News and knowhow for farmers

IT professional strikes gold in pawpaw, passion fruit farming

Margaret Mutheu passion farmerMar­garet Mutheu (left) and her friend tend­ing to their pas­sion crops at Kaewa in Machakos County. Photo cour­tesy.

An In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy ex­pert who began pas­sion and paw­paw farm­ing in Septem­ber 2017 is earn­ing Sh100,000 gross in­come per month to sup­ple­ment a monthly salary that comes from the main job.

Mar­garet Mutheu is the man­aging dir­ector of El­ev­ate SMES Ltd, a re­volu­tion­ary busi­ness out­sourcing part­ner which of­fers range of ser­vices to small and me­dium-sized en­ter­prises but her pas­sion in en­tre­pren­eur­ship drove her to start farm­ing as a way of in­creas­ing her in­come and help­ing other farm­ers get fa­vour­able mar­ket for their pro­duce.

“I am a tech lover with 10 years ex­per­i­ence in IT ser­vice de­liv­ery, soft­ware de­vel­op­ment and busi­ness pro­cess reen­gin­eer­ing. I am also pas­sion­ate about en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment and en­tre­pren­eur­ship,” said the former Britam IT branches op­er­a­tions sup­port team leader.

When she quit the in­sur­ance pro­vider in 2016 she de­cided to go into wa­ter­melon farm­ing on a two acre part of fam­ily land at Kaewa that her father had be­queathed her using Sh450,000 from her sav­ings and ad­di­tional fin­an­cial sup­port from her hus­band.

Mutheu would lose al­most her en­tire in­vest­ment in this first ven­ture as the crop was hit bay dis­eases, wild an­im­als’ in­va­sion and theft.

“I can re­mem­ber that the day be­fore har­vest­ing some por­cu­pines in­vaded the farm and ate a good num­ber of ma­ture fruits, some had withered away be­cause of drought and dis­eases while oth­ers were stolen,” she said.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Graft­ing purple and yel­low pas­sion fruit con­trols deadly wilt­ing dis­ease

This did not kill her pas­sion and mor­ale in farm­ing. In Septem­ber 2017 she was ap­proached by some two friends- Stella and Faith and to­gether they star­ted Te­fama Group Lim­ited, a com­pany through which they would grow com­mer­cial pas­sion and paw­paw fruits.

They raised Sh150,000 cap­ital to start the new ven­ture after con­sult­ing an ag­ro­nom­ist who ad­vised them to grow yel­low pas­sion and paw­paw fruits, vi­able crops in the area.

They then bought 1,000 cer­ti­fied seed­lings of solo sun­rise paw­paw and sweet yel­low pas­sion seed­lings at Sh80,000 in total and begun plant­ing on an acre Kaewa farm in Decem­ber 2017.

Ir­rig­a­tion costs between Sh1,000 and Sh2,500 per month.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: South Su­danese high yield­ing and fast matur­ing paw­paw vari­ety seeds avail­able in Kenya

After nine months ma­tur­ity period for the two fruits, they would start har­vest­ing them for the mar­ket. They har­vest 50kg of paw­paw and 150kg of pas­sion every two weeks with the har­vest of every fruit in­creas­ing by 10 kilos per har­vest.

They sell a kilo of both fruits at Sh150 thanks to a ready mar­ket that the young en­tre­pren­eurs enjoy. This earns them Sh30,000 in two weeks and over Sh100,000 gross in­come per month.

“We sup­ply our fruits to a value ad­di­tion firm in Nairobi and we can­not meet their high paw­paw de­mand while pas­sion is mar­keted through so­cial media where we get many or­ders from our wide net­work of former work col­leagues and other friends,” said Mutheu.

RE­LATED ART­ICLE: Pas­sion fruit short­age sparks price rise across major towns in Kenya

She also sources from other neigh­bour­ing farm­ers who face mar­ket chal­lenges and to­gether she sup­plies up to 300 kilo­grams pas­sion fruit after every two weeks dir­ectly to con­sumers earn­ing her Sh45,000 per sup­ply and Sh135,000 gross in­come a month.

Be­sides farm­ing, she also runs 1 Mil­lion Star­tups East Africa Chapter, a global en­tre­pren­eur­ship com­munity. The com­munity works with en­tre­pren­eurs tack­ling sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals chal­lenges through en­tre­pren­eur­ship by help­ing them ac­cess cap­ital, ment­or­ship and busi­ness ad­vis­ory.

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