A few weeks ago, the Education ministry delivered a bombshell in the school reopening tentative dates. January 2021! As expected, this bit was received with a lot of open-ended questions by the people directly involved – teachers, parents and students.
A lot of professionals have lost livelihoods in job losses, or hefty pay cuts. In Kenya, teachers in private institutions are in that quota. One has to be innovative to realize an alternative source of income to sustain life and families.
In a sleepy village in Kakamega, hails an enterprising teacher who’s taken up agri-business with gusto.
A visit to Apex Farm in the outskirts of Kakamega Town is inspiring. Apex Farm is just a few months old, and owned by an energetic teacher previously running a private school in Westlands, Nairobi County.
When the pandemic took center stage last December leading to closure of schools across the nation, Wafula Elvis was devastated. He’d been teaching at the school for half a decade, and had a family of three. The school’s proprietor only managed a month’s salary after closing down.
Wafula had shifted his family upcountry. He’d thought wisely – the lockdown happened shortly after. His ancestral farm was unused and bare, and he had to think of projects to start – to create cash flow, sustain his family and have a positive impact on his community.
He’d zeroed in on two pursuits.
- Poultry – layers.
- Organic vegetables.
As with all fledgling projects, capital was the first hiccup in the plans.
For years, Wafula has been a Co-op Bank client, and his salary had been paid through his account here. He’d visited the local Co-op Branch and applied for a loan. After the necessary appraisals, his loan had been approved.
Further, the bank had facilitated an M-Pesa till number for his farm business on his behalf at no charge, which allows direct payments to his Co-op Bank account.
Looking back, Wafula pensively confides moving to the village and starting the agribusiness project was a life-changing decision.
The writer’s take:
I reach the Apex Farm metallic gate, and there’s no one in sight. I had called the owner beforehand. The gate swings open, and am on the lookout for dogs. None. The courtyard is filled with various duck varieties – Rouen, Muscovy – some turkeys and geese. It’s a beautiful sight, there’s a paddling pool!
Presently, I see a robust, lean-looking man waving from behind the walled section behind the house. I don’t need an introduction – it’s the owner, Mr. Elvis Wafula.
He’s tending to his chicken. Several hundred layers in metallic cages, pecking furiously. It’s feeding time. I down my tools and dig in to work.
“I don’t understand layers. I feed a hundred layers with the same feeds and same ration for six months, around 20 birds are still not laying?”
Wafula is puzzled. Me, too.
The Apex Farm makes a tidy profit with a daily egg supply to shops and groceries across town. The chicken droppings are used in the organic garden. All native vegetables are grown. Wafula’s wife sells these at her grocery stand in town, and hotel owners warming up to healthier food from organic produce.
The Apex Farm proprietor, Wafula, is servicing the Co-op Bank loan comfortably. To prove it, he tracks loan progress on his phone through the New Co-op Internet Banking.
Besides, the New Co-op Internet Banking enables him track all payments from his clients in real time. Life is also easier, thanks to other features like instant bill payments and airtime purchase directly from Co-op Bank account.
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“Do you miss the classroom, Mwalimu?” I prod.
“Well, mmm…” Wafula shrugs.