For Eunice Wanjiku, strawberry farming has proved to be a reliable source of income.
The harsh realities of paying school fees for her children and providing for their daily needs pushed Wanjiku into leaving her tea picking job where she earned a meagre Sh150 daily and joining a women’s group. This group has helped her venture into the most unlikely of businesses.
In December, last year, the Ruiru Dam Women Group introduced the mother of six to Hand in Hand Eastern Africa (HiHEA), an organisation that trains women and youth in rural and peri-urban areas on how to form themselves into groups, embrace a saving culture and start small enterprises.
The organisation also helps members access loans to incubate their enterprises and access markets for their commodities. “I had seen some of the group members whom I had picked tea with transform their lives and I thought I should follow suit,” says Wanjiku.
She embarked on strawberry farming after an HiH business officer helped her identify a business idea and start an enterprise. Wanjiku thereby began the process of turning her one eighth acre piece of land into a successful farming enterprise.
She then borrowed Sh1,500 from the group’s table banking programme which she used to buy 100 strawberry seedlings.
Wanjiku has planted 70 runners in 20 prepared beds. The plants are 18 inches apart.
Strawberries do not require a lot of labour, save for a constant water supply. She sells 8kg every week at Sh100 per kilo, making at least Sh800. Her clients are her neighbours and greengrocers at the local market.
“My first harvest was in June 2015 and I realised a profit of Sh20,000 which I used to clear my daughter’s school fees. Were it not for the strawberries, my child would be at home,” she says.
Having lost a tender to supply a leading retail store with fresh strawberries because she was unable to meet the demand, Wanjiku had to go back to the drawing board.
But with the help of the HiH business officer, she has mobilised five of her group members and sold them strawberry seedlings.
Wanjiku hopes that as her business grows, she will incorporate value addition by making jam and juice. She also looks forward to borrowing from the Enterprise Incubation Loans to scale up her enterprise.
“I am my own boss. I control the time I wake up and how the rest of the day will flow,” she says.