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Student finds niche in arrowroot farming to beat Covid boredom

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Every day when the sun rises and the skies open up in Njukiini in Kirinyaga county, Hellen Wanjiku Njeru, fondly referred to as Wanduma prepares herself for another day of hustle. And once she picks up her farming tools, she sets off for the farm, hoping that the day will be productive.

Since breaking out of coronavirus pandemic seven months ago, this has been the daily routine for Njeru, a fourth year Bachelor of Education student at Chuka University.

She is so passionate about arrowroots such that she has earned the title Wanduma ( arrowroot farmer) from the locals. “I started small scale arrowroot farming two years ago though my mother has been doing it in large scale. I can say that I learned the ropes of the trade from her and she has been my biggest inspiration and supporter,” says Njeru. “So when Covid-19 struck and we were forced to go back home, I thought of starting to grow and sell the crop by myself, and since April, I have been into it. Arrowroots are well paying and my mother has been educating us with the proceeds got from selling them. With time, I wished to join her and I was lucky enough that she lend me a portion of her farm to cultivate the crop two years ago,” she narrates.

The 24-year-old says life while growing up in the village wasn’t easy as one had to start working in the farm as early as they enrolled in school. “I am happy and grateful because the early exposure to farm life got me acquainted with best farming practices, most of which I now utilise in farming,” she explains.

Handson Njeru says that starting off was easy for her since everything was provided freely, including the land, suckers, manure and labour since her other managed the farm for her while she was in school. “I started selling my produce coincidentally when President Uhuru Kenyatta put in place the 7pm curfew as one of the measures to contain the pandemic. I was to harvest the crop the next day, but the buyer cancelled the deal due to the curfew. I got really worried as the arrowroots had matured and couldn’t hold any longer under the ground,” she recounts.

“I went on to take and post pictures of the arrowroots on several WhatsApp groups and requested people to make orders. Fortunately, I was able to get orders totalling 150 kilogrammes. I then went on and harvested the crop the next day and dispatched them to our various clients in Nairobi, Thika and other places through a local transport company, Neno Sacco. Since then, I have made it a weekly routine to

send orders made by friends and clients who I find online. Social media groups have been particularly supportive. She markets the tubers through her Facebook page Cku Njeru Wanduma. “Currently, the price of a kilogramme of arrowroots stands at Sh85, which she says isn’t constant and varies depending on demand.

With the proceeds she makes from the sale of arrowroots, Njeru says she saves some of the money while the rest goes into sustaining her chicken and vegetable farm projects. Arrowroots take between six and seven months to mature.

Just harvested arrowroots on Wanjiku’s farm. She markets and sells them online.

Ups and downs

“I find arrowroot farming the best and easiest to do as it does not require much effort. For example, they don’t require spraying every now and then. They are also hardly invaded by pests. I have not seen any, unless a few locusts, which do not do any damage to the crop,” she says.

However, when it comes to farming arrowroots, it’s a little challenging, especially with water. “Too much of it spoils the crop while too little hinders proper growth. Arrowroots grow well on a wetland with clay soil, but with a well-controlled water flow, and not in a water logged area. On the bright side, it is also economical to farm arrowroots because you only need manure as the main input, no fertilisers nor pesticides,” she says.

Just harvested arrowroots on Wanjiku’s farm. She markets and sells them online.

Njeru says the arrowroots can be grinded into flour that can be used to bake or make porridge, roasted, boiled and taken with tea, fried with potatoes to make a Kikuyu meal called gitowero or deep fried and ‘ v eaten as a snack.

Asked whether she will still be farming once school resumes, Njeru says, she won’t stop. “I will continue, sales might go down, but that will just be for a little while since I am almost finishing school,” she smiles.

She encourages other youths to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along their way. “Let us not wait until we acquire employment, whereas we can create jobs wherever we are. Capital is normally a major discouragement to pursue business ventures, but starting small is better than choosing to remain idle. Let parents also take up the task of holding their children’s hands and support them as long as it is a positive move. The future is bright. Let’s not limit ourselves,” Njeru says.


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Health

Shock as man ‘resurrects’ in a Kericho mortuary

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There was drama at Kapkatet sub-county hospital in Kericho on Tuesday night when a 32-year-old man who had been presumed dead and taken to the mortuary regained consciousness close to three hours later.

Mortuary attendants were getting ready to embalm Peter Kigen’s body when they noticed some movements.

Kigen, a resident of Kibwastuiyo village in Bureti Constituency, is said to have collapsed while at home before his family took him to hospital.

His younger brother, Kevin Kipkurui, said he was present when Kigen collapsed. With the help of their cousin, they took Kigen to the hospital at 5.30 pm.

“When we arrived at the casualty department, we met a doctor who asked us to register the details of the patient at the reception while he attended to him,” Kipkurui, who was still in shock, told The Standard.

After registering the patient, Kipkurui said he was again asked to the National Hospital Insurance Fund desk for further documentation of his brother.

Kigen reportedly suffers from a chronic illness.

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“When I went back to the casualty department at around 7.45 pm, I learnt my brother was dead. A nurse told me that he died long before we arrived at the hospital,” Kipkurui said.

He added: “The nurse later handed me a document to take to the mortuary attendant before my brother’s body was moved to the morgue.”

However, at 10.30 pm, Kipkuriu said, as they were waiting for embalming of Kigen’s body, they were informed that in fact, he was not dead.

Mortuary attendants who mummified the body told them that Kigen had regained consciousness.

“The mortician called me into the morgue and we saw him make movements. We were shocked. We could not understand how they could move a person who is still alive into the mortuary,” Kipkurui said.

Kigen, who spoke from his hospital bed yesterday, said he was shocked to learn that he was thought to have died and even taken to the mortuary.

“I cannot believe what just happened. How did they establish that I was dead?” he said.

Kirui, who donned his light-blue hospital uniform, was nevertheless happy to be alive and vowed to dedicate his life to evangelism once he’s discharged from hospital.

“I did not even know where I was when I regained consciousness, but I thank God for sparing my life. I will serve him for the rest of my life,” he said.

The hospital’s medical superintendent Gilbert Cheruiyot said Kigen was in critical condition when he was brought in.

Dr Cheruiyot said: “His relatives presumed he was dead and did not even wait for certification of death. They moved him to the mortuary, on their own.”

He said the clinical officers at the casualty were busy attending to other critically ill patients when Kigen was brought in, including an epileptic and a diabetic patient.

“They asked Kigen’s relatives to give them some time but they accused the clinicians of taking too much time and decided to take him to the mortuary. It was while the mortician was getting ready to embalm his body that she noticed some signs of life,” said Cheruiyot. He said the mortician informed the team at the casualty department which took Kigen back and begun resuscitating him. The process took three hours before the patient was stabilised.

“The patient was later taken to the ward and is responding well to treatment. We hope to discharge him in a few days,” Dr Cheruiyot said yesterday.

He added: “I advise those bringing their loved ones to the hospital to follow the laid down regulations. Before a body is moved the mortuary, it has to be certified by a clinician. In Kigen’s case, we can only say he was lucky, especially because of our qualified mortician who checked him before making any move,” said Cheruiyot.

The bizarre incident saw local MCAs, led by the Majority Leader Hezron Kipngeno, storm the hospital. This is after Chelanget MCA Hezborn Tonui demanded a statement from the heath committee over the incident that shocked the county.


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Business

Navigating through the Covid-19 Terrain and a Story of Exceptional Transformation at Optiven

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Navigating through the Covid-19 Terrain and a Story of Exceptional Transformation at Optiven

Optiven Group has continuously had all its eyes trained on its vision of economically and socially empowering and transforming the society.

This vision was however momentarily shaken by Covid-19, especially on the month of March 2020, when the first case was reported. Soon, all was not business as usual. The pandemic scared our staff and customers alike. With huge loans to pay, massive salary bills and many office rentals to cope with, everything seemed daunting. The worst was when we closed our offices and temporarily sent hundreds of staff home. That was extremely agonizing to bear.

As an entrepreneur, this was one of my worst periods ever. The headaches were not ceding ground and the only thing that was consoling was the power of prayers. It is during such times when the test of leadership comes to play.

Our most affected area of business was our sister venture entities in the name of restaurants. Indeed, we sent hundreds of staff home. We are now however thanking God that 85% of these staff are back and with a projection of bringing back the rest soon, as business starts coming back.

Importantly, soon after Covid-19 pandemic hit, Optiven Group was swift in adopting new strategies and quickly embracing appropriate technology to counter the new terrain. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the firm is still expanding, especially on the area of job creation and mentorship front.

It is largely courtesy of these strategies that despite the current pandemic, we have managed to launch enormous mentorship programs such as the George Wachiuri School of Mentorship and also engaged in encouraging SMEs that have really been struggling to stay afloat through our business mentorship sessions. Through the latter, we have continued to inspire over 7,000 active participants through George Wachiuri’s Facebook LIVE shows that are also available on my You Tube channel, this has continued to give hope to many.

Still, during this period, we have managed to create over 100 permanent jobs for both senior and middle level employees, plus over 200 casuals that daily work in our projects. This job increase is in line with our goal of creating over 30, 000 jobs by the year 2030.

On the real estate front, we really had to think away from the box and undertake a massive 360 degree transformation that was educated by thinking differently and changing how we used to do things before Covid-19.

Thanks to this, we have continued to provide our customers with even more offerings in terms of value additions to our projects. It is during this period of Covid-19 when we decided to put our efforts towards GoingGreen in most of our projects. Matter of fact, we have surprised our customers by further transforming our projects through installation of green energy, massive tree planting, and installation of water recycling systems, encouraging plot owners engage in farming of organic foods and subsequently feed their families from their previously idle plots. Significantly, we also changed from use of Kenya Power electricity in our projects to the use of solar energy on almost all amenities and by so doing, we have now managed to save millions of shillings in terms of KPLC bills. Most importantly, we are glad that we are now fully plugged on the green energy agenda.

All along, the company has continued to flourish through innovation, partnerships, massive philanthropy activities and even more importantly, a commitment to always entrust all our undertakings to God.

We are glad that we are consistently realizing our vision of being pacesetters in social economic transformation through opportunities such as job creation that have a positive multiplier effect on the society.

Guided by the same vision, we always dedicate 5% of what we make in business and channel it to the less fortunate through a registered foundation viz Optiven Foundation. We have hundreds of orphans whom we support to go through school. We also support the physically challenged to get free wheelchairs and support girls to access schools. The Foundation also cares for over 300 families and helps them to get food daily.

Indeed, we at Optiven exist to economically and socially empower and transform the society.

#ChangingLives
#EyesOnTheCommunity
#CreatingJobs
#GoingGreen
#HousingKenyans

Contact Optiven Group:0790 300 300
Email: admin@optiven.co.ke Website: www.optiven.co.ke George Wachiuri Blog: www.georgewachiuri.com
YouTube: https://bit.ly/2VdSuFJ


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Health

Janet Mbugua shares her Covid-19 scare

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Media personality Janet Mbugua has shared the tale of the time she faced a scare as thought she had contracted Covid-19 last month.

In a video she shared on Instagram, the former Citizen tv news anchor said she experienced Covid-19 symptoms which escalated quite quickly.

The video shows her being taken through the nasal swab test for Covid-19, which is known to very uncomfortable.

Luckily, the result for the mother of two came back negative.

Janet Mbugua said that her scary experience motivated her to fight the fear and stigma related to Coronavirus, and will use her platform to advocate for a vaccine.

This comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise sharply in Kenya amid a rush by various pharmaceutical companies globally to come up with an effective vaccine.

By NN


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