By Prudence Minayo
When Margaret Mutheu graduated, she went on to work with some of the most reputable firms in the country. However, after a few years of employment, she felt the need to venture into agriculture prompting her to resign from her job. Her entry into farming was not pleasant as she suffered huge losses.
She picked herself up, partnered with her friends to establish a successful agribusiness.
Here is Esther’s journey as told by WoK.
Education and Employment
Esther graduated in 2008 with a degree in Computer Science from Maseno University. Thereafter, she secured employment with the national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
After five years at KBC, she left to join Britam Insurance where she became the head of Information Technology service deliverance across its branches in the country.
Venturing into Agriculture and Loss
After doing research on agribusiness, she quit her job in 2016 to venture into farming, with watermelon as her choice crop. Because of drought and porcupine invasion, she lost watermelon worth Ksh446,000 in 2017.
She had grown the melons in two acres of land in Kaewa given to her by her father. The loss hit hard since it was her first try at agribusiness. She had expected to reap huge profits yet she only managed to get Ksh4,000.
She had used savings amounting Ksh450,000 and finances from her husband. On labour, she spent about Ksh300,000 as there was a lot to do and the land had not been ploughed for a long time. She then spent a further Ksh150,000 on irrigation, seeds and other needs.
Passion and Pawpaw fruits
While the loss was big, she was not ready to give up. The farmer started researching about on alternative crops that would do well in dry areas.
She was approached by two of her friends around the same time and they partnered to grow pawpaw and passion fruits. This was the beginning of their business, Tefama Group Limited.
Being cautious from her past experience, they reached out to an agronomist in the area named Daniel Mwenda. He helped with testing the soil to determine whether it was suitable for growing passion and pawpaw fruits.
The friends then purchased 1000 certified seedlings of solo sunrise pawpaw and sweet yellow passion seedlings for about Sh80,000.
They began planting the seeds in December 2017 and invested about Ksh150,000 for the whole project.
Nine months later, they reaped the fruits of their hard work. The plants did so well that they began harvesting 150kg of passion fruits and 50kg of pawpaw every two weeks. From their sales, they would make a gross income of about Sh100,000.
They managed to get market for fruits at a value addition company in Nairobi and also marketed their fruits on various social media platforms. The demand for the fruits at the value addition firm became so high that they could not meet it.
This made her begin to also take pawpaw from neighbouring farms who didn’t have market for their stock. They hope to open a plant that will enable farmers process the fruits in order to minimize wastage.
Apart from farming, Margaret is the founder of 1 Million Startups East Africa Chapter which is a global entrepreneurship community. They help entrepreneurs deal with problems in achieving sustainable development goals. They offer entrepreneurs advice, mentorship and capital.