By Geoffrey Cheruiyot Ngenoh, MSc. Agri-Enterprise Development student at Egerton University.
July 2017 will always be memorable to me. It was during this time that we had the orientation training for new TAGDev scholars and I developed a business mindset. Speaker after speaker during the training, motivated me to start my entrepreneurship journey. By the end of the training I had so many business ideas in mind, but I decided to start with the first one that had sprang to mind, the business of a motorcycle taxi (boda boda)
I bought a motorcycle in October the same year after doing some research on the business and realizing its potential for quick and consistent returns. For example, in my community in Sotik Sub-County in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, more and more people now prefer to use boda bodas during their daily journeys rather than walk. I saw this transition in the rural transport system as a great opportunity to tap into the sector revenue. My eagerness to engage in this booming business was twofold; I had to pay back a government student loan that I took to pay for my undergraduate studies, and I also needed to support my family. Incidentally, through the business, I have also been able to give back to the community by providing employment to two people; the manager and the rider.
Aside from the boda boda business I also ventured into farming. Even while at school, I have been supporting my mother and younger sister to grow both subsistence and commercial crops. With two acres of land (both leased and our own), we have grown and harvested good yields of crops like maize, beans, kales, finger millet and sweet potatoes.
At first the yields were low because we were not using certified seed and applied inadequate fertilizer. With my intervention, we now use certified seed only and apply sufficient fertilizer which has enabled us to reap enough for home use and for sale. I am keen on farming because I am trying to restore hope to my community that it can be good business. For almost a decade now, our region has been affected by the maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease which affected our staple food crop, maize. Hope was restored when alternative food crops such as sweet potatoes, beans, sorghum and Irish potatoes were introduced although their adoption was slow. The success of these new crops has created employment for the community and boosted their lives as they get some wages from working as labourers during planting, weeding and harvest of the crops.
My third business is poultry farming which was inspired by my current field attachment to poultry and rabbit rearing units. Currently, I am constructing a poultry house for 50 birds as a start. I convinced my elder sister of the potential big returns from poultry farming and now she has set up her own coop with over 100 birds. Additionally, I have been advocating for farmers in my community to take up poultry farming during the off-season for crops. Poultry farming is cost effective because it does not require much land. Also there is a rise in demand for eggs whose farm gate price has increased from 3 Kenyan shillings to 10 (about 10 dollar cents) and would thus be a lucrative source of income to many farmers.
So far, the boda boda business is doing well. Through it, I have been able to keep up with my student loan repayments, sustain my family and create employment for the youth. Beyond my immediate family, I have been able to support the children of my siblings by buying for them scholastic materials and contributing to their school fees. Farming has boosted our food security and so far we have parted ways with famine which used to constantly plague us at certain times of the year. Farmers in my community have been motivated to take on farming as a business and those that have done so are already seeing changes in their lives. My own poultry business is still young as I have only two adult birds and eight chicks, but I hope to expand the stock once I complete construction of the poultry house.
I have met challenges in both businesses. With the boda boda, the rider at times rides carelessly, causing damage to some parts which have to be replaced using revenue from the business thus affecting my income. The biggest challenge in farming has been the fall armyworm which attacked our maize crop. In the previous harvest, yields were significantly affected.
I owe my success to the TAGDev trainings that were provided courtesy of the MCF@RUFORUM scholarship, funded by the mastercard foundation. The training has helped me a lot and I can confidently say I am transformed as an agropreneur, fully armed and motivated to be a role model for transformation of communities in Africa. In the next 5-10 years, I aspire for my enterprises to be known globally and serve as a centre of learning for other farmers around the world. Then, will I consider my contribution meaningful.
Geoffrey can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the TAGDev Programme, visit: http://www.ruforum.org/MCF