By Betsy Ramser Jaime
“My dad encouraged me to think outside the box and start farming,” says Rachel Wanjiru Njuguna. As a wife, mother, recipient of a Marketing Management diploma and a current Accounts Clerk, Rachel is now able to add farmer and entrepreneur to her list of titles and accomplishments. Growing up with 4 siblings and the daughter of a farmer, Rachel was always impressed that her father was able to educate all 5 of his children through his farming business. Now, as an adult, her father has become an incredible mentor to her as she follows in his footsteps.
However, the path was not always easy. In 2011, she gave birth to her son and decided to stay at home with him. This was a difficult decision because her husband’s income was quite small. She says, “I started saving from the money he left me for daily use. I joined women’s groups and this has really helped me to save and support my family. From this experience, I have become very passionate about women’s empowerment and I really encourage the women I interact with to save and work hard. I hope one day to have an organization that supports women.”
Through her hard work and consistent savings, Rachel began her potato farming venture with a single acre. Then, the next year she was able to add another acre. She chose this particular venture for two reasons. Firstly, because of her experience growing up on a farm she has seen how farming can change lives and can be very profitable when done correctly. In addition, potatoes are a crop that are always in demand in Kenya. To begin, the typical costs involved: seeds, fertilizer, labor, and pesticides. She also chose to start this business to be able to educate her son, provide good medical care for her family, reinvest, and use part of the profits for household expenses. Eventually, she hopes to farm more than 50 acres.
For her first Zidisha loan, Rachel began with a modest amount of $50 in January 2015 for her basic startup costs. After successfully repaying her first loan, she funded her second loan of $121 in April 2015 to buy fertilizer to top dress the potatoes. She knew that this would require 3 bags of DAP for $28 and 3 bags of UREA for $26. After her second loan, Rachel knew that she was ready to expand her acreage. Therefore, she used her third loan in August 2015 to acquire 3 more acres of land at $80 an acre for a $240 investment. As she grew her acreage she was even able to hire 5 additional workers by October to help with her farming.
Then, in January 2016, she applied for her fourth loan of $365 to continue fertilizing and top dressing her crops. To start the new year, Rachel reported to lenders the following update, “I would like to thank the Zidisha family. You have really changed my life. 2015 was a good year for me because of your support. You should know that you are a blessing to many and you have improved so many lives. My financial status has improved and I am able to assist my husband in taking care of the bills. I have also been able to start a business supplying charcoal to a few hotels in my area and also selling to the people who use them at home in small quantities. With the charcoal business I was able to employ one person who helps me in running it as I attend to my 8 to 5 job. Thanks a lot for your support.”
Throughout her farming journey, Rachel has been able to seek wise counsel from her father with his 30 years of experience in the farming industry. She notes that, “with his help I have been able to improve a lot and get knowledge about farming.” By May 2016, Rachel found that she was ready to expand to include other crops such as, peas. With her growing expertise, she was able to fund her fifth Zidisha loan of $554 to buy seeds and fertilizer for her new crops. Then, she funded for sixth loan of $815 in October 2016 to lease farm land and to continue purchasing fertilizer and pesticides for her business. To show what a difference this has made Rachel mentioned, ‘the loan I have just completed has really helped me invest more. I have been able to take an education policy for my son. That means my son will be able to get a good education and medical care. I have also been able to start saving for a plot and that means I will be able to build a home for my family.”
2017 continues to be an impressive year for Rachel. On March 29 she shared on her discussion page, “when I started with Zidisha I was doing potato farming. At the moment I have managed to start two more businesses which help me with my day to day expenses. This year my son is in a new class and as the school fees goes up I am able to pay without any difficulty.”
Most recently, on April 7, Rachel updated lenders with the news that she will next be expanding to cabbage farming. She mentioned, “the money I get from this harvest will help me greatly in achieving financial freedom in so many areas. Thank you lenders for trusting me with your money. A special thank you to the lenders who have funded me from my first loan. May God bless you all.”
If you would like to change the life of another family like Rachel’s, head on over to our loans page to contribute to another project.