BY MUGENDI KANGICHU
When Morris Gakuru dropped out of school in Form Two for lack of fees, he thought he would not make it.
But staring at poverty, he determined to pull himself up by his boot-straps, first doing menial work, going into boda boda business, and eventually dabbling into seedlings.
But in 2012, his maternal grandmother’s home located in Kamiu area of Manyatta Constituency, Embu County was connected to a community water project that inspired the change in fortunes, from a hapless drop-out into an important supplier of seedlings.
Today, the 32-year-old farmer boasts of owning Namor Horticultural Nursery, a multi-million seedlings venture that he is located at his grandmother’s farm.
“Currently I have 350, 000 seedlings of grafted avocadoes, mangoes, macadamia, oranges and apples, among other flowers and tree seedlings. This water has been of great help in my business,” Gakuru notes.
Through his bodaboda business, Gakuru raised Sh20, 000 that he used to set up the business.
With the capital, he was able to plant and graft 1, 000 seedlings on the eighth acre of land that he was allocated.
“I used the money to buy manure from neighbors and hire an expert who grafted the seedlings when they reached the appropriate height. The money was not enough so I did some work single-handedly because I could not afford to employ more hands. For instance, I moved through neighbors farms collecting mango and avocado seedling before acquiring soil and planting the seedlings,” he explained.
He launched a sustained seed collection and planted every season as demand had started rising.
He says the business thrived and attracted buyers from far, something that he reckoned might have also attracted jealousy, as he was viciously attacked and robbed of a big amount of money in 2015.
He recalls that the attack was severe as he was confined to a hospital bed for months with the cost for medication rising to over Sh1 million.
“I left the hospital in a wheelchair and I thank God for sparing my life,”
The proceeds from the nursery venture paid 80 percent of his hospital bills while friends and well-wishers chipped in with the balance.
While in hospital, he organized with one of his relative who started engaging laborers on the farm when need arose, he said.
“The business suffered a blow. The laborers at times could not understand how I wanted something to be done because I was not there to show directions,” he told Mashariki Newspaper.
“When I left the hospital, I would be wheeled to the nursery to oversee the operations and advise the workers on what to and how to do it,” Gakuru who now uses crutches to move around, recalls.
Gakuru notes that he soldiered on and continued overseeing the operations at his farm on a daily basis as he recovered.
With time, he says, the business has improved, making him able to engage about 10 workers in a day. The workers move about either watering the seedlings, putting the soil to planting bag or grafting seedlings.
Gakuru said he buys soil and manure in truckloads, mostly from road contractors since the soil in the farm can’t support such a big venture.
He mixes the soil and fine manure that he buys from fellow farmers and plants the seedlings.
“I buy high-quality manure that I mix with the soil to fertilize the seedlings well. Seedlings require a constant water supply,” he notes.
Gakuru uses social platforms such as Facebook and word of mouth to market his work and sells most of his seedlings at Sh100 each, though some go to about Sh350 depending on the type.
He says his main challenges come when water runs out of stock as he is forced to buy from bowsers, therefore, shooting up his operating expenses.
Gakuru says the enterprise enabled him to purchase a car, land, start dairy farming and a mini-supermarket.
He attests that there is good money in agribusiness calling upon young people to venture into it instead of remaining idle complaining of the increasing rate of unemployment.