By Mercyline Jerusa
My name is Mercyline Jerusa and I come from Kakamega County in western Kenya. I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in Agri-enterprise Development at Egerton University with funding from RUFORUM under the TAGDev (Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development) programme funded by the Mastercard Foundation.
My entrepreneurial journey started during the orientation training organized for the new TAGDev scholars last year. The sessions were a real eye opener for me, especially those on entrepreneurship, talent discovery and transformational leadership. During that time, a big fire was ignited in my heart and I desired to implement what I had learned. I have since been able to start three small-scale businesses: for my mother, my husband and myself.
Supporting my mother to become a community model farmer
My first entry into entrepreneurship was through supporting my mother to diversify and commercialize her farming activities. I was motivated to help her because I wanted her to become independent, to have her own income since I had been struggling to support her financially in addition to my siblings who are at school. Now, she is making money from the sale of local poultry, milk, and vegetables and her standard of living has improved. It was easy to choose this business because I knew my mother had a passion for farming. My goal is for her to be a role model in the community who can learn from her and replicate the same on their farms. This will bring about transformation and improved livelihoods.
So far I have introduced in her farm spinach, a vegetable that is rarely grown in western Kenya. It has adapted well to the weather and there is ready market for it. We are also trying out ‘Irish’ potatoes, carrots and beetroot which normally have to be brought all the way from the Rift Valley Region to western Kenya because it’s believed they can’t grow well in our region. If the trials go well, we plan to increase lease land to increase the farm acreage.
Inspiring my husband into full-time agribusiness
The second enterprise was helping my husband expand his poultry business (local chicken, turkeys and guinea fowl), farming, and buying and resale of cereals such as beans and maize. For the past two years, I had been pushing him to look for a job, but his search had been in vain. I knew, however, that he was passionate about self-employment especially in the poultry business. After the training on talent discovery during the TAGDev student orientation, my eyes were opened to the potential and opportunities he had. Now he has focused all his energies on agribusiness and his businesses are growing.
So far we have 11 turkeys and 10 chicken and plan to increase the number once we finish constructing their housing structure. The market demand is high and prices are fair with one turkey going for least at Kshs 1,200 (about $12) while chicken goes for Kshs 600 ($6) at the minimum. We were also able to buy and stock 450 kilogrammes of beans which we later sold during the off-season for a higher profit. We hope to expand the business by applying for institutional tenders to supply cereals and other products.
It is not smooth sailing though. One of the major challenges we faced was infestation of our beans with weevils which led to lower market prices. With the poultry, the major challenge is managing disease outbreak, which we are now controlling through vaccination. We plan to attend trainings to equip ourselves with better disease management techniques before we commercialise our poultry business. I believe in the next few years we shall be among the largest suppliers of cereals and poultry products in Bungoma County in Western Kenya.
Exploiting business opportunities on campus
The third business, which I run within the university campus, involves selling of mobile phone airtime and other items such as eggs, fruits and sundries to students. I invested in this business because there was high demand on campus since there are no nearby shops. It also helps me save on my personal shopping expenses since I buy commodities at wholesale price and sell the surplus. Most of my customers are foreign students who are not well acquainted with Nakuru Town which is about 25 kilometres away.
Lack of proper business premises has been the major challenge in this business because it is against university rules to operate businesses in halls of residence. This has also forced me to drop some very profitable business ideas for now. I intend to acquire a shop on campus soon and hire someone to run it so that I can get ample time to concentrate on my studies as well. Hopefully, I will thereafter expand the small shop to a wholesale enterprise because there are no wholesale shops or supermarkets around the university in spite of its population of over fifteen thousand potential buyers.
My sincere gratitude goes to RUFORUM and Egerton University for awarding me the mastercard@ruforum scholarship which has yielded this transformation in my life. The training has given me an entrepreneurial mindset and through the savings from my student stipend, I have been able to finance these entrepreneurship ventures.
I was employed for five years before I got the scholarship, but had no investment to be proud of. This scholarship has given me life skills that have transformed my life and the lives of those around me.
Mercyline can be reached via email at: email@example.com.
For more information about the TAGDev Programme, visit: http://www.ruforum.org/MCF