Wendy Farms founder and former TV journalist Caleb Karuga has narrated how he lost hundreds of thousands of shillings in a land-leasing deal gone sour.
The agri-preneur who left K24 studios for farming had a dream of making it big by growing spinach, terere (Amaranths) and rearing chicken in Kilifi County. But, he says, after planting the crops and nurturing them close to harvest, he was “chased from the farm like a dog.”
“Watu Wa Bara”
His experience brings to the fore the unspoken contempt and distrust some people in the coastal region harbour against “outsiders.” They derisively refer to them as “watu wa bara” (people from upcountry). It also brings to the fore the importance of signing a legally-binding lease agreement.
Caleb’s dream started in 2017. He reckoned that Mombasa’s vegetable markets sourced supplies from Nairobi. If he could lease a farm nearby for agriculture, he could satiate the demand for terere and spinach at a fraction of the cost.
The ambitious entrepreneur partnered with an old school mate and leased six acres in Kilifi. “I moved thousands of Spinach seedlings to Mombasa via Coast Bus usiku (at night), he narrates on Twitter. “Seedlings zikakaa kwa boot, Mimi ‘business class’ calculating how I’ll be the next millionaire, ninunue ka-beach plot Malindi, build a house with a picket fence, White Horse, a Jeep Wrangler nini nini.”
Write A Book
He sank in more than Ksh60,000 on planting the Spinach seedlings, and drilling a bore hole. “Terere (and Managu) were already doing well…… I contemplated writing a book: “How to farm Mchicha at the Coast; a guide to wealth creation”.
To source for customers for the soon-to-mature crop, Caleb began posting about his progress on social media. “I’ll admit the progress was AMAZING! We knew Jehovah was about to wipe away our sweat.”
He planned to use the proceeds from the sale of the crops to start the poultry business. The farm already had structures. But trouble started brewing when the women he had leased the land from “started making some tu-comments: “Na hili shamba limenawiri vizuri, ningependa kijisehemu kidogo nipande Mabenda.”
It was a forbidding statement that pre-empted a major storm, the beginning of the end of his Kilifi farming expedition.
Trouble from Farm Hand
“One day our farmhand came to the farm drunk as a skunk. Fired him. Mans alichukua panga threatening to kill us. Honestly I laughed! Mimi huyo sent him his money plus ya kutoa. He got hold of my partner, was almost throwing her in the well that we drew water from!
A caretaker who used to live on the land intervened. I ducked a panga aimed at my head! Next was one aimed at my groin area nikajua baaas! Nisahau kupatiana strokes! Si we ran out of that farm while being chased like dogs! Long story short, we came back the following day with 6 cops. The caretaker & our farmhand now besties (friends), claimed that we wanted to kill them. They showed the police the panga we wanted to use. Villagers said “Hawa watu wa Bara wanataka kunyang’anya hawa mayatima shamba!! We called the ladies who owned the land, they said we take our Terere, water pump, sprinklers & drip irrigation kits tuhame immediately! Now how do you uproot Terere na Spinach on 3 acres ulete Nairobi? How?”
No Legal Redress
He continues: “With no legal redress since there was no legally-binding lease agreement, we left the land. I boarded a Coast Bus back to Nairobi. Pindi tulipopita Mtito Andei around midnight ivi, I broke down at the back of the bus.
I questioned God why He would let us go through aladat without an intervention. Didn’t pray for like three weeks. Nilijam na God. I’m sure He was looking at me like this & asking; “Sasa unataka kulia?”
Caleb, now wiser says: “Never farm on leased land without an agreement!”
Karuga’s Wendy Farms is involved in breeding of indigenous chicken, horticulture, dairy goat farming, fish farming, bee keeping and agri-consultancy.