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Enterprise

Why I quit tech career to grow French beans

Jedidah King’ori at her farm in Isinya
Jedidah King’ori at her farm in Isinya, Kajiado County. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Jedidah Wacera King’ori is quickly building a name for herself as a French beans farmer in Isinya, Kajiado County.

Ms King’ori was not always a farmer. She studied technonology and kicked off her career in the field at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries. This was in 2009, after graduation with a diploma degree in IT from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

However, in May 2018, the desire to be her own boss made her quit her job to venture into farming. This was driven be her passion for farming and her desire to be her own boss and earn more that she was getting from her 8-5 job.

“I was earning about Sh18,000 per month at the ministry. This money was not enough for me because I was very young and energetic,” she says.

Armed with Sh180,000, from her savings, she established Tail Fin Enterprises and started growing French beans farming in Makuyu, Murang’a County.

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She later shifted to Isinya in Kajiado County where she has 15 acres of assorted crops.

Aside from French beans, which are her core business, she grows butternuts, onions and cabbages to supply the local market.

Ms Kingori’s farming venture has grown rapidly and she is now exporting to markets such as the United Arabs Emirates (UAE), France as well as Dubai.

An acre under French beans, she says yields about 5 tonnes and in a good month, she makes between Sh300,000 and Sh350,000 in profit.

“With French beans, you have to plant every week as its matures between 45 and 50 days,” says the farmer who has three permanent staff and 20 on temporary terms.

With such a roaring success, the skies is the limit for the young farmer.

Two months ago, she got Sh1.4 million credit boost from the Youth Enterprise and Development Fund (YEDF) which she has used to lease an additional five acres.

Although Ms King’ori’s farming venture is doing quite well, starting was not that easy.

As is always the case with budding entrepreneurs, she did not have enough capital and not many banks were willing to advance her credit. This was mainly because she had no collateral and the success of her new venture was not guaranteed.

“It was not an easy start. I remember I was not able to access money from the bank then,” she tells Enterprise, noting that she borrowed Sh100,000 from her family.

Another challenge is expanding her export markets. She has not been able to supply the lucrative US, European Union (EU) market because of tough entry requirements.

In early May, the EU said it would impose stricter measures on Kenyan beans starting May 26 as it tightened checks on residue levels. The new directive would see all beans from Kenya subjected to a 10 percent mandatory sampling, with excessive levels of pesticide residues likely to lead to total ban.

“These tough conditions have made it difficult for French beans farmers like me to access the EU market though it’s a market we would love to supply,” she says.

Another challenge is the cost of agronomical services for which she pays Sh20,000 monthly.

“I have never seen any extension officer paying me a visit in this farm. The government has a lot to do in helping small scale farmers in this country,” she says.

In the next five years, she plans to expand her venture, buy her own land and cut the costs of leasing.

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