Farming is where the money is. This may be hard to believe in a country where farmers are mostly old and poor. Research has shown that the average farmer is 60 years old and their average income is well below the poverty line.
Farmers have always been at the mercy of Mother Nature, but climate change has made her an unpredictable partner. They have to contend with rain and floods, then drought, loans they can hardly pay because of these seasonal trials, as well as low market prices for their produce. It’s hard life. No wonder farmers’ kids do not want to become farmers themselves and dream of other careers.
Yet, Anthony Musyimi, an agriculturalist and college degree holder is defying all odds to make farming as profitable as possible.
“Having a piece of land to work on is not enough. If you want to get into farming, you have to research first, just as you would do with any other enterprise,” the founder of Premier Harvest says.
He however notes that farming is already a strenuous activity and most farmers do not have the time to scout the market, test the soil and define the best crops to grow. Most of the time farmers end up planting the wrong crops, getting poor produce and losing money invested on the farm.
To fill this gap, Musyimi started his venture, Premier Harvest Enterprise, to do the homework on behalf of the farmers.
“We develop an effective program that would give farmers a start and help them maintain a sustainable model.
After identifying farmers, the enterprise does a background check on their farms, soil analysis and advise on the best crops to grow as well as provide the farmers with the needed agro-inputs. The journey continues on to harvesting and marketing of the produce until the farmer sees value for their products.
“We are currently working with six farmers doing horticultural crops but we hope to diversify the crops in the future.”
At Premier Harvest, Musyimi said research-and-development has shifted into high gear to produce higher-yielding crops that perform under extreme conditions — whether it’s drought, disease, pest pressure, changes in the duration of the cropping season or the expansion of cropping areas. The company is also developing better crop protection products, he said.
Another focus is putting more information at farmers’ fingertips through training to help them make more informed decisions. That includes information on soils, weather and Premier Harvest’s unique insight into its crop genetics so farmers can tie it all together with seeding rates and how seed interacts with soil and the weather patterns as they unfold, he said.
“Farming is good, but if things are done in the right way. It can create a lot of impact to the country’s development and people’s way of life,” Musyimi said.
Being a beneficiary of the agribusiness programme launched by Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, Musyimi hopes to scale up his venture to see more farmers become more competitive in the market.
“Farmers have to get more productive to be profitable,” he said. The start-up uses its expertise to maximize the quality of farmers’ produce which they later sell on behalf of the farmers to a pre identified customer at competitive prices.
Currently, the enterprise does not charge farmers any fee for the services. They believe that a bountiful harvest and a good sale of the farmers’ produce will earn them a greater commission.
Musyimi plans to work with 3,000 farmers every year.