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One student’s resolve to pay university fees through farming

Mutugi Mwangi, a horticultural farmer who is also a student at Kenyatta University, in his tomato farm in Kiambu County.

When you were in college or university pursuing your career course, how did you manage extra coin given to you by your parents, guardian or the government?

For Mutugi Mwangi, being at the university is an avenue to nurture his future. The third-year Bachelor of Economics and Finance student at Kenyatta University's main campus is a dedicated horticultural farmer.

He says when he is not in class or during holidays, his e­ffort is dedicated to achieving one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big four agenda - food security. Further, he says there is nothing humiliating as seeing his time wasted in doing non-constructive activities. “If we all account for every minute, hour or day in doing constructive activities, our nation will be way too far in terms of development in few years to come,” explains the 21-year-old agripreneur.

 Mwangi who hails from Embu, grows tomatoes, bulb onions and capsicums at Ngoliba, Thika in Kiambu County, about 24 kilometers from Thika - Garissa Highway. He also grows watermelon.

The journey began in 2017, a few months after joining campus. “I saved any extra coin after settling fees and basic needs, from money given by Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) as well as my parents,” he says, disclosing that by the time he ventured into farming he had over Sh30, 000 intact.

However, before kicking o­ff, he conducted detailed research whereby he visited established farmers, attending agricultural shows and exhibitions. “I also did extensive research on social media platforms to identify potential crops and their market availability,” adds the farmer.

He opted for watermelons as a start off­, which he grew in half an acre, at a lease of Sh10, 000 per year. Other expenses incurred are seeds, fertiliser, labor and miscellaneous.

Melons mature between four to six months, and he says the returns were incredible. “The produce was splendid, I got twice what I had invested. I advanced to two acres, and introduced tomatoes and onions,” he says, noting that tomato is his major cash crop. He introduced green capsicums later in 2018.

Though he hesitated to disclose his income during the interview, he applauded the move of venturing into horticultural farming, explaining that he caters for his college fees, other expenses and as well as supporting his parents and siblings.

According to experts, a well-cultivated acre of tomatoes can yield over 50 tons per season. Tomato price ranges with seasons, a crate weighing 100 kilos going as high as Sh10, 000. When there is an over surplus in the market, it costs as low as Sh2, 000.

He has a permanent employee who assists him when he is in class. The farmer also employs at least five casual staff­ when the workload is overwhelming.

Mwangi sources water from River Athi, which is a few meters from his farm.

Most of his clients are from Makongeni Market in Thika, Githurai, and Marikiti both in Nairobi. The farmer also uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Whats App to source for more customers. “A few weeks before harvesting, I do a market study and also prepare my clients. This enables me to evade rogue middlemen who frustrate farmers with unreasonable prices,” he states.

His farm is also a pitch for orientation to fellow students interested in venturing into agriculture.

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