If Gerphas Odipo would just settle on what he is trained to do, he would have remained on the airwaves where he worked as a radio host. His partner, Damiano Timothy, ekes out a living in the branding and advertising sector.
But the two gentlemen are ready to soil their hands and change the course of their income generators. The two are building a multi-million chillies and capsicum empire in Ngoliba along the Thika-Garissa Highway.
Under the Judera Group Ltd, the duo’s mission is to feed Kenyans with lots of Chillie and Capsicum with a projection of planting 1000 acres of the produce in all the counties.
So far, this journey has kicked off---65 acres of Chillie are ready for planting at the Ngoliba farm. Another 100-acre farm is coming up in Narok, and the land acquisitions can only go further afield. The Chillie/ Capsicum crops are their main picks for both the local and export markets.
The great idea of turning to farming was born during a leisure trip to Ngoliba where they visited a friend who was a contracted French beans farmer. All around was a vast and virgin lands.“ We looked at the lands around his and we instantly saw all manner of opportunities; Real estate, medium scale farming , subsistence farming and leasing. We decided to give farming a trial,” says Odipo.
Without prior experience in farming, Odipo and Damiano decided to start small. They needed to learn the basics of farming, understand the agribusiness value chain and conduct market research.
“We started with one acre of French beans out of the 65 acres we now have,” explains Odipo.
Theirs was a blunt start. From their sub contract, they made only Sh 800 from their acre of French beans after they sold the produce at a throw away price following the collapse of the contract.
They did not let their dreams die. The next season, they planted 4 acres of watermelons. Another rude shock. Despite a favourable weather, and the right soil, the watermelons just failed to yield.
Having gone through the learning curve, Odipo and Damiano, with unfaltering resilience, went back to the drawing board.
“We learnt that success lies in preparation. Especially in farming. We just needed to prepare adequately. This meant coming up with a foundation on which our company would stand,” says Odipo.
They came up with a vision; to feed Kenya an acre at a time. They envisioned to be large-scale farmers, farming at least 1,000 acres per county.
With this vision, Judera Group Limited was born with three key pillars. It seeks to create jobs, increase the country’s GDP and to contribute to food security.
This vision led to identification of five players who would drive their dreams--- landowners, job seekers, investors, consumers and government. Landowners with vast pieces of land would lease the land to them; job seekers would provide labour; investors would give them money hoping the duo would grow it; government institutions would fund their long-term projects while exporters and local buyers would get their produce to the consumers.
It was all systems go during Mkulima Young’s Easter visit to Judera’s Ngoliba farm. Water pipes were being laid on the 26 acre portion of the land. The drip irrigation system had been installed by Vintage Greens Limited (click here to read the Vintage Green story).
The land under preparation will be filled with chillies--the bird’s eye variety. In fact, the chillies were already in nursery beds, ready for transplanting.
In the remaining 39 acres portion, tractors were busy ploughing the land. Two greenhouses out of the expected 50 greenhouses had been constructed by Vintage Greens.
To signal the coming of a chillie/Capsicum orchard, coloured capsicum is already growing in the two green houses.
Growing with Mkulima Young
Impressed by the work that the Judera Duo is doing, Mkulima Young will be documenting their journey. We will produce a series of videos and articles based on their journey. Catch up with the latest on the Mkulima Young YouTube Channel.
By Nyambura Maina