Evans Muugu Mwangi knows what fair pay is and what is not. A former police officer who at one time was attached to Mwaki Kibaki, who became Kenya’s third President in 2002, says he quit the then force because the Sh700 a month salary hurt his morale.
Mr Kibaki hired him as a personal guard in 1996 during presidential election campaigns. He also worked as security officer at several establishments, including hotels.
He worked in police service for eight years, between 1975 and 1982 and quit over pay.
In a little-known Tambaya village of Mukurweini Constituency of Nyeri County, Mr Mwangi, 63, is immersed in grass business. He grows and sells suckers of Guatemala grass to farmers who plant it for fodder.
From the sucker sales, he earns about Sh200,000 yearly. Farmers’ field days and agricultural shows raise his income, since he sells a bundle of six-root splits at Sh100 and says he can take home “a clean Sh50,000 or more.” His regular earnings at the farmer events is between Sh20,000 and Sh30,000.
On his one-and-half acre plot next to the river sits the venture that he launched in year 2000 using a donation of eight suckers from a friend who worked at Egerton University. The father of six didn’t know much about the grass, but decided to give it a try.
“I plant stem cuttings with a length of 20-30 centimetres or rooted culms (root splits) either in holes or in a plough furrow and within three to four months it is mature and ready for harvesting,” says Mr Mwangi.
“I have sold the splits to farmers from all parts of the country and also from Uganda. I keep a calendar of agricultural shows because that is when I make more money.”
Guatemala grass increases milk production, according to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.
Mr Mwangi dropped coffee farming, saying the grass has better income that sustains his family needs and school fees for children in secondary schools and colleges.
“I do not regret venturing into farming this grass because it settles all our bills. I have a daughter in Form Four, another at polytechnic in Kirinyaga and a son at Kabete Polytechnic.”