A farmer, a student and businessman at 18!

At 18, he was a farmer, a student and businessman! He bought his first piece of land using proceeds from his farm produce, and though the law student was committed to finishing his studies, he believed agriculture was the next ‘big thing’ and must be in

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Eighteen-year-old then, Brian Kinyanjui is from a middle class family in Limuru, Kiambu County, where his basic needs are guaranteed. Like many of his age mates, he could easily just spend all his time and energy in class and during weekends, have fun with his peers. But the second-born in a family of three divides his time between his farm, an open-air market and university lecture halls.

It was less than a year since Brian waded into farming, with all its uncertainties. But with calculated steps like those of a chameleon, he tested the waters and today, confidence has replaced fear. The young man runs a company, Kiki Grocery Suppliers, which is making inroads in Nairobi’s up market residential estates, where he makes daily deliveries of fresh produce.

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He specializes in supplying vegetables directly to his clients. “I started with coriander. Five weeks later, I was Sh9,000 richer,” says the young farmer. Just a year after he harvested and sold his coriander, Brian diversified into other fast-moving vegetables and is getting more orders for fresh supplies. He grows most of the vegetables on part of the family’s six-acre farm at Ngecha in Limuru and buys others at Nairobi’s Wakulima Market. “I have regular customers in Nairobi. I have managed to win their trust and that why demand is increasing,” he said.

The law student at the University of Nairobi grows on a one-acre piece of land given to him by his grandmother, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, cabbages, coriander, indigenous vegetables and kales. He applies overhead irrigation with water from a nearby dam. “Sometimes customers may ask for fruits that are not in season, and to avoid disappointing them, I deliver substitutes then make them understand the situation,” he said.

He attends lectures on the Parklands Campus three days a week, and to ensure that his customers get supplies, his aunt, a partner at Kiki Grocery Supply, assists him. Early in the year, Brian bought land for Sh55,000 near Konza. “Someone offered me Sh250,000 for the plot but I am not ready to let it go yet,” he revealed.

He hopes to own a ranch one day, to grow all types of crops and rear domestic animals. His immediate plan is to start a poultry project and a mushroom house. His future project is to keep six dairy cows. He also plans to grow onions and a two-acre piece of land has been identified for leasing in Nyeri County. Brian feels the one-acre piece of family land he has been growing vegetables on is not adequate to maximize the benefits accrued from farming. “I got my first Sh72,000 from the sale of snow peas from a one-and-a-half acre piece of leased land in Njabini, Nyandarua County. This was my first major project in farming and having spent only Sh18,000, I was impressed by the returns and decided to buy the Konza plot,” he said.

While in school, farming had never interested him, though his grandmother has been a farmer since she quit teaching in the early 1980s. His father is an automobile engineer, while his mother ventured into dairy farming only recently. Though Brian is committed to completing his university education, he is certain farming will greatly influence his future. “I was able to buy my first piece of land when I was only 17. That is enough proof that it is the next big thing in Kenya and, I want to be in it,” he said.

He is aware of the challenges, including lack of ready markets and unpredictable weather. But he points out that the solution lies in proper marketing strategies, value addition and exploring international markets. He hopes to get a Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) certificate to enable him to venture into export markets. During the short time he has been in farming; he has seen both the good and the bad side. Soon after making Sh76,000 from his Njabini farm, he decided to plant lettuce at the family farm at Ngecha. By harvest time, the market was flooded with the product and he ended up making a loss of Sh1, 500. He has also bought 70 quails at Sh550 each. Eleven died, resulting in a loss of Sh5,500. “I considered quitting. But on second thoughts, I decided to treat the loss as a learning process. Now, I am wiser and I can easily predict what the market for certain products will be like in four months’ time,” said Brian confidently.

On a positive note, he sold 2,000 pieces of cabbages at Sh40 each, pocketing Sh80,000 a day and a month earlier he had sold lettuce at Sh45,000. He has also earned Sh36,000 from broccoli after selling at Sh120 a kilo and attributes this to perfect timing of the market trends.

What advice would Brian give to those interested in framing? “Be prepared to face anything and always have an open mind. There is a lot of fun in agriculture but this should not be considered a holiday. You must be ready to work round the clock. Rapid population growth means more mouths to feed and this is the time to take a strategic position,” he concludes.