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How we secured direct export market

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By PIUS MAUNDU
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By CAROLINE WAMBUI
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In Kyumbi, the township not far away from the Machakos junction on Mombasa-Nairobi highway, most residents are farmers.

Some grow sukuma wiki, maize and beans at the backyards while others keep chickens, goats and sheep in small pens behind their palatial homes.

Lilly Nduku Mwanzia’s backyard, however, stands out as it hosts arabicum, a popular summer flower that she exports directly to the Royal FloraHolland, the largest flower auction in the world located in The Netherlands.

Seeds of Gold team finds her supervising 16 workers that are expertly harvesting the beautiful bulbous blooms standing on two acres using sharp knives.

“I settled for arabicum after trying several other crops which did not do very well,” says Lilly as she paces between the rows of the beautiful flowers.

A flower lover, Lilly recalls that sometime in 2017, she was taken aback when she spotted a lone arabicum flower thriving in a distant relative’s compound in a neighbouring village.

When she asked how the flower she had mostly seen in expensive bouquets in big offices, hotels and city homes had found itself in the sleepy village, her audience shrugged their shoulders.

The lone flower was all the businesswoman required to convince herself that the region was suitable for growing flowers, a dream she worked on.

“The first crop gave us a net of Sh400,000. We are looking forward to earning twice that amount in the current harvest because the quality and output has improved,” says Lilly, revealing that she expects to recoup all her Sh2 million capital after one year of farming.

Arabicum flowers are propagated from bulbs, which are planted directly in the soil once they break dormancy and are ready for harvest after four months.

Once Lilly acquired enough bulbs from a supplier based in Thika a year ago, she sunk basins on her farm and off the mother of two joined the dozens of farmers growing arabicum in the country.

The flowers thrive in deep well-drained soils and in cool climate, according to agronomists who also recommend that the seedbeds should be slightly raised to allow good drainage.

Arabicum enterprises in the country are currently in Kirinyaga, Limuru, Nyeri, Nakuru, Thika, Kisii, Kericho, Bomet and along the Aberdare ranges where small-scale farmers have been raking millions of shillings annually from the sale of the flowers to export market.

Samuel Karanja, the managing director of Bullgate Company Limited that exports arabicum, advises that a square metre of seedbed should accommodate up to 50 flowers.

“The cost of transporting flowers depends on the thickness of their stems. To attain slender stems, and, therefore, reduce freight charges, farmers should cut the spacing between the flowers to 50 stems per square metre of seedbed,” Karanja explains.

Though the flowers should be watered regularly, agronomists discourage flooding the seedbed with water because this damages the bulbs and foments the eruption of bacterial diseases.

Harvesting of arabicum flowers is a labour intensive exercise, which does not end until the stems are graded through weeding out those attacked by pests and removing any withered bracts, cut into uniform sizes, tied together in bundles of 10, and packaged in specially designed cartons ready for transportation to the market.

At Lilly’s farm, harvesting of the flowers happens the same day they are to be transported to Holland to avoid loss of value through withering or disfiguration.

She cuts the flowers twice a week continuously for four to five weeks, after which she harvests and cures the bulbs for replanting and sells the excess ones. She harvests some 250,000 stems in total, each that she sells at between Sh5 and Sh7.

She has installed three modern beehives near the flower farm to reap from the nectar from the plants.

To take advantage of the global flower market, arabicum farmers are advised to harvest their produce between March and May, which is termed as the high season for flowers.

This period coincides with winter in Holland, which affects the local production of flowers. The global appetite for arabicum flowers shoots on Mother’s Day on May 12th when families across the world appreciate their mothers.

There are three ways of accessing the Holland flower market, according to Lilly. First through referral by other farmers who are already exporting flowers, second is referral by the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and lastly, recommendation by the local Royal FloraHolland representatives.

She used the first one after getting licences and certification from Global GAP, Kenya Flower Council, Horticultural Crops Directorate and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service.

To start exporting, farmers and traders should be certified by KFC as exporters of flowers and should have demonstrated that they have a ready client on the other end.

Those eyeing the European market should have their farms certified to meet global standards so that their products adhere to the strict quality standards demanded by the overseas markets.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service officials stationed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport inspect the flowers to ensure that only those that which meet quality standards leave the country.

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Gilbert Mutegi and agronomist, Paul Rangenga, at a pack house in Nairobi.

Gilbert Mutegi (right) and agronomist, Paul Rangenga, at a pack house in Nairobi. According to Mutegi, farming in greenhouses has helped him cut costs. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NMG

Until 2017, Kenyan farmers were growing fresh produce and exporting them to the lucrative European Union (EU) market without much hindrance.

Gilbert Mutegi, 32, a bullet chilli grower was one of the farmers who enjoyed the benefits that came with the unhindered market for three years.

The EU, thereafter, imposed tough regulations on the produce from Kenya, especially that affected by the notorious False Codling Moth (FCM) pest.

“The regulations became a great hindrance to all farmers. None of us was spared as we were all compelled to grow the produce only in insect-proof shade nets and not open field as were initially doing,” recounts Mutegi, who initially worked in a vegetable exporting firm in Nairobi before he quit to farm.

The restrictions locked out the small-scale farmers who could not manage to install a greenhouse with shade nets, which costs up to Sh500,000.

The tough restrictions caught most farmers unawares and many pulled out of the business creating a huge gap.

“I did not let the opportunity slip out of my hand as there were only two exporters who had complied with the regulations enforced by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) as compared to the over 82 who were previously exporting. The two were enjoying monopoly,” Mutegi explains.

He followed in the footsteps of the two farmers, starting by leasing three greenhouses in Nakuru early last year.

He later leased four more on half-acre some five kilometres from Kikuyu Town as he resides in Nairobi.

“I was happy after I got the greenhouses since I was to comply with one of the most important rules, which was that bullet chilli must not be grown close to any other crop like maize and tomatoes to control pests. Most of the land I had got was near farmers growing the crops,” he says, adding he got capital from his savings.

Mutegi further hired qualified personnel who included an agronomist and a manager, all who had knowledge in the Kephis rules.

He installed shade nets on the greenhouse and adopted pest and disease management protocol for FCM.

“We ensured that all the soils in the greenhouses were pasteurised to a temperature that eliminated soil insects, weeds and majority of harmful plant bacteria and viruses. We then bought good quality seeds that were certified by Kephis,” he offers.

Paul Rangenga, an agronomist and a consultant with Gaute Fresh, says to keep the crop free of the pest, the greenhouse must not have any leakages and the farmer must use pheromone-based traps, which attract male moths.

CHECK PRESENCE OF ANY PESTS

“Each structure should be fitted with a double door that measures 1 by 1 metre to allow one to change their clothes and avoid carrying infections,” he says, adding the crop takes three months to mature.

Mutegi’s efforts soon paid off and his company, Gilgits Enterprises, became the sixth certified exporting firm of bullet chilli to the EU having been cleared by Kephis in April 2018.

Today, there are about 14 such exporters. “So far, none of my produce has been intercepted because I follow all the rules,” says Mutegi, who harvest at least 850kg from each of his greenhouses and exports the produce to Germany and UK.

The peak season, he notes, is between early September and May, with the price of the produce averaging Sh215 a kilo.

“You have to understand the seasons as you are competing with farmers from different countries. It is good to know their off-peak and peak seasons. You don’t want to grow the crop when its peak season because you will harvest losses,” he offers.

During harvesting, he notes, a quality controller should be present.

“Workers should not have long nails to avoid scratching the produce and they should harvest using a knife as they check presence of any pest. They should cover their hair, have a dust coat, clean their hands, put on closed rubber shoes and once packed, the produce should be transported in a covered van with a cooler,” says Rangenga.

The bullet chilli should have stalks to give the produce a long shelf-life. The produce should be 8cm long and green in colour, not yellow or red.

“When packaging the produce, chilli from greenhouse A should not be mixed with that from B for traceability purposes.”

According to Mutegi, farming in greenhouses has helped him cut costs. “I save up to Sh54,000 since there is minimal weeding and low use of chemicals. I have also managed to save on the cost of installing a greenhouse since I leased from those that had already installed.”

Though one can farm large volumes in an open field, the produce is continuously affected by sunbirds and the quality goes down leading to reject of up to 200kg in a single harvest.

“In a greenhouse or shade net, one harvests continuously for one year,” says Mutegi, noting of his biggest challenge is getting workers who really understand the export standards.



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General

Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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