If you want to entice Henry Kinuthia out of his African nightshade— popularly known as managu— farming enterprise, he says you should be ready to pay him a million shillings per month.
Otherwise, he says, “you can keep any other lower paying job to yourself for I am content in this occupation.”
African nightshade comes in several varieties consumed as leafy vegetables and is acknowledged to have medicinal value hence giving it a ‘market euphoria’ that creates year-round demand for it.
Mr Kinuthia says a 40 by 100 feet piece of land under this vegetable can generate Sh36,000 per month.
“I am currently in my fourth year in specialising in managu farming and doing an acre. That means in a month I rake in Sh144,000,” he says.
Farming was not always his idea of an occupation as he was growing up. Like most young people he had his eyes firmly set on making a mark for himself in professional world.
He completed his secondary education and enrolled in an electrical mechanic course and graduated with so much hope of getting employed.
“By 2011, it was apparent that I was doomed to only getting casual jobs. No one was willing to commit me into a permanent job. It was a low moment for me when out of frustrations I went to Wakulima Market in Nairobi where I worked as a porter carrying 120 kilogramme (kg) sacks of potatoes from lorries,” he says.
On a good day, he says, he would offload about 2,400 kgs and get paid Sh400.
“In a week, I was able to make Sh2,000 translating to Sh8,000 each month. My monthly upkeep expenditure was Sh12,000. I lived a life of hand to mouth and borrowed money for my upkeep. I realised that I was not making a living, but in real sense I was torturing my body and soul,” he says.
In 2012 he decided to retreat to his Kamungu village of Murang’a County where he commenced small scale farming.
“My experience in Wakulima had made me realise that managu was a vegetable that was selling like hot cake. I ventured into its farming and since then, I have lived comfortably. I might be living a life in the dust and mud of farming, but my wallet can easily match those of workers in the upper middle level income bracket,” he says.
His 40 by 100 piece of land under managu yields about 300 kgs per week.
“Farm gate price per kilo is Sh30. That means in a week you can rake in a clean Sh9,000. My acre rakes in for Sh36,000 per week. In a month, Sh144,000. The life span per crop is three months hence giving me Sh432,000,” he says.
He intends to expand the acreage under the crop to four by 2019 which will earn him Sh1.73 million in three months. “That is the reason why I am very emphatic that if you want me out of this farming, pay me a Sh1 million per month. In my current occupation, I do not pay rent, transport and I eat food straight from my shamba.
Rural life is dull, yes, but making money in it brightens my spirit,” he says.
He adds that the operation costs in his venture are low “because managu is easy to tend to and requires little care.”
“An acre of managu will only consume Sh2,000 fertiliser and matures within three weeks ready for the market. My labour only involves irrigation once a week. It is a hardy crop that flourishes even in sunny conditions.”
He says the peak time is during rainy seasons “where the prices will go down to Sh10 per kilo of my harvest, but productivity goes up to 600 kg of harvest per week from the 40 by 100 yard.
His advice to the youth: “Your wealth creation potential is in your ability to make crucial decisions. You either chose to hang on living an income lie, or you break the chains of servitude and work hard in areas that give good returns.”
He says by 2020 he will have bought his matatu, a five-acre piece of land and diversified farming to embrace poultry and dairy breeding.
“Above all, if you are a male at the age bracket of 25 and 35 and you are not married, you are living an incomplete life. There is no greater excitement that beats working hard and earning in sweat and showing up in your home to face the demands of your kids and wife,” he says.
He is a father to four children aged between 16 and 4 “and that gives my enterprise a purpose.”
The following feature was first published in the Business Daily.