When Richard Githua Kangondu decided to go back to his rural home in 1989, many of his peers thought that he was out of his mind or he had consigned himself to a life of rural poverty.
Indeed, many visited him at his home in Gathukimundu village in Mukurweini sub-county, Nyeri county, asking him to return to his casual jobs in various manufacturing firms in Industrial Area, Nairobi.
However, Githua was tired of earning Sh200 a day. Today, Githua is well on his way to becoming the newest millionaire in Nyeri from his quarter-acre land, earning himself the nickname “chairman’’.
Currently, the farmer has more than 32 dairy animals producing over 200 litres of milk per day when all his animals are lactating. Records at Wakulima Dairy Cooperative, where he sells his produce, Githua earns more than Sh3,000 a day. His calves fetch between Sh200,000 and Sh300,000 each.
Githua won the 2016 Best Small Scale Farmer (Fully Commercialised) Award announced in February. The competition is organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and a regional agro-chemical distributor, Elgon Kenya Limited, together with other partners.
The soft-spoken 62-year-old farmer spends almost everyday in his farm. He says he was working at Silent Night Company, manufacturers of foam mattress when he realised that he was wasting time in the city. “I was relaxing in my rented room one day when I realised that I could make more money through farming.
As such, I was wasting my energy in the city doing casual work, so I informed my friends and village mates that I would return home and try my luck,’’ said Githua. His friends questioned his wisdom to return home, most of them terming him a coward and loser. “My peers in Nairobi sent emissaries to drag me back to the city.
They had even managed to get me a better job but I told them I was through with city life,’’ said Githua. At first, life in the village was pretty tough, forcing him to spend the entire day in the farm with little success.
“At times I would wake up at 5am and start planting and cultivating bananas. However, I would get disappointed when the produce was poor but this didn’t kill my resolve that I would have a breakthrough one day,’’ said Githua.
Frustrated by traditional farming, Githua decided to venture into dairy farming. Unfortunately, he did not have money to buy a dairy animal. ‘’One of the reasons I decided to go back home was to better take care of my mother and my 10 siblings.
Despite losing our father at an early age, my mother was able to educate us using meagre milk sales. So I decided, why not do it big time with high-yielding dairy cattle,” he says.
After realising that he did not have money to buy a cow, Githua did the unthinkable: he borrowed one from a neighbour. ‘’One day as I agonised over my predicament, I visited my neighbour who luckily agreed to lend me a cow on the promise that if I made any money, I would repay him.
That is how I started up to where I am today,’’ said Githua. His journey to success has not been smooth sailing. Many of his animals have in the past failed to produce due to poor feeds sold in the market.
“But farmers affiliated to Wakulima are lucky since we buy quality feeds manufactured by our own cooperative. However, this is not to say we are immune to poor quality; we encounter this problem since many of the feeds in the local markets are substandard,’’ says Githua.
Another problem bedevilling the dairy sector in the area is vagaries of weather. This means farmers supply of feeds is not guaranteed throughout the year.
“Last year, our livestock never produced to their optimum. We were sourcing fodder from elsewhere and preserving the same through silage. This is the future of dairy farming,’’ said Githua. Notwithstanding such challenges, Githua is the best producer in the over 50,000 strong cooperative.
And he is not apologetic to those who dissuaded him not to follow his dreams. “I want to advise our young people to follow their dreams. If I did not make a decision to venture into dairy farming, I would never have become financially stable. They too can make it,” says the father of three.