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Woman finds fortunes in charcoal business

Mary Wanjiku, a mother of four children, is a well-known charcoal seller in Mukuyu market within Murang’a town and has been in the business for more than 20 years now.

Wanjiku, commonly known as mama makaa,says she solely makes a living from charcoal sales and that some of the money she has been raising has enabled her to educate three of her children up to university level.

In an interview with KNA, Wanjiku, 40, narrates that back then, a friend introduced her to charcoal selling and gave her a soft loan of Sh200, which she then used to buy a sack of charcoal.

“From that first sack, I was able to sell 10 tins of 2 kg each of charcoal on the very first day at a profit. This was totally against what my expectations were, “said Wanjiku with a smile.

Wanjiku divulged that her business of selling charcoal grew and expanded over the years, and she eventually became a major supplier of the commodity in town.

“I take home Sh1,100 from the sale of one sack of charcoal, earning me a profit of between Sh500 to Sh550 daily from the sale of one sack,” she says.

She observed, however, that at times, she faces challenges with the commodity not being readily available in the market due to restrictions and regulations put in place by the government.

“The burning of charcoal is very expensive since there is a scarcity of trees, and those who supply us with it sometimes inflate their prices, especially when tree felling is being monitored by the government in order to try and conserve the forests,” she says.

For her business to remain successful, she opined that she has to make a lot of sacrifices, including waking up very early in the morning to ensure her customers are supplied with the commodity.

“You have to sacrifice in life to get what you need. When I am doing my business, you do not expect me to be clean. Look at my hands and clothes. They are covered in coal,” she says on a light note while laughing.

“Some customers will look down upon you, and they even go on to treat you poorly,” she added.

Based on her experiences in the juakali industry, ‘mama makaa’ challenges women to avoid being dependent on their husbands and urges the youth to think of self-employment other than waiting for white collar jobs.

“A woman has what it takes to start and run a business. Our youth should also wake up from their preference for white collar jobs and realise that self-employment is also an option,” she says.

Wanjiku further says that the business is profitable and has enabled her to purchase an asset, a two-acre piece of land on the outskirts of Murang’a town.

She averred that the sale of charcoal has become a booming business lately due to the rise in the cost of fuel, gas, and related petroleum products in the country in the recent past.

She also said some restaurants in the town, which previously used gas to cook meals for their customers, have also opted to use charcoal, therefore boosting her business.

“Nowadays I am making more profit. This is because the cost of fuel and other related products like gas has risen, hence people are opting to use charcoal,” says Wanjiku.

By Anita Omwenga and Alex Mwangi

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