Busy. Busy. Busy. That’s the melody that gospel musician Gloria Muliro sings, not in the studio, but, on her farm in Juja Kiambu County.
“These birds keep me really busy. Though I have a farm manager, I like to be involved as much as I can. When I come here, there’s so much to do, I have no time to waste,” she tells Smart Harvest. She drives here once a week for routine tour of the farm.
Gloria runs the kuku project with her friend-cum-business partner Shinel Wanja on the two-acre farm.
The duo keep more than 1,000 Kienyeji chickens – (Kari and Kuroiler chickens) mainly for eggs and meat. They also grow maize and beans, though their central focus is on poultry, which they say has better returns.
Given her tight schedule as a gospel artiste, she has perfected the art of juggling between farm work and music career.
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“I normally come here on weekdays because my weekends are spent in the studio. For instance, if I am going on a Monday I leave Nairobi early in the morning so that I can be here in good time to help manage things. I leave in the evening after I’m done with my projects. My business partner also makes the same trips depending on her schedule,” Gloria says.
Additionally, she also does plenty of telephone farming, a trend common with urban farmers with farms in the outskirts of the city.
“Although I come here once a week, I talk to the farm manager every day. I call him every evening to get updates on how things are going on here. He notifies me if there are any sick birds, if feeds are enough and any other challenge the birds maybe facing. That way, I get to address problems before they escalate,” she says.
Knowing very well the intensity of work that farming entails, when she comes to the farm, she literally gets her hands dirty, she tells us.
Evidently, the Gloria on TV is different from the one on the farm.
“When I come here, I drop the ‘celeb’ tag and get down to work. On the farm, there is no swag, so the make-up and bling have to go. When I am on the farm, I am just a simple village girl from Emuhaya taking care of her kukus,” she says with a chuckle.
Pray, what inspired her into this venture that youth fear like a plague?
“I love farming. Since I was a child I have always loved the easy, chilled out life of the farm. I think it’s because I was born and raised up country,” she says.
On a lighter note she quips: “You will really laugh at this. See, the lunje in me loves chicken, kienyeji to be precise. But when I came to Nairobi to settle, I realised at times getting this delicacy is a toll order. That time many people liked the broilers. But now things are changing.”
Having smelt an opportunity, she grabbed it.
“To quench my need, I started making my orders from up country just for my consumption and for a few friends. But with time, locals realised Gloria could supply them with nice chicken and word went round. That’s how the market grew,” she says.
Bird by bird, her market expanded and she started getting orders from far and wide.
Deals with experts
That is when she went big and started keeping the birds at her Juja farm commercially.
Now, her market is so solid, she supplies chicken to individuals, supermarkets and hotels.
“The demand is so good; sometimes I cannot meet the orders. Good thing is that more and more people have realised that kuku kienyeji is healthier and tastier and they cannot have enough of it. This interest is good for business,” she says.
Things sound good, are they always like this?
“Goodness! Don’t be mistaken, farming is not a walk in the park! I wish you knew. There are days, I really want to quit the whole project but somehow I soldier on. Imagine being called from the studio and told that the birds are sick and they have no idea what is ailing them. Or like 100 birds have died at a go. Yes there are days like that,” she confesses.
But to counter such shocks, Gloria says — expensive as it may be — she always deals with experts.
Because trained vets always ask for a tidy sum, many young farmers prefer to deal with quacks, who are cheaper but in the long run lead to disasters.