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Returning home from Dubai to cultivate their dreams and strawberries

Anne Mugo and her husband were happy, working in Dubai. Life was good. They earned a decent salary and had all the facilities they ever craved for: good healthcare and world-class transportation. They however always wanted to come back to Kenya and bring their business home.

Having spent one year working in Dubai, they wondered why companies they worked for were coming back to Kenya to build hotels. “We thought these companies had seen something we had not seen. So, we decided to jump,” says Anne Mugo.

With their company, Zodwa Logistics, a delivery solutions company for small e-commerce businesses, Anne and her husband set out to start their new life in Kenya. A few months into the industry, the competition was grand and they could not play up to the

big company’s game. So they had to diversify their finances to thrive.

One day while watching Farmers TV, Anne got an idea to farm strawberries. She shared the idea with her husband and what follows is history.

“My entry into farming strawberries was motivated by a TV program on farming. After watching the show, I talked to my husband and we set out on an adventure to learn first,” Anne says.

Starting strawberry farming was not easy. The couple met challenges along the way, but the zeal and determination kept them going. “At one instance, we met a farmer who was talking a lot about strawberry farming. When we approached him, he told us that we needed to have at least Ksh 400,000, a one-acre land, and a weekly fee to visit the farm like a startup package. This was way out of our budget,” she says.

The couple says their dream did not, however, die with the lack of these resources. Instead, Anne went to Facebook and met another farmer who offered to train them and share his craft of farming strawberries and encouraged them to start with the little they had.

On a small piece of land in Ndenderu, the couple started to farm strawberries. “We started with 100 plants of organic strawberries. These would give us up to 10 kilos of strawberries a week. Today, the couple is a significant producer of fruits. Unlike many other farmers who grow conventional strawberries, the two take pride in being among the few farmers producing organic strawberries.

Most strawberry farmers use chemicals to propagate the plants, leading to low-quality fruits. Anne and her husband chose the unbeaten path of organic farming and they have never looked back.

What does one require to start? Anne says all that is required is a small piece of land, lots of water, quality strawberry seedlings, and some courage to start a business.

Like many other crops, strawberry farming has its share of challenges. The plants need lots of water and are affected by extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. However, strawberry farming is straightforward. After planting, the plants only need periodic watering, mainly in the morning and evening. After the first one month, the watering frequency goes down, freeing up the farmer’s time.

In the next five years, with the help from KCIC, Anne says they would be exporting the fruits to different markets across the globe. Given the rising demand for organic strawberries, her dream is valid.

Pamela Okutoyi is a sustainability writer at KCIC Consulting Ltd.