A Murang’a woman living with a disability has defied all odds to make a living from selling avocado seedlings.
Damaris Muthoni, 48 years old mother of two, from Maragua location in Murang’a South Sub County, is a successful farmer who makes a living from selling avocado seedlings to local residents.
Muthoni was born a healthy child, but contracted polio while growing up and ended up becoming disabled on one leg, forcing her to use a walking stick for mobility.
“I was admitted in hospital for seven years and when I was finally discharged, one of my legs had become paralyzed forcing me to use a stick for mobility,” Muthoni narrated.
Muthoni who is the chairperson of Maragua Disabled group, narrates that she started preparing avocado seedling beds back in 2018 when Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) partnered with the group in an effort to produce quality avocado seedlings.
“KEPHIS partnered with Maragua Disabled group with the aim of helping the disabled people in the area generate income by growing and selling avocado seedlings,” said Muthoni.
“I saw an opportunity that was being presented to us and I encouraged the group members to sign up with it to better their lives,” she recalls.
According to her, the partnership with KEPHIS eased the burden of the initial costs that comes with starting up and running a nursery seedling business. The costs entailed buying the seedlings and water tanks to harvest water.
“The organization paid for the initial cost on preparations of the nursery seed beds,” said Muthoni, adding that KEPHIS procured avocado grafting buds and provided them with the grafters who assisted in the planting process.
Maragua Disabled group members sell the seedlings to local residents and neighbouring communities who are interested in avocado farming.
“Each seedling goes for Sh150 and last season we were able to sell 2,000 seedlings which was a huge profit and I hope next season yields more,” she said, adding that with the profit made, the group manages to pay Sh8, 000 dividend every six months.
KEPHIS helped the group win market confidence by giving them a dealership certificate and including them in its list of accredited Hass avocado seedling sellers.
According to Muthoni, the group is not without challenges, with the main one being shortage of water during the dry seasons.
“The nearest water source is river Itheru and with our physical conditions, it’s difficult to fetch water from that far on our own,” she noted, adding that they are forced to hire boda boda riders to do so, which is very costly.
To address the challenge, the group is pleading with the government to connect their nursery beds with an irrigation system.
Besides growing and selling seedlings, Maragua Disabled group members also keep poultry in their homesteads as the practice is less cumbersome. This is with support from the Ministry of Agriculture through Maragua sub county agriculture offices, who have been assisting farmers and groups through various empowerment projects.
The poultry farming project was funded by Upper Tana Catchment Natural Resources Management Project (UTaNRMP) through a proposal the group placed with Murang’a County Government in 2020.
“Each member received Sh15, 000. I personally started off with nine chicken and now I have more than 50,” she said.
Muthoni and the Maragua disabled group serve as an inspiration to the society as their farming projects pays socio-economic dividends, despite living with disabilities.
“Disability is not inability, we are able! The projects we have accomplished as the Maragua disabled group can attest to that,” she asserts.
By Anita Omwenga and Maurine Ngari