By Betsy Ramser Jaime
Edith Tumaini is a busy woman, as a wife, business owner, and mother of two children living in the outskirts of Nairobi. In addition to a strong work ethic she also has the educational foundation having taken Business Management courses all the way up to the college level.
Edith started her farming business after resigning from her work as a banker in order to pursue her passion. She started by putting up a small greenhouse on the property of her compound, fortunate to have the necessary space. She was able to use the money that she received after resigning for her initial start up costs.
To begin, Edith planted tomatoes for a 6 month period. Then, using the money she earned from selling the tomatoes, she purchased an automatic 200 egg incubator which cost $825 dollars. This led her to start hatching and selling quail chicks to farmers. Knowing the importance of continually re-investing in her business, she then used the proceeds from the quail eggs to build a quail and chicken house.
To explain her business she shares, ‘I do greenhouse farming, planting tomatoes and indigenous vegetables, hatch and rearing quails for both meat and eggs, and I have just started hatching and rearing indigenous chicken. Organic gardening is now being embraced both locally and internationally and as Kenya embraces this technology, investors, farmers, and those already in the organic business are expected to reap high returns. With the agricultural industry having rising environmental concerns, organic gardening seems to be the preferred choice for a majority of farmers. And that’s why I decided to farm organic indigenous chicken and indigenous vegetables because the demand is higher.’
Giving back to her own community has always been a dream of Edith’s and in the future, she hopes to achieve that dream through employing a few members of her town. She shares, ‘When my business expands I know I will be able to increase my stock to about 5000 chickens and have no less than 10 employees, that is where I will say I have life fulfillment because through me more than 10 families will be able to put food on their table and educate their children, and THAT IS MY DREAM.’
With any business, there are obviously costs and risks to consider. Edith explains that in greenhouse farming, the biggest risks are pests and diseases. The solution for this is hiring an agronomist to provide advice on pest control and proper spraying procedures. Regarding quail farming, she mentions that there is not as much risk but that cleanliness is important. With chicken farming, the biggest risk is disease but this problem can be resolved due to vaccinating and by providing the chickens with the right diet and clean water.
Edith was excited to enter the chicken business as she found it to be very profitable, especially as consumers seemed to prefer the organically fed chicken that she was providing.
Overall, in her business, most of her costs are attributed to seedlings, pests, labour, feeds, and agronomist costs. For the quail and chickens, feed is by far the biggest cost.
Fortunately, she was able to help ease the financial burden, as she has partnered with Zidisha and has now successfully raised five loans with the help of lenders.
Starting in April 2014, she began with a loan of $140 which she used to double her number of chickens from 100 to 200. She also used this investment to purchase chicken feeds and vaccinations.
The following year, in September 2015, she obtained her second loan for $256. Edith found herself ready to take a risk by adding something new to her business. She knew that in her area, fish is considered a delicacy and that driving into town to purchase fish is quite a long drive. By providing fish in her area, she would be offering something that many community members would not have otherwise.
Always growing, by June of 2017, Edith was ready for both another Zidisha funded loan of $378 and also something new to sell. She set her sights on starting a mushroom farm within her compound. By employing two local workers, she was able to construct the building that she would need. Edith notes that even as she is just starting, she already has a ready market for button mushrooms!
The following year, in April of 2018, Edith ventured into watermelon farming! She had started planting in March and shared her progress a month later as she explains to lenders, ‘They are growing very well, I have managed to spray pesticides, fungicides and foliars from the vegetative stage until now when they are almost fruiting. The plants have grown big, and I am required to buy more and more chemicals for spraying. The cost of buying the chemicals is very high, and that is why I have come back to my Zidisha family to help me complete this last cycle until I harvest and transport melons to the market.’
Most recently, in August 2018, Edith requested her fifth Zidisha funded loan for $492. She shares that pests and diseases can eat up a huge part of a farmers income and that while almost anyone can start a farm, the maintenance aspect is why so many give up along the way.
While her crop was doing well, she still needed to continue purchasing fungicides, pesticides, insecticides and foliar feeds and spray. This is something that she would need to continue doing weekly for the entire year.
At this point, she also started to see the fruit of her labor as she is now able to employ 2 permanent staff workers and 5 part-time workers, allowing her to help both members of her community and their entire families.
Following her August loan, she shared an update with lenders on her discussion page, ‘Dear Zidisha family. Am taking this opportunity to say thank you to all my lenders, without you I wouldn’t have made it this far. I used the money to buy farm chemicals, this helped in maintaining healthy watermelon and disease free, as most of you know watermelon are heavy feeders and maintenance is not easy. The money I received from the watermelon sales I immediately put up a vegetable nursery, transplanted the vegetables and now they are doing well.’
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