Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Greatest Mind In Agribusiness I Have Met So Far: Simon Mbuto

This place looks ordinary, just like any other by-the-road establishment along the winding Nairobi-Nakuru highway. Its name too is kept so simple one can easily think “…ABC? The guy must have run out of ideas.”

For a long time I passed through this place without taking any keen interest in it. During one of my chats about agribusiness, a friend asked whether I knew ABC. I struggled to remember where I had seen it, which I had to because she seemed too ready to get disappointed if I didn’t. “I would like you to meet him.” The way that was said sparked great curiosity in me. I had to meet him and luckily, we managed to get an appointment with Simon Mbuto, the owner of Agri-Business Centre.

As we took seats in a small office at ABC, Simon, a well and soft spoken man started telling us the story I couldn’t wait to hear.  “Although Agri Business Centre is a fairly developed business focusing in farm inputs, dairy, aquaculture and poultry activities both in production and value addition, it has not had a lush beginning.” He said.

“As you know, farming has not been viewed as a business in Kenya for a long time.” He continued. “Unfortunately, I initially swam with the currents and the best I did was to set up a dairy farming unit in my backyard. But I like reading and travelling a lot. It is through this that I got inspired to develop ABC.”

“So what is the idea behind ABC?” I eagerly asked.

“Do you know McDonalds?” Simon asked and my answer was an obvious yes. He had barely finished asking what their business is when I shouted “selling hamburgers” and felt a little less challenged. He laughed. 

“The business of McDonalds is not selling hamburgers.” He said and you can imagine my reaction. “Their main business is real estate. The hamburger business is the face of the business. Notice that most of the McDonalds are located along main highways. What they do is that they identify a location, buy the land and then set up the McDonalds hamburger eatery. Owning to the big name of McDonalds, the value of land around the franchise shoots up and they sell it.” That left me mouth agape. I had never thought of it that way.

“So how does that relate to ABC?” My inevitable question came. Simon smiled and then went on.

“ABC is the face of our real business as much as it is part of our business.” I noted the use of ‘our’ instead of ‘my’. “We are farmers and our main business is production. I work with farmers who have come together to form Bamboo Rafiki Self Help Group. They have an immense potential for production which ABC seeks to promote.” He went on.

“ABC owns two plots measuring 2.5 and 5.0 acres about 3km from here. On the 2.5 acre land is our Zero Grazing Dairy Unit and Chicken Breeding facility. On the 5.0 acre land, we grow fodder and are currently developing another dairy and poultry unit there. Together with Bamboo Rafiki Self Help Group, we plan to have a minimum of 12,000 improved Kienyenji/Rainbow Rooster chicken (majority cocks) by the end of the last quarter of 2015.”

The real ABC is still in the mind…

“The ABC you see now is simply a consolidation of the ideas making up the bigger picture. On this plot that we are seated, we have 0.5 acres of space on which the actual Agri Business Centre will be set. It will consist of a restaurant, a garden, a water-well, fish ponds and a chicken-run.

The construction of the restaurant is underway and since we want to provide a relaxing stopover for travelers, we have called in landscaping experts to create the ambience. There will also be an ample parking space even for busses. We intend to install one or two dispensers for a quick serve of fresh milk.

The garden is also in place, and apart from providing the fresh supplies for the restaurant, it will also be redesigned so that it offers a quick refreshing get-away. Can you imagine yourself in pathways surrounded by lush green vegetables being watered by sprinklers?

The chicken-run is also not complete yet. We intend to have about 50 rainbow roosters to colour the run. The design will allow the brightly coloured roosters to perch high such that travelers can see their beauty from the road. This will be besides the fish ponds which will also serve the restaurant.” By this time, I could clearly see the beauty of the place.

“Since ABC is just the face, the farms will also have the same unique touch of design. We will have large flat screens on site to entertain the visitors and showcase what the farms bear. We will also allow people to visit the farms and buy directly from us.”

Simon is surely one of the great people bringing a revolution, turning agriculture into agribusiness. It is clear how far the venture would have been by now had he started earlier. Just like I have always been, Simon believed there is gold, especially for the youth in farming. What touched me the most is that he is working with youths in Bamboo Rafiki Self Help Group. He even invites interested people to and organisations to invest in ABC which he says will be replicated in many other parts of the country.

Kwa Kweli, tunaweza make doh na farming.