A young agripreneur and an English and Literature graduate from Kenya, Hellen Njeru, is thriving on her arrowroot [taro] farming.
A 25-year-old graduate from Njukiini-Kirinyaga County has warmed the hearts of many with her agripreneurship skills and expertise in commercial taro farming.
Hellen Njeru started growing taro in 2018 and her venture has grown in leaps and bounds as her ndumas are a delicacy in many households across the country.
Growing up, Njeru now fondly known as Ciku wa nduma always admired the zeal with which her parents nurtured crops on their 10-acre farm filing the family’s food basket with fresh farm produce such that they only bought basic essentials like rice and sugar as every other thing was on the farm.
Hellen disclosed that this motivated her and led to her acquiring her first parcel of land from her parents which she planted arrowroot suckers and went back to school.
“My mum was among the pioneers of commercial arrowroots (nduma) farming which she took up after several unsuccessful trials with maize farming at the banks of river Kinji,” observes Njeru.
The realization that she could also make money while still in school made her devote all her free time to the farm.
Undoubtedly, her efforts started to pay off and she was happy with the returns upon joining Chuka University she leased more parcels of land and planted arrowroots. Her business was booming.
“Unfortunately Covid -19 struck the country in 2020 and the dusk to dawn curfew was enforced, as well as movements restriction put in place at a time when I had already harvested my arrowroots and was ready to transport them to clients in Nairobi and other towns,” she reminisces.
Stuck with a highly perishable product, Njeru thought fast and decided to post a few pictures on her social media platforms.
“I posted on WhatsApp and Facebook that I had nduma for sale and by the end of the day I had orders of over 200kgs which I packaged and sent to clients through parcel services,” an elated Njeru narrates.
That was her turning point as she continued to get more orders and her business now solely relies on the online market.
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She terms the online market as less challenging in this digital era especially because the youth are mostly online and all one has to do is be consistent, trustworthy, and orderly.
Arrowroots mature in six months and are less engaging as they are not affected by pests and diseases. They require a constant flow of water which has to be well regulated to avoid logging.
From a single acre of land Njeru harvest up to 7 tons of arrowroots which she sells at sh. 80 per kg.
“Weekly, I manage to sell up to 400kgs as I have portioned my farms into smaller portions of between 200 to 400kgs which ensures I have produced throughout the year,” she adds.
The portioning eases laboring and ensures less loss in produce in case of over flooding due to excess rainfall.
From the returns, Njeru who says she would not quit farming for any other job has managed to lease more land, rear hundreds of chickens, and settle into her own place.
She advises the youth to polish their other skills despite being professionals and not to shy away from farming as not everyone can fit in the white-collar sector.
“You are knowledgeable, invest in the little you have, work hard, and trust in God. Rome was not built in one day” she observes.