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Mwea rice farmer’s journey from casual labourer to millionaire

rice joshua

Joshua Njeru, a class eight leaver from Riando Primary School in Mbeere, Embu County, owns two butcheries in Mwea town which he has been able to open through rice farming. Each butchery earns him an average of Sh3,000 in profits daily.

Njeru arrived in Mwea in 1996 where he worked as a casual laborer in rice farms, with intentions of buying a bicycle to start a boda boda riding business. He would take home at least Sh150 after working for a day in the farms. He saved part of his income.

At that time, Boda boda operations were the booming business for the youth in Mwea town. From the little money he had made from working in rice farms he finally bought his long waited bicycle in 2005 at Sh2500 and switched to the business of ferrying people from one place to another.  In this, he began taking home Sh500 per day from his new venture.

However, it turned out to be a very difficult job for him.

“I would go home extremely tired after a long day of long rides up and down hill transporting customers and goods for fourteen hours on my bicycle just to reach my Sh500 daily target,” he said.

In 2008, Njeru swapped roles from being a bodaboda operator to a matatu tout with the hopes of making more money to start rice farming.

From the new endeavor, he could make between Sh600-700 daily. He did the job for seven years before eventually moving up the ladder to a driver in 2015 operating from Embu to Nairobi. His earnings soared to Sh1000 a day and he increased his savings capacity.

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In August 2016 he leased one acre of land at Sh12,000 for a one year period. He hired a tractor for Sh1200 for the preparation of the land. He also hired a few laborers, who he paid Sh150 each per day.

In his first season, Njeru did not make much as he had anticipated.

“I managed to harvest 24 bags of rice which I sold at Sh4,500 making a profit of Sh70,000,” said Njeru.

In the following season he leased one extra acre and did the same for subsequent years that followed. Today he leases between six to 10 acres of land harvesting between 27 to 30 (90kg) bags per acre.

It costs him Sh45,000 to lease one acre of rice land. The land preparation and leveling up by a tractor costs Sh7000. On average, he hires 10 workers per acre at Sh350 each per day.

“Planting has to be in August because the weather is favorable for the crop, if you plant any other time of the year, the rice may be affected by bad weather, blight, diseases, inadequate access to rain water and hence poor yields,” he said.

After harvesting his rice, he stores the bags in his store at his premises which he built purposely for rice storage.

Njeru does not sell his rice until the prices go up.

“At harvest time, one bag of 90 Kg is normally sold at between Sh5400 to Sh5850, but when there is less rice in the market the prices range between Sh6750 to Sh7200 per 90kg bag.

To conserve the produce, he stores the rice with the husks on.

“The rice can last up to one year when stored in husks,” he said.

Buyers come to his store to buy the rice when the market is ripe for him.

He makes a profit of about Sh1.024m to Sh1.05m per season.

Njeru however, faces a few challenges in his farm. Sometimes some of the land owners are not straight forward. They may lease the land to two people at the same time in one same season. In such a case, the two tenants have to come to an agreement. Mostly when this happens, the two tenants have to divide the land in to two equal parts and proceed with the farming. Irrigation is also a major challenge when there is inadequate rain.

However these challenges won’t stop him doing more and adding more acres to his venture. He plans to continue and do large scale farming in rice and sell his produce in other markets other than Mwea town. He also plans to open more butcheries in different areas .His next big thing is to buy a lorry for transport, buy cows and supply Nairobi with beef meat.

Njeru can be reached on 0725941448.

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