marketing of the produce.
In the past middlemen have been known to buy potatoes from farmers and forcing them to fill them up to 280 kilogrammes and later sell per kilo in markets, benefiting more than the farmers.
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