I quit my job to farm watermelons, now I’m making millions

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After graduating from Egerton University in 2007 with a degree in biomedical science, Annie Nyaga expected to land a job soon after and scale the ladder in her career.

She got a job as a purchasing assistant at a firm in Nairobi, but quit after six months because it was boring.

She turned to farming, which was what her parents had been doing for years at their home in Mbeere, Embu County.

It has been six years since Annie, 28, went into watermelon farming, a business that has brought her great joy.

“I settled for watermelons because they do very well in Mbeere. They are high-yielding, mature faster and do well in the market,” says Annie who farms under the trade name Farm2Home.

She started growing the fruit on her parents’ three-acre farm with a capital outlay of Sh20,000.

IRRIGATION SYSTEM

She used the money to buy seeds, but soon realised that she needed more to invest in a proper drip irrigation system.

“I did trial runs with seeds from different companies before I discovered that hybrid seeds produce the highest yield.”

She plants the seeds in a nursery before transferring the seedlings to the farm after three weeks.

“The whole process, from nursery to harvest, takes about three months depending on the climate and the variety of watermelons as some mature early,” she says.

According to her, watermelons require a lot of water especially at fruit-formation stage.

The farmer has invested in a drip irrigation system that includes water pumps, hand spraying guns and pipes. She bought the equipment from the profit she made on her first harvest.

COST OF SEEDS

“Lack of adequate water leads to low-quality fruit. If one has water problems, then drip irrigation is the best alternative,” she says

However, installing a proper drip system is costly, particularly for small-scale-farmers.

“A drip system costs Sh200,000 per acre. This may not be affordable to many farmers,” she says.

The option for small-scale farmers is to partially irrigate the crop and plan for the fruit-formation stage to coincide with the rainy season.

“This means you plant seeds two to three weeks before the start of rains,” Annie says with a smile.

Watermelons, she says, yield high returns. She invests between Sh80,000 and Sh100,000 per acre. This covers cost of seeds, labour, chemicals, irrigation, salaries and fertiliser.

With good management, one can harvest 30 to 40 tonnes per acre.

Prices vary according to market forces. This poses a huge challenge to farmers, who find themselves at the mercy of middlemen.

Depending on the season, a kilo of watermelon goes for between Sh15 and Sh35.

“Middlemen usually take advantage of desperate farmers, especially those who get high yields but find no market. Lack of ideal market linkages for farmers means brokers dictate farm prices,” she says

But this does not stop her from dealing with brokers, who buy most of harvest. The trick, she says, lies in knowing the market price.

Her last harvest was two weeks ago. She harvested 30 tonnes and sold to brokers at Sh28 per kilo, making gross sales of Sh840,000 in three months. If you take away expenses, Annie raked in a profit of at least Sh600,000. Her next harvest is in July.

“I do not know how I would be fairing now if I had stuck to my purchasing job. Going into farming was a good decision,” she notes.

Annie wants Kenyans to change their attitude towards farming. To many, she says, a farmer is an old and uneducated person.

“This mental picture has to change. Agriculture is diverse and interesting and young people ought to view it differently if we are to develop.”

She challenges the government and counties to invest heavily in agriculture to make it a viable option for income generation. Students should be encouraged to see agriculture as a career from a tender age.

“I am a living proof that farming pays and can be done by anyone. Farming is a profession of hope. To those interested in farming never ever give up,” she concludes.

Source: Bizna

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42 Comments

    • When she learns better she will do better. Share information with her and watch the continued greatness when she applies knowlege of artificial vs real.

    • Hybrid is pretty vague. But I would assume that the hybrid watermelon would be a cross between a watermelon species that is high vigour (developed a resistant to drought) and a another watermelon species that produces larger fruit or produces higher yields. There is so much genetic variability in fruits.

    • Hybrids are different from GMOs. Hybrids are from within same species so a High yielding watermelon crossed with a sweet variety of watermelon. They have same genetic profile and are harmless. Hybridisation occurs in nature and is how we have the crops we have today. Hybrid carrots resulted in the orange crops we grow now. They used to be purple. But this change occurred in nature, albeit in farm conditions.

      GMOs however splice genes from entirely different species (bacteria, other plants, sometimes animals) and cross them. This is what we protest against, as we are not entirely sure there are no Ill effects.

    • That’s exactly what im thinking …hybrid means gmo. .cheaper seeds…quick turn over for growth ..and no nutrients..no thanks

    • Hybrid is Not necessarily GMO. Hybrid is created using natural low tech methods while GMO is created in a lab using high tech methods

      Borrowed

    • Hybrid seeds are not GMOs. They ate produced naturally by normal breeding, no foreign gene involved.
      But if I may add also by my expertise as a breeder, even GMOs are not dangerous to health as we are made to fear. The technology can be used for evil but foods from the technology is highly tested and regulated for safety.

    • A lot of comments here show a very shallow understanding of GMO. I don’t have time to explain it to people. Do your own research from authentic websites (Like scientific, governmental and research institutional sites). GMO is not ALL evil. Simply, it is a process by which genetic engineers manipulate the DNA of plants to produce quality produce. Example, if one mango tree produces small but sweet mangoes and, another produces larger ones but bitter, a genetic engineer can separate the DNA that makes those little ones sweet and infuse it with the larger ones. That way, you can have larger, sweet mangoes that can feed more mouths. That’s as simple as I can put it. GMO is not the devil, it can save lives. It’s an advancement in agriculture. Some of these hybrids are made to produce more and, to withstand pests genetically. Some GMOs are way better than the fertilizer chemicals people grow with which, end up in your stomach.

  1. Grand mother of life is agriculture.Annie Nyaga is an inspiration to young people who neen quick success in life through agriculture.I celebrate her.

  2. I wish such kind if climate would have placeslike Lake Region.Me too I would have engaged myself in farming like her,since it has been my passion too despite the fact that am a teacher.Thanks Ann for that inspiration.

  3. I wish such kind of climate would have been in places like Lake Region area.Me too I would have engaged myself in farming like her,since it has been my passion too despite the fact that am a teacher.Thanks Ann for that inspiration.

  4. Hi,

    I got some personal questions to ask you. water mellons i have wished to farm but i need lots of advice. Can we speak?

  5. I am very encouraged by your approach to farming. I believe youth that happen to read your story about farming in general.

    Keep it up.

  6. She can use the hybrid seeds as long as she goes to the seed producers to procure them. Lee, remember she indicated purchasing the seeds from the registered seed dealers. Hybrids are not necessarily GMOs; the only problem is that you are not to save seeds for planting the next season as they may segregate-isogenic lines. Big ups Ann!!

  7. Yes, I will buy farm foods from Africa if I had the opportunity. I live in the USA and even here Afrikan American farmers do not ship their products to California where I live.

    At any rate, I know that Farming is the way for Africans to build profitable and stable communities.

  8. Please link me to her…I tried water melon farming around the same area but flopped bad….i’m so disappointed but don’t wanna give up,I could use some advice.

  9. I need more knowledge on this aspects because I want to go into agriculture and animals husbandry as well. Will be glad if your support and guide will reach me through my box. Thanks.

  10. Good job sister I was thinking the same thing after getting inspired watching an episode of Queen Sugar I’m looking for a plot of land In Chicago area right now but I really got inspired actually seeing a real person and a sister I’m more than ever inspired to do it.

  11. Am proud of you sweet girl how can I get the hybrid watermelon seed.
    Am in Ghana kindly let me know how much it will cost me, am ready to pay for the seeds
    Bernard Osei York from Ghana ??

  12. A lot of people don’t know.that people in Africans are educated at a high level. You should come to the us with your degree

  13. prudent idea could you connect me please I have passion in planting watermelon but I have no connection of market

  14. well don I will like to have a direct contact and I will like to vist you in Nairobi. please can I hear from you thanks

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