Annie Nyaga 29 years old is a unique woman in many ways. Indeed, she is a successful watermelon farmer, business manager and head of the 4-H Kenya Foundation, an organization that empowers young people through agriculture. She also holds a degree in Biomedicine from Egerton University.
She decided to work in the field, rather than working in an office, because she realized that it was possible for farmers to earn good income. She follows in the footsteps of her parents who were also farmers.
Ms. Nyaga started farming on her parents’ three-acre farm with a loan of 20,000 Kenyan shillings (US $ 200). This loan enabled him to buy seeds.
She germinates the watermelon seeds in a nursery before transferring the seedlings to the farm three weeks later. She says, “The whole process, from the nursery to the harvest period, takes about three months, depending on the weather conditions and the variety of watermelon, as some varieties ripen quickly. ”
Ms. Nyaga says she chose watermelons because they grow well in her area and sell for a good price. She can harvest 3,000 to 4,000 kilograms of watermelon per acre. A one kilogram watermelon costs about 15-35 Kenyan shillings (US $ 0.15-0.35).
Watermelons need a lot of water, especially when the fruits are starting to form. Ms. Nyaga advises people to plant seeds two or three weeks before the start of the rainy season to allow them to take advantage of the rain, as irrigation systems are expensive.
She explains, “A drip irrigation system costs 200,000 shillings (US $ 2,000) per acre. It is not certain that many farmers have such a sum. ”
According to Nyaga, money is a major obstacle for farmers who want to start or expand their businesses, especially women farmers. She says her family and her husband have supported her in her new business venture, but it is generally difficult for women to access land and capital. She adds: “Women are still considered a ‘risky’ investment, despite the facts that show that women repay their debts more often than men. ”
The Kenyan government has created resources for entrepreneurs, including the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, the Kenyan Youth Fund and some training opportunities.
Access to capital was just one of the challenges Ms. Nyaga faced when starting her farming business. It has also come up against dishonest middlemen, the difficulty of finding authentic seeds and the high cost of inputs.
However, Ms. Nyaga now owns a very successful business called Farm2Home (From Field to Home) which delivers watermelons directly to customers’ homes. The company’s slogan “Knowing your farmer is knowing what you eat” exemplifies its commitment to providing good quality and healthy local food.
She explains, “We strive to produce our crops with the safety and health of our consumers in mind. On-farm hygiene is preeminent in our production process, and we place special emphasis on the safe use of chemicals, hygiene and delivery to market. ”
Ms. Nyaga now mentors young people interested in the agricultural sector through 4-H clubs which introduce young people to agriculture, a healthy lifestyle, science and citizenship. Its aim is to change the perception of young people that agriculture is a business of the poor. She says: “We urge them not to consider the problems in agriculture, but to see the opportunities that the sector offers. “