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Former alcoholic now earns a living from tree nursery seedlings

At the foot of Kamuruana hill in Kirinyaga Central Sub County is home to Daniel Mwai who until several years ago was lost in alcohol consumption and lived a hopeless life.
The father of two has since changed and has become a positive change-agent in the village and the surrounding areas.
Mwai says he quit drinking and started a tree nursery in his quarter acre piece of land he inherited from his father.
Since 2006 when he started the tree nursery, Mwai has grown and progressed to be a force to reckon with in matters of tree and coffee seedlings.
He says in the beginning he started with indigenous tree seedlings but did not go far for lack of market.
He said the forest department which by them was the key target market did not support them well.
“Those contracted by the department would buy seedlings from us at Sh5 per seedling only to sell the same to the forest department at Shs50. This killed our spirit and eventually made me abandon planting the indigenous tree seedlings,” he said.
Mwai then ventured into planting coffee seedlings and other fruit tree variety seedlings, he says he learned of how to prepare the nursery and planting the seedlings at Wang’ombe farm in Nyeri.
He said the business picked and he sold tree tomatoes seedlings at Shs100, for grafted yellow passions at Shs50per seedling.
Mwai said he later expanded the nursery farm to include various varieties of coffee including Ruiru11, Batian and SL28, all which is famous with the local farmers.
Mwai is grateful to God and the devolved system of government which he attributes to increased demand for coffee seedlings.
He says a campaign by the county government of Kirinyaga to sell coffee directly to the millers has registered a high demand of coffee seedling by individual farmers and societies in the county.
He says at one point he sold seedlings worth half a million to individual farmers and coffee societies.
“Right now I am working on an order worth Shs2.3 million which am confident i will be able to provide,” he says.
Mwai says apart from the fruit and coffee seedlings he also has other varieties of trees local farmers prefer to plant like the blue gum, to make sure he is able to meet farmers’ demand of other trees as they come for the coffee seedlings.
In the nursery Mwai has directly engaged and works with six employees including his wife Faith Wangithi who manages the farm when he in not around.
Mwai says he developed interest in Agriculture during his days at Njega boys’school where he scored a straight A in agriculture.
The trade he said was somehow affected by the ban of plastic bags by NEMA but he added he has since sorted out the problem.
He says his supplier of the bags they use for the tree seedlings has met all the requirements set out by the government.
Mwai said his market has since expanded and he now sells his seedlings to as far as Karatina at wholesale price to retailers who also sell and make profit.
His success has not made him forget his friends who they were drinking together; “some of my employees include reformed alcoholics who are now gainfully earning their daily bread.”
Mwai says he has also supported others in establishing small tree nurseries adding that the demand for seedlings is overwhelming.
He says many of the youths wishing to get started find a challenge in the seed capital which he would wish the county government to address.
Mwai’s future plans is to put up a big green house where grafting of coffee seedlings can be undertaken to replace the small makeshift green house he is using at the moment.
He says since stopping the use of alcohol, he is now able to put all the effort in his work and has managed to put up a good house for his family besides the purchase of a vehicle which he uses at times to transport the seedlings to his clients.
Mwai is a hardworking man who wakes up at six in the morning and works as late as 2am carrying out grafting of the seedlings to meet his clients’ demands.
The farmer says he is ready to help the reformed youth who venture into nursery business to find market for their seedlings.
“Right now I am working for an order of 15,000 seedlings ordered by Mutira farmers’ cooperative society which I must provide in readiness for the expected long rains,” Mwai said.
He says in a day he is able to carry out grafting of close to 800 seedlings.
Mwai who is 47 years says he wishes to retire at age sixty and enjoy the investment he will have made from his tree nursery business.

By Irungu Mwangi

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