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Young vegetable farmer smiles her way back to school

12 November 2021

Selly Chebet at her parents’ small farmland in Trans Nzoia County where she has planted French beans.

Despite having a strong desire to join college, 29 year-old Selly Chebet was stuck at her parents’ home in Nakosi B Village, Trans Nzoia County in Kenya, since there was no money to fuel her dream of education. Her parents struggled to make ends meet through small-scale maize farming which bore poor returns due to low yields.

When her neighbours began growing French beans, Selly helped them weed and harvest in return for a day’s wage. As she continued working for them, they persuaded her to also try farming since it was profitable.

"I felt like growing French beans would require a lot of money to buy seeds, fertilisers and chemicals. My neighbours told me that if I began with growing local vegetables like kale, tomatoes and cabbage, I would get enough money to start growing French beans", she said.

After raising enough capital by selling the local vegetables to her neighbours, she planted her first French beans crop in September 2020 on 0.1 acres of her parents’ land. Her parents bought seeds for her, while her mother helped her to weed and harvest. Selly continued doing casual labour at the neighbouring farms to make money to buy fertiliser and crop protection products.

Three months later, Selly harvested 600kg of French beans. An export buyer, who was linked to the farmers by Farm Africa, bought the produce at a rate of Kenyan Shilling (Ksh) 45 per kilogram and Selly received a sum of Ksh 20,000.

"I was so happy. I told my parents that I would continue to grow French beans. I realised that this was the only way I could raise money to go back to school. My parents want to do French beans farming too because they saw it is easy to get an income after only three months", she said with a smile.

Selly tending to her tomatoes which she has planted on a portion of her parents’ farm.

Selly is now living her dream after enrolling for a diploma in general agriculture at Kitale National Polytechnic, which she is due to complete in 2023. She feels very happy while in class and her parents are proud of her.

The young farmer decided to study agriculture in college in order to acquire more knowledge in the field. She believes that agriculture is a big contributor to Kenya’s economy and through it, people are able to feed themselves and also create employment.

While she is away in school, her parents, whom she has trained on proper crop management, help her to take care of her crops. Currently, she has planted tomatoes on half an acre where she hopes to make Ksh 100,000 upon harvesting an estimated 2,000kg of tomatoes in a month’s time.

As a participant of the Growing Futures project, which is funded by Aldi UK, Selly and 400 other farmers have been trained on production of export and local vegetables, marketing, record keeping, gross margin analysis and climate-smart agriculture.

After the training, Selly began irrigating her vegetables, hence improving her yields during the dry season. She is determined to improve her farming so that she can make more profits.

"I thought I was stuck. I thank God for giving me wisdom to begin farming French beans and other vegetables. I am also grateful to Farm Africa for the training and support," she noted with a smile.