Thika farmer minting millions from chilli farming.

The scrubby dry patches of land in Ngoliba Ward in Thika Sub-County is not the kind of place you would expect one to make millions, especially in farming.  In fact, when the local landowners get a chance to sell some of this crummy real estate they jump at it, even for bottom hundreds of shillings, because the only real natural resource in this part of Kiambu County is sunshine.

But for 33-year old Ruth Kamau a former real estate business lady who saw the countless opportunities in agriculture which she reckons are available to those ready to roll up their sleeves.

At first, she thought of venturing into onions a chat with a man changed her mind and she decided to settle on chilli pepper. And looking back, two years down the line, this has been the best decision she has ever made in her life.

“With these, the chillies have all it takes to thrive under this climate. After four years in real estate, I used the Sh4 million I had saved to lease 12 acres of land. I also bought enough mulching paper for my first crop, pipes and pumps,” she says.

She says that the mulching paper, imported from China, ensures that water is not lost through evaporation. Additionally, it minimises the need for a lot of weeding as the paper prevents growth of grass around the plants.

She attributes her success in this business to prior research she did before she ventured into this farming.

“I did a lot of study about the growing of chilli and also researched extensively on the possible markets,” she says.

After this, Goodman’s Fresh Farm was born.

Ruth employs the services of about 50 workers who are contracted to harvest both the red and green chillies, work that must be completed in one day.

“Friday is my busiest day. The produce is usually flown for export on the same day. The harvested green chillies are transported to a packing house in Nairobi where they are packed in carton boxes, weighed, labelled and taken to the airport.”

She says that she exports her chillies every week to Germany but she is yet to meet her customers’ demand. For this reason, Ruth now plans to expand her production to cover about a 100-acres in a farm she intends to buy in Naivasha.

A kilo of the demon chillies sells at Sh. 170 but Ruth reckons that she enjoys better profits when she rotates the bullet chillies species with the demon chillies.

In a good week, she says each acre of land gives her up to three tonnes of chillies, and she gets Sh. 170,000 from each tonne.

However, she admits that it has not been a walk in the park. She also recounts at one time when she was forced to uproot an entire 12 acres of chilli after the young plants suffered a severe bacterial infection.

“I thought I had all the soil tests done until I figured out rather late that I had failed to do a pathology test on the soil,” she says adding that she has been forced to treat the seeds to improve their resistance to bacterial infection before she plants them.

She also recalls having had to deal with an unqualified agronomist who made her make losses. The agronomist colluded with a local agrovet and procured fake chemicals and fertilisers at exorbitant prices.

She now has a lean team of five permanent workers -- a manager, an agronomist, a watchman and two workers. Being an entrepreneur, Ruth leaves the farming expertise to the two.

“I trust the manager and the agronomist but I always create time to drive all the way here every week,” she says.


The virgin Ngoliba lands covered with wild bushes are also a nuisance to farmers as they are home to pests and other disease-causing organisms that easily cross over to nearby cultivated fields. 
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