Special Reports

Engineer fine-tunes mixed farming to successful venture

Nicholas

Nicholas Kipchirchir (second right) talks to youth who had visited his farm for training on September 13, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Summary

  • His breakthrough came through dairy farming. He had four heifers producing an average of 100 litres of milk daily.
  • He has employed two people on a permanent basis and another six part-time.
  • Tree tomato is another alternative source of income. He has grown the fruit trees an acre of land.

When Nicholas Kipchirchir quit a job paying him over Sh250, 000 a month to venture into agribusiness, most people thought he had gotten it all wrong.

But determination knows no borders and almost four years down the line, the 36-years-old is running a booming agribusiness that he is now an employer.

“Many people including my wife and parents did not expect me to resign from a well-paying job and undertake such a risky business where everything is determined by market forces of demand and supply, but look at where I am now,” says Mr. Kipchirchir whose career was looking rosy as a technical and operations manager at Enviroserve Kenya, a company that manages electronic waste.

The graduate in Environmental and Biosystems Engineering says he developed a passion for agriculture when he visited South Africa.

“I realized that there was a big opportunity in agribusiness, especially mixed farming while on an assignment in South Africa in 2017. I visited several farms where I installed boreholes for irrigated crop production and saw an opportunity which could be replicated in Kenya,” he says.

But the beginning was not a bed of roses. Just like all entrepreneurs, farmers require start-up capital and extra money set aside for emergencies. “The advantage is I had land, three acres. But later, I had to lease to expand the acreage and accommodate more food crops, poultry, dairy cattle under zero-grazing, sheep, and bees among other micro-investments to create a solid base for a living,” says Mr. Kipchirchir who comes from Nandi.

At first, he remained in employment for two years. “If you want to realise a profit, you should be ready to take a risk and that is how I managed to concentrate fully on my farm activities,” he says, adding that he had to make many sacrifices due to low returns at the beginning.

His breakthrough came through dairy farming. He had four heifers producing an average of 100 litres of milk daily.

“Although initial capital for zero-grazing is colossal, the ultimate returns are attractive. All that one requires is proper animal husbandry since there is always a ready market for milk and its products,” he says.

He later increased dairy cows from four to seven with three lactating and leased 10 acres of land to plant maize for making animal feeds, cutting costs.

He has employed two people on a permanent basis and another six part-time.

Mr Kipchirchir has also diversified into sheep rearing and sells about 15 annually with each going at about Sh8,000 translating to Sh120,000 per year. “The good thing with agribusiness, you are your own boss and you can diversify in response to market forces unlike in white-collar jobs where you strict yourself to an area of specialisation,” notes Mr Kipchirchir.

To generate additional income, he keeps poultry-60 layers of improved kienyeji giving him 60 eggs a day and earning about Sh20, 000 a month.

He also has seven top-bar beehives each producing 10 kilogrammes of honey after every three months earning him an average of Sh60,000.

“In this kind of farming, one cannot depend on a single source of income. I have diversified to farm visits and I charge Sh1,000 per person for a two-hour session. I get 10 to 15 people monthly. This also gives me additional income unlike in employment,” Mr Kipchirchir says.

Tree tomato is another alternative source of income. He has grown the fruit trees an acre of land. Because erratic climatic conditions mean uncertain harvests, he has invested in irrigation.

“Before March this year, I used to harvest 80 kilogrammes of tree tomatoes, giving me Sh6,400 per week,” he says.

He has also started the cultivation of avocados and has planted 10 trees of the lucrative Hass and Fuerte varieties under drip irrigation.

He says most of his farm produce has a ready market in Western Kenya.

What’s his advice to the youth planning to delve into agriculture? “You require discipline, focus, and determination to succeed, just like in any kind of business,” he says.