Kenya: Young woman farmer on road to success (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

| August 27, 2012

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While many young people in Africa dream of getting well-paid jobs, Beryl Omondi recently left hers to become a full-time farmer. Mrs. Omondi is 29 years old, married with one child. She comes from the southern part of Nyanza Province in western Kenya, where sugar cane is a major cash crop.

Ms. Omondi started growing sugar cane in 2007 while working for a local organization. She grew up seeing farmers raise sugar cane, so her interest in the crop is lifelong. But, like most women in Kenya, she does not own land. For a woman keen to start farming, leasing land is the only option. So Beryl did exactly that.

She says: “I got a loan of 100,000 Kenya shillings (around $1200). I asked my cousin to get me a piece of land to hire for sugar cane growing. I paid the owner and I hired some people to prepare it.” Mrs. Omondi leased a little more than one hectare to start with. As time went by, she doubled the size of her farm.

Then she started earning good money from sugar cane, she decided to leave her job and concentrate on farming. Then she was introduced to the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers, the organization that promotes commercial farming in Kenya.

Mrs. Omondi attended a one-week seminar on agribusiness. She says, “The seminar taught me how to start farming in a greenhouse. I was so excited. The seminar opened my eyes.” She now grows fruit such as pineapple and watermelon, which she supplies to markets in the nearby city of Kisumu.

Mrs. Omondi managed to save enough money to pay for courses towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree. She says, “Farming has helped me a lot. I am able to pay my school fees, look after my family, and help my relatives and parents.” She says she will study management so she can operate her farm as a business.

Mrs. Omondi has big dreams. She explains, “From the proceeds of sugar cane and vegetables, I plan to buy a big [piece] of land and start large-scale farming that will include poultry and dairy cows.”

Mrs. Omondi appeals to young people to approach farming as a business. She observes, “These days, employment is not readily available, and even if you are employed, the job can be terminated [at] any time.”

She believes that youths can create their own employment regardless of their level of education. She thinks it should not be a problem to get finance to start a business because there are many microfinance institutions willing to offer business loans.

It is almost one year since Mrs. Omondi started greenhouse farming. Her smile is wide as she banks her money while pursuing her studies and looking after her family.

She says, “Agriculture is the best employment, because nobody can sack you. You can start from any level and there are so many forms of farming a youth can do.”