Mkulima Moments: Village digital marketer could run me out of business

I had never thought that demand for Mkulima Mixed Farm’s groceries would hit the city market the way it did.

Produce such as managu (African night shade) that almost grows like weed and nduma (arrow roots) that we grow on the banks of our crystal clear streams whose source is the indigenous forest nearby, are in high demand. I am now forced to outsource these products to meet Wandia’s ever growing customers in the city.

At Mashambani village under the stewardship of Mkulima, we farm in harmony with the local ecosystem using methods such as chemical-free, permaculture and employ cultural and biological methods of controlling diseases and pests. In short our produce is organically produced. We have the highest level of food safety and traceability standards.

This has made us to be the only region that has embraced holistic view of farming that includes care for the land, community and our food. Our farm produce is nature intended. The Nyayo estate tenants who form the bulk of Wandia’s groceries customers can attest to this.

WakaGeorge and Mzee Jeremiah who had dismissed my planting of the “funny crops” and spelt doom by saying “ngoja tuone” can’t believe their eyes when they see regular parcels of produce being sent to Nairobi.

WakaGeorge once asked “Soko iko wapi?” when he found me planting the managu. He now intends to venture into it — I am not sure whether the price for managu would be as high as it is by the time his matures. Like majority of the farmers he is waiting to be told what to grow instead of being proactive to create his destiny.

I remember my answer to him, “You cannot sell what you don’t have.”

“Always start simple and grow with the demand and remain consistent, “I advised him.

“Commercial farming is about entrepreneurship. You grow with it,” I guided him although he never liked it. He wanted an assurance that there is managu market before planting.

SMARTPHONE AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Mzee Jeremiah, on the other hand, is lucky since he has been having nduma all his life. The stream passes through his farm. He tried to sell nduma to WakaGeorge to enrich Check Point’s menu but local clients had other ideas — they preferred mandazi and toast bandika.

“No one can take nduma or managu here at Check Point,” WakaGeorge justified.

Wandia and Mkulima business has been going on well until Kiambati came knocking.

To remind you, Kiambati is the guy who had travelled to Ukambani to learn how to harvest honey while naked.

This man would have gone places if he had done his KCPE, and possibly gone to secondary school. He had dropped out after receiving a thorough beating from Mr Mutugu, the then ruthless head teacher of Mashambani Primary School. He dashed out of the school shouting that “shule sio suruali”.

Kiambati, a man known for introducing most of the new technologies in the area, recently came back from South Sudan. After arriving, he narrated how he was working as an expatriate and agriculture consultant in green house constructions, hydroponics, dairy farming and anything related to farming.

“But how did you manage that without any training,” I asked with concern. He was quick in his reply. “Mkulima, these days with a smart phone and social media you can learn anything in farming,” he said smiling.

“It all started when I took photos of your dairy cows and posted in one of the Facebook groups,” he said. “Everyone thought I am a graduate dairy farmer due to the healthy looking cows,” he revealed.
“After realising the potential, I started posting photos of other farms and getting several comments,” he boasted.

CHANGED HIS BUSINESS

“I answered many questions on Facebook and WhatsApp groups,” he added.

“Through this, I have learnt so much and I can deliver different trainings ranging from entrepreneurship, farm management dairy management depending on the clients’ needs,” Kiambati continued.

Kiambati now says he had to escape from that country after it appeared like it could burn again. After landing at Mashambani, Kiambati started a shoe shine polish next to Check Point Hotel after agreeing with WakaGeorge he can utilise the veranda at a fee.

Here at Mashambani we polish any type of shoes ranging from sports shoes, gumboots to safari boots. For the last few months his business has been booming since he also repairs shoes.

But on Wednesday, when I was loading some of the deliveries of managu and nduma to Nairobi, I found Kiambati has changed his business.

Uza managu, ng’ombe, nduma via Mkulima Young,” a large red sign board read. Beside it was Kiambati with a smart phone taking photos of Mzee Jeremiah’s sweet potatoes and Wekesa’s kienyeji chicken.

Kiambati is now marketing farm produce from Mashambani farmers using Mkulima Young android app. He is taking photos and uploading on the internet to reach more buyers in the city.

Kiambati is now an agent of online marketing. I do not know where this will leave me and Wandia in the face of the new digital groceries blitz by the semi-illiterate Kiambati.

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