This week, all roads lead to Kenyan agripreneur Faith Kibiti. She is among the 15 women entrepreneurs hand-picked for a training initiative presented by Corteva Agriscience and Strathmore University.
When Faith Kibiti was young, working on her parents’ farm was just a normal weekend duty. Little did she know that her father’s passion and mother’s hard work would rub off on her.
“My mother resigned from teaching to join my father in farming,” Kibiti tells FoodForAfrika.com.
“The money they got from there is what took us through education. All six of us. We could help her over the weekends, wake up in the cold nights to go change water in the farm. The area is so cold because it is situated near the slopes of Mount Kenya. We could see the yields that she was getting and that is how I came to learn that agribusiness pays.”
And that is also how her interest grew. Unlike most children’s dreams of becoming pilots, doctors or engineers, Kibiti chose to stay on the agricultural path.
“I chose agriculture in school. I think it’s also because my parents did the same. I don’t think I have any age mates or friends who do agriculture like I do. Most of them chose white collar jobs.”
Finding love in agriculture
Interestingly, from being raised by practicing parents, the 38-year-old got married to Gilbert Kibiti who also worked in the same sector. He is the managing director of Farmers Centre Ltd., an agrochemical business based in Meru County, Eastern Kenya. It specialises in soil analysis, crop nutrition, crop protection and animal health. The business has been in operation since 2002.
“When I got married, my husband was also into agribusiness. He was an agrovet. He had a one-acre piece of land with only two cows. So, when I came in, we expanded and started farming vegetables like French beans for sale. We increased the number of cows and even went into poultry farming.”
“I also got an interest in joining his agribusiness. When I joined him at work I even enrolled in agricultural courses. Time came when I did not want to continue working with my husband in the same store.
“I felt I had the potential so I wanted to explore more and work independently. He supported my dreams, he held my hand and that is when we opened another outlet near the bus stage in 2011.”
She manages and oversees all operations of this new store. In addition to that, living by the saying team work makes the dream work. “We also continue managing the farm. He handles cattle and dairy farming then I handle poultry, piggery and horticulture. Everyone has to be accountable.”
Solely running a business and at the same time working alongside her husband has been very eye-opening and tricky as she puts it.
“I think I was not a good manager. I used to see my bank account get fat but it did not hit me that that was business money not mine. My husband is my main supplier and one day he chased my people away and did not supply them with anything.
“I did not know what wrong I had done and he had to explain it was because I had not been paying my debts. Messing up at work and going back to the same house in the evening,” she chuckles. “So, I really tread carefully there.”
A feather in the cap
Kibiti noted that she learnt to realign herself after the incident. A milestone in her work was gaining recognition by Corteva Agriscience after becoming one of the agrovets that sold the most PAN 3M-05 which was new in the market at that time. She later on got enrolled for the training programme between Strathmore University and Corteva Agriscience.
“This really encouraged me to go through the training later. My business has now really transformed because my level of handling employees, bookkeeping has really gone up. I think even without an accountant I can still run the business because there are terms I never knew but I now understand even better. I have also learnt to separate work and my personal developments. This is one thing I know that was almost killing the business,” she explained.
Kibiti now encourages more people to join the sector as there is more to it than its monetary value.
“Food security is important in our country and unless we play the role then we shall be failing our nation. I enjoy farming because it’s not only about selling the products but also about understanding what you are selling. If a customer requests for services directly from me, when I stand at the counter they challenge me.
“I challenge them back because I know about these products. And even if there is a new product in town, I am able to learn and grasp what it is meant to be used for. When you know the safety of chemicals you are also helping the farmers that use them.”