The first tool for every business farming not withstanding; is having a well-articulated business plan; a specific component therein being a budget. Thank fully Microsoft Excel has good templates already developed which only need a few tweaks for the average user to get on the road. In Kenya, 46% of small businesses close down the  same year they are launched due to lack of enough market research and problem identification. Whereas farming is a no-brainer; people got to eat, it was important that I perform due diligence especially on the input costs and market reach before I started lest my venture be a case-study on how to approach farming.

I visited fellow farmers upstream who interestingly were also not natives of the area. It seemed to me that the saying “you don’t know what you have till you lose it” was still lost on the indigenous inhabitants of the area. Only elderly people remained in the villages while their able bodied sons and daughters were in Nairobi; the land of opportunity or lack thereof, doing menial jobs in industries and construction sites. Having left riverfront land in the village. I don’t blame them, village life is not as appealing as the fast paced city life. Rural to urban migration much touted in the late 80’s and 90’s should be discouraged

Fellow farmers engaged my naive farming self in the pitfalls of the farming business, they were mostly negative; a tinge of success after a long winding tale of misery. The agro-chemicals they said are expensive, the VAT add a year earlier had hiked prices. The cost of irrigation was high, the VAT add on petrol had an adverse effect on petrol prices. The fierce hippo’s residing in the river had gone rogue daringly breaching farm fences in the dead of the night to quell its hunger. All other vegetation was dry ,only the farmer irrigated land remained green. Everything was a threat, squirrels, porcupines, stray dogs even rats, all these were threats that had to have a budgetary allocation.

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Cost items and their items were accumulating fast, solutions were evaluated and decided upon based on cost and efficiency. The farmhand; a hardworking local with experience in commercial farming was on hand to point out likely pitfalls, over ambition and outright exaggeration. With his networks built over time working in other farms in the area, he would source experts to weed, plough, plant and irrigate all the while keeping costs low. From my brief on the farm interview, he had educated me more than he had impressed me. His negotiation skills were progressive, pegging his salary adjustments on successful production and output from the farm.

While actual spend rarely matches the budgeted amounts, my projections were generous and therefore my research would pay off or so i thought. Upstream farmers who were all too eager to help this newbie gave a favorable opinion of my allocations. I was well on my way to making it big, all that was left was actual farming.


Author:Veronicah Maina



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