Success truly takes time and this is evident for John Njoroge Mwaniki who has been farming for the past 17 years. It all started while he was employed as a driver for a fresh produce transporter. He would go round the country buying farm produce from farmers from various counties and bring it to the market for sale. Whilst doing that driving job, he saw how well paid the farmers were, compared to what he was earning as a driver’s salary. Some farmers would get in one payment several times his salary and he would still be back a week later to buy from them again. It is then that he decided to start farming himself and with the support of his wife, he started Muhungu Farm and would invest in the farm when he got his salary.

He started out with greens for the local market and did that for a while. In 2002, he met a farmer who was doing snow peas for the export market. This was a turning point for him and he joined in the farming of snow peas. He would do it for the next 8 years. Come 2010, he added runner beans to his roster and he has never looked back.

Runner beans (Phaseolus Coccineus) also known as scarlet runner bean, or multiflora bean, is a plant in the legume or Fabaceae family. Njoroge plants two varieties of the  runner beans; White Emago and Equatorial. The main difference between the two is that White Emago is planted with sodium or natural lighting while Equatorial does not require any artificial lighting. The reason for the lights is that White Emago is not indigenous to Africa and has been imported from Europe and Central America where the days in summer are longer up to 16 hours unlike here where the day is 12 hours of daylight.The white emago thus needs an extra four hours of daylight and thus when the sun sets, you need to light up the field with the sodium lights or natural light bulbs so that the plant continues  with photosynthesis for those four extra hours. The difference that the extra four hours makes is so significant when it comes harvest time. The white emago variety produces 10 tonnes per acre while the equatorial variety produces only 4tonnes per acre. The lights are set up at a distance of 15 meters apart and can illuminate a distance of 25 meters. Each light produces 400 watts of natural light which looks reddish during the night. He has industrial generators that acts as backup when electricity from the main grid is out.

A year after he switched to runner beans, he subjected Muhugu Farm to Global Gap inspection and was awarded a compliance certificate that he has been renewing every year since. The certificate allows his produce to enter the European Union market.

Runner beans are planted 6 inches apart and 1.5 meters between rows. The beans germinate 2 weeks after planting and they grow to a height of more than 3 meters but for the sake of picking the pods, it is coiled to grow downwards. They are ready for picking 10 weeks later.

Runner beans as the name suggests are climbing vines and need to be supported. This is done after the tendrils appear during the vegetative stage. Knitting thread or manilla thread is fastened on supporting posts in a criss cross manner. The vines then use the mesh to support themselves. Proper weeding and pest management is important to ensure that the they are not competing for nutrients or getting destroyed.

Mr. Njoroge has set up drip lines to irrigate the runner beans and achieve a continuous crop. He  however does not like having any crop in the field during June and July because the weather creates loses that he would rather not deal with. The high season for runner beans is October through to January when it is winter in Europe. A kilo of runner beans usually goes for kshs. 100 during the low season and can rise up to kshs. 150. Mr. Njoroge has been re-investing his earnings by increasing the acreage of land under runner beans. He recently added 12 acres to his about 50 acres that he already has under runner beans. The fortunes are continually increasing for this passionate farmer and he says he would love to expand to more acreage. He has started planting rhubarb for export which he expects to go into full production by week 15. Njoroge is a revered farmer and has mentored many into farming especially in Kiambu County.

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