As one approaches the dusty village of Kiamuringa in Mbeere South Sub County, countless probox cars and motor cycles speed in and out of the village ferrying the ‘green gold’.
The speeding proboxes are rushing to beat time in order to deliver the treasures to various destinations where potential buyers are eagerly waiting.
One would not imagine that millions of shillings can trade in such a dusty and dry village where residents have embraced Muguka (miraa) farming as their only source of livelihood.
For Michael Muriithi, a class four drop out, his early days were difficult. He was living from hand to mouth. However, the advent of Miraa (Muguka) farming in the region turned his life around.
A visit to Kiamuringa village, hundreds of farmers converge at the various muguka selling points early in the morning to trade their produce.
At Muriithi’s farm it is no different. When KNA arrived, about ten people were harvesting, each with a green paper bag filled with muguka leaves.
Buyers too arrive early, the highest bidder acquiring the merchandise. They come in all forms; motorcycles, proboxes and some on foot. Others just want a small portion to chew for the day.
The dedicated team of workers departs for home, from duties which they seem to have mastered over time. Muriithi walks towards us, greeting us for the first time, casually but warmly.
The 48 years old explains his rough journey to success. “We would go out each morning to search for casual jobs. On a good day I would make Shs.100 which would cater for our meal, nothing much to save”.
“This went on till I was about 26 years when I decided to venture into vegetable farming. I started with tomatoes and kales, but the income was not adequate. Also many people in the area grew the crops”.
After a few years, Muguka farming gained prominence in the region. He could see his age-mates who grew muguka make twice the amount he could earn from selling all his produce in one harvest.
“I heard about the crop while I was taking my tomatoes to the market. A friend of mine had gone to sell his harvest and what he sold that day alone was what I had made in three months. I was astonished and highly interested to know the secret.”
“I then uprooted all the tomatoes and kales that I had planted to create space for the muguka stems”, he said. “I started with 100 stems which cost me Shs.3, 000. This was all the savings that I had”.
It took Muriithi a whole year to start reaping the fruits of his work; it was worth the wait anyway. Every day he would make Shs.2, 000 from selling muguka. Within a month he had the capital to expand to 500 stems.
“It has been 16 years since I got into the business and I have everything to smile about. In a good week, I am able to make about Shs.20, 000 and has been a great boost to me and my family”.
Muriithi who has two daughters in high school drives a Toyota Premio and lives in a bungalow worth millions despite his lack of education. He is neither able to read or converse fluently in national languages.
He currently owns two acres of the crop and has the intentions of increasing the acreage with time.
His first daughter is in Form four while the last born in Form two, all educated using muguka proceeds.
Taking a stroll round the farm, the place looks green and well tended. The ground is all wet from the rains. The crop looks soft and bushy. Workers are weeding and tending to the stem as other harvest.
“This is what I do for a living. I have put all my resources and time into this. There is no way that I will let anything go wrong with the crop. I have two watchmen who guard the crop at night since during the day there is no one that can get into the farm”.
There is also a perimeter fence round the farm, a huge water reservoir near the gate which he uses to store rain water for use during the dry season.
He cites the dry season as the most difficult period due to lack of water in the region and this is why he always keeps stock of water.
Muriithi challenges the unemployed to consider farming as an agribusiness, saying a lot of treasure lies in the farms once taken seriously.
Story courtesy of KNA