I diverted teacher training cash to farming enterprise

Janet Chebet receiving Best Youth Farmer award from President Uhuru Kenyatta during the 2015 Nairobi Agricultural Trade Fair in Nairobi. pHOTO | courtesy
Janet Chebet receiving Best Youth Farmer award from President Uhuru Kenyatta during the 2015 Nairobi Agricultural Trade Fair in Nairobi. PHOTO | courtesy 

Janet Chebet Onganga disappointed her family when she diverted money set aside for her training as a teacher to venture into farming. But she has since won three national awards and says her earnings hit Sh1.25 million a year. She is happy and so are her parents.

Now aged 30, Ms Chebet married Julius Onyancha in December 2004, the same year she completed secondary school studies at Kiptere Mixed. She scored a C- (minus).

When her parents gave her Sh300,000 to enrol for teaching training. She used the money as capital to start farming on her husband’s family land.

“My parents were bitter with me about the decision I had taken and they stopped calling or sending me any messages,” said Ms Chebet.

She was named the Best Youth Farmer in Kenya in 2015 for her aquaculture and green house farming. The same year, she won the Best Farmer award from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

In 2016, she won the Most Successful Farmer award from Equity Bank #ticker:EQTY for having excelled in agribusiness through the loan assistance from the bank.

Her beginning point from her initial lumpsum was to spend Sh60,000 to buy two Friesian and Jersey heifers, Sh10,000 on transport and Sh90,000 on a cowshed.

“I chose to start with dairy farming because I needed compost manure since I had a big plan to use the remaining money to start aquaculture and horticulture farming, since manure is good for the algae needed in fish pond and crop growth,” said Chebet.

“Using compost manure from the cow shed would reduce my cost of buying the manure from other farmers.”

Now, she has 10 cows of which two are lactating. She gets 10 litres per day from the two cows, selling each litre for Sh60. This gives her about Sh18,000 a month and Sh100,000 a year after spending Sh16,800 on feeds.

To cope with the drought, she prepares silage from Napier grass, maize stalks and molasses to feed the cows.

“I got full approval by the Ministry of Agriculture of Nyamira County in December 2012, after the officers from the ministry came, looked at what I was doing and asking questions to find out whether I had knowledge in farming,” she said.

This encouraged her, and she spent another Sh200,000 from her dairy income to build two fish ponds of 300 square metres each. She bought 2,000 tilapia fingerlings at five shillings each.

Today, she has 2,000 tilapia fish in her two fish ponds. She does a major fish harvest twice a year, selling each mature fish at Sh200, translating to over Sh200,000 of annual income.

She aimed to use water drained from the fish pond to irrigate crops in greenhouses and an open field in her four-acre plot.

“Water from fish ponds is rich to crops because it has fish waste and this also helps me to cut costs on manure and water usage since I rely on harvested water.”

Ms Chebet, who is now harvesting tomatoes from her 10x40 and 8x30 metre greenhouses, started greenhouse farming with a capital of Sh350,000 in late 2013. She has other two greenhouses measuring 8x15 and 8x30 metres under vegetables and decorative plants, including kales and spider plants, awaiting tomato planting next season.

The greenhouses are now her main agribusiness, and what earned her a State award and recognition. “My four greenhouses keep me busy the most, especially when I am harvesting tomatoes. I invest Sh450,000 in tomato production and I earn over Sh750,000 return,” she said.

She also grows butternuts on part of her farm. One butternut plant yields her about five fruits, each of which goes for Sh20, meaning from the 1,000 plants she has right now she expects to earn Sh100,000.

She hosts other farmers and university students who visit to learn.

Her parents have come to appreciate and encourage all her activities. “They have come to respect my decision and have become my great supporters.”

Ms Chebet attends agricultural training organised by among others, the Ministry of Agriculture and World Vision — an NGO — and gets financial knowledge from her husband, a procurement officer at Nyamira County.

- African Laughter