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Wanjohi’s joy as his flower farm blossoms

When Mr Charles Wanjohi dropped out of school, his future seemed bleak.

To cope with the hard life in the city, he had to come up with a plan to avoid falling into the trap of desperation, which could easily have led him into crime as had happened to many young men he knew.

“ I knew I had to get a way to earn a living and I had no money or an education to talk about,” Mr Wanjohi said.

Luckily, his older brother gave him Sh50,000 to start a businessbut he had no idea what to do because he knew he could not afford to fail.

Having seen how his big brother had gained from his flower farm, Mr Wanjohi knew he had to set his sights high so as not disappoint his role model.

He bought a quarter-acre roadside plot at Jamhuri Grounds on Ngong Road and set up his flower nursery, which has blossomed colourfully for the past 25 years.

“This has not come easy. I have nurtured it keenly and worked really hard at it,” he explained.

At just 13, he bought his first seedlings and polythene bags and got down to the backbreaking work. Mr Wanjohi currently hires 35 casual labourers daily to work at the flower nurseries and keep his customers happy. The father of six fully depends on the flower business to educate his children, one of whom one is in university.

“I promised my brother that I would   work hard to support others and myself. I pondered what business I could settle on but suddenly  I decided to give a try what my mentor had  done and succeeded,’’ he said.

Initially he sold one flower stalk at Sh70 to residents of Jamhuri and Karen estates, but when the business picked up, his prices also shot up with the flowers going for between Sh100 and Sh200 a piece, depending on their sizes. There are some flower species which retail at Sh3,000. “The expensive ones I mostly sell to tourists,” he said. In a good month he makes about Sh60,000.

However, there is no work without pain and Mr Wanjohi knows that too well.

Like other tree and flower farmers, he complains of harassment by county askaris and lack of water for irrigation.

“Water is a major problem. Sometimes I depend on sewage water to irrigate the plants,’’ he said.

Competition is another issue since there are many people who have joined the business, but he said “the trick was to find the other traders’ weak points and work hard to beat them,” which he easily does.

Farming is a good and healthy activity and it pays, Mr Wanjohi said, urging jobless youths to try it instead of falling into despair.