Unbowed: How Nakuru mum started her food business afresh after cholera

Mary Nyambura

KENYA: When the Nakuru County government evicted hawkers and food vendors in a move to decongest the streets, one of those affected was Mary Nyambura. She was then operating a food stall at railways parking ground. The income from this venture was enough to put food on her table, pay her bills and put her three children to school.

The 28-year-old says her fortunes took a nose-dive after authorities banned sale of food in the open following a cholera outbreak in early April.

“A few days after the ban, they came and pulled down our food shacks. In an instant, everything I had worked so hard for was gone. I was at Ground Zero,” she says.

Mary could, however, not indulge in self-pity because as a single mother - her obligations were still waiting despite the set backs. She opened a food kiosk at Kiratina, which is opposite Free Area Township, and hit the ground running.

“I have children to feed, clothe and educate as well as other financial responsibilities and going back to my parents’ home in Nyandarua was out of the question,” she says.

Her savings were enough to help her start afresh and she began cooking and selling potato chips, githeri, tea and mandazi.

It was tough at first, but persistence has seen her establish herself and garner a competitive edge over others. She says the populous Kiratina residential estate is more inclined to ‘consumerism tendencies’ thus giving her a ready market.

Her competitors are few compared to her previous location at railways ground where the shoulder-to-shoulder food shacks offered almost the same treat mainly to matatu drivers and their touts.

“You had to cut a deal with office workers to supply them with lunches, tea and snacks in order to make a meaningful income,” she says of her former business.

Here, customers troops in and she can make Sh800 on a good day and about Sh500 when business is low. She can also work for longer hours and closes up at 9pm daily unlike her previous location where she closed at 7:30pm.

Mary is now a firm believer that new beginnings are not to be feared saying “it does not matter where you have come from, but where you are going”.