We don’t sell you anything you cannot do. What we sell you is skilled labour and time. With Tukalime, you can be in your office working and have your other passion running so perfectly that you never feel like you have dropped the ball.” – Mr Kevin Kamau, the founder Tukalime Located on Thika Superhighway is Ndarugo, an area famous for extracting and selling quality building stones.
Almost every minute, old Bedford trucks rumble along, ferrying the stones out of the quarries. Amidst these trucks, you will find Mr Kevin Kamau’s navy blue pick-up crisscrossing the dusty roads.
Unlike the lorry drivers, Mr Kamau’s interest is not stones, but agriculture. In an extraordinary move, he has successfully turned a once bushy, rocky and snake-filled two-acre piece of land into a thriving onion farm, and while the lorries roll out with stones, he brings out some good onions! At 35, he is redefining agriculture, drawing many into the practice and salvaging farmers who have almost given up hope.
His company name, Tukalime, is Kiswahili for, “Let’s go and farm”. And Kamau is urging fellow Kenyans to do just that.
Many dream of having a farm that gives them an extra income, for weekend visits or as a retirement engagement. But they fear jumping into a new unknown area.
That is where Mr Kamau comes in. He affords one the luxury of concentrating on one’s job while he works on your farm. “We do nothing out of the ordinary, but with a keen eye on costs and a wealth of experience, our clients’ investments are often very successful,” he says.
With a total of 400 acres located in different parts of the country under his watch, it can be a daunting task. What every client wants is profits and Mr Kamau has created an ecosystem that works like clockwork.
How he joined agriculture After working for a long time in the United States, managing a chain of stores selling branded sunglasses, Mr Kamau came back home five years ago.
“I then partnered with a friend and we planted and supplied potatoes to restaurants at Westlands, Nairobi. Things went well until I realised that my partner had good ideas but they were different from what I had in mind. I wanted to build a brand that would impact positively on people’s lives,” he says The partnership dissolved, sending Mr Kamau back to the drawing board. But a call from a friend in Canada, complaining about sending money back home for investment, but with no tangible results, spurred him into action.
He planted onions for his friend and was successful. Through referrals, more requests came and he finally registered Tukalime. Mr Kamau, a finance and economics graduate, was set to manage his clients’ farm on their behalf.
He did not reinvent the wheel but just perfected what he had seen his parents do while growing up. Slowly but surely his clientele began to grow.
During our recent visit to Ndarugo, his phone kept on ringing as he dealt with a water crisis in Subukia, a fertiliser and products order in Nairobi, and land preparation in Lukenya.
“Ndarugo was challenging. We had to clear a lot of bushes. We enlisted some locals to lend us a hand,” says Mr Kamau “We got water from a nearby stream and planted onions in basins. We recently harvested and sold the onions and it has been very profitable.” The Ndarugo project runs on leased land.
The client, Jane*, lives in Norway and wanted an investment that would provide a sustainable income for her aging parents. Today, she no longer sends them money anymore.
“I give my clients choices because initial costs of irrigation can be expensive for most startups. I crunch the numbers for the customers and they are able to know the costs they will incur to the last cent and the minimum sale price of the produce before they begin,” says Mr Kamau
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