Kenya: Young entrepreneur finds success with watermelons (AFK Insider)

| June 6, 2016

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Annie Nyaga stands in her watermelon field in Mbeere district, 200 kilometres from Nairobi, surrounded by rows of green vines, with the occasional tree providing shade for her melons.

The 29-year-old is unique in several ways. She is a successful watermelon farmer and business owner. She is the head of the 4-H Kenya Foundation, an organization that empowers youth through agriculture. And she has a biomedical degree from Egerton University.

She chose to work on the land, rather than in an office, because she realized farmers could earn a good income. She is following in the footsteps of her parents, who were also farmers.

Mrs. Nyaga started her farming business on her parents’ three-acre farm with a loan of 20,000 Kenyan shillings ($200 US), a sum that helped her to buy seeds.

Barza Wire- Annie Nyaga

Photo: Annie Nyaga

She plants watermelon seeds in a nursery before transferring the seedlings to the farm three weeks later. She says, “The whole process, from nursery to harvest, takes about three months, depending on the climate and the variety of watermelons, as some mature early.”

Mrs. Nyaga says she chose watermelons because they grow well in her area and sell for a good price. She can harvest 3,000-4,000 kilograms of watermelon per acre. The fruit sells for 15-35 Kenyan shillings per kilo ($0.15-$0.35 US).

Watermelons require a lot of water, particularly when the plants are forming fruit. Mrs. Nyaga recommends planting the seeds two to three weeks before the start of the rainy season to take advantage of the rain, as irrigation systems can be expensive.

She explains, “A drip irrigation system costs 200,000 shillings ($2,000 US) per acre. This may not be affordable to many farmers.”

Mrs. Nyaga says capital is a major barrier for farmers who want to start or expand their businesses, particularly women farmers. She says her family and husband were supportive of her new business venture, but that it is usually difficult for women to access land and capital. She adds, “Women are still a ‘risky’ investment, regardless of the acts that show that women are less likely defaulters than men.”

The Kenyan government has made resources available for entrepreneurs, including the Women Enterprise Fund, Kenyan Youth Fund, and some training opportunities.

Access to capital was just one of the challenges Mrs. Nyaga faced when she started her farming business. She also had to deal with dishonest middlemen, find genuine seeds, and pay for expensive inputs.

But now Mrs. Nyaga has a highly successful business called Farm2Home, which supplies watermelons directly to customers’ homes. The company’s slogan—”Know your farmer, know your food”—emphasizes its philosophy of good, healthy, local food.

She explains: “We strive to grow our crops with the safety and health of our consumers in mind. Farm hygiene is paramount in our production process, with emphasis on safe use of chemicals, hygiene, and delivery to the market.”

Mrs. Nyaga is now mentoring youth interested in the agricultural sector through 4-H clubs, which introduce young people to agriculture, healthy living, science, and citizenship. Her goal is to change the perception among youth that farming is a poor life. She says, “We are challenging them not to see problems in agriculture, but to see opportunities.”

To read the full article  on which this story is based—Young African with a biomedical degree prefers farming watermelons—go to:

And read Annie Nyaga: The 28-year-old watermelon millionaire: