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Taking risks has made me a better farmer

Edward Kiguta, popularly known as Meja by his colleagues, grew up in a farming family in Nyandarua county. But they could only plant potatoes because the soils and the weather were conducive for the crop and the returns were good.

He was born and bred at Kamunyaka village in Kinangop South, an area well known as a potato basket for many other counties, including Nairobi. Kiguta always wished that one day, he would change the mono-crop culture. After studying for a diploma in accountancy at the Kenya Institute of Management and Graffins colleges in 2002-2003, Kiguta started looking for a white collar job.

Luckily, he secured one as marketing manager at General Motors and later at Flashcom Company. But with an ambition of making it bigger in his youth, he decided to quit his job after two years and start his own business.

He has never regretted the decision. “At first I thought that I could not make it in life without formal employment, but I decided to take a risk. I joined the transport industry in 2006, which was performing well that time.

From my savings, I bought a PSV Nissan matatu, which was plying route 102— from Nairobi city centre to Kikuyu via Kawangware,” Kiguta, 40, said. The matatu business was a rewarding venture at first. From the earnings, Kiguta bought several cars, which he invested in a taxi business. But in 2014, the business collapsed and he was forced to sell all his vehicles.

The following year, he visited a friend who was doing greenhouse farming at Kikuyu and was impressed by the idea. “I thought farming could only succeed in open fields, so seeing someone running a unique thing like that made me think of venturing into farming. So I opted to take another risk, which is bearing fruit now,” he said.

Since Kiguta didn’t have his own farm, he leased a quarter acre piece of land in Kikuyu district in 2015 for Sh200,000 and constructed a greenhouse. He ventured into tomato farming because the market was readily available and his friend also promised to handle the produce and sell it to his clients.

After farming for about a year at Kikuyu, he decided that East or West, home is best. So he went back home in Kinangop to develop his father’s land, which was idle. And since the area is cold, he decided to introduce greenhouse farming there.

Currently, he is growing tomatoes and capsicum in eight greenhouses. “In the greenhouse, capsicums are better in productivity, quality and in pest and disease control. Moreover, greenhouse farming is much more viable to employ in cold regions as capsicums do well in temperature ranges of 15ºC to 25ºC,” he said. Kiguta grows Red Knight capsicum varieties, which he harvests twice weekly.

Each harvest gives him between 200kg and 800kg while farmgate prices average Sh70 per kilo. His favourite tomato variety is Anna F1, produces between 600kg and 1,000kg. However, prices vary.

“I decided to grow Red Knight variety because only basic level of care is required throughout the year to ensure it thrives. Anna F1 is the most profitable of all greenhouse tomato varieties in Kenya.

This hybrid matures fast and has higher yields,” he said. His advice to the youth? “You don’t need to own land since you can start by leasing and be ready to take risks.” His future plan? “To venture into vegetable farming on five acres of land but he will be doing this in an open field.

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