Turning unused fertile lands into a food basket



Brian Ngunyi Gacari believes he can change the landscape on real estate in the country by simply shifting focus on alleviating food insecurity in the 21st Century through agribusiness. In 2010, at the age of 25, he founded Property Reality Company, a real estate player popular as PRC. While starting off, he was mainly focusing on purchasing and reselling land.

But something got the founding chairman thinking – Nairobi is urbanizing very fast and most satellite cities turning into concrete jungles that coming up with a creative business model that includes developing and selling agricultural land together with a standard package of agricultural infrastructure and professional farm management services will be a pretty cool idea.

The youthful man who is now 32 years old is doing a business that only people with deep pockets would dare tap into. He became interested in adding value to people who buy land so that instead of buying then waiting for it to appreciate, you can be getting something small before the value appreciates.

“Trying to picture someone who buys his or her first piece of land for purposes of speculation”, Gacari says, “you buy your first plot, then the second, and third one. At the end of it all, it dawns on you that you can’t sell your first land at a profit some ten years down the line due to many reasons including lack of infrastructure, security or bad location.

You are left wondering what to do with three empty parcels of land when it is already too late. Well, for more and more Kenyans, buying land is a journey they will never forget. The price may fail to appreciate like you had anticipated thus just keeping your money locked.
In that dilemma, Mr Gacari saw an opportunity, and in June (last month), his firm launched a new strategic agribusiness division dubbed “PRC Kilimo Biashara” which is expected to mainly ensure that his partners comprising of mostly young people who are busy working can generate some passive income.

The first project was at Aberdare View in Nyeri County, followed by the popular Mbuni Estate, Isinya town. The project has seen over 300 clients benefit from the agribusiness venture – first payout was done in October 2016 after a successful pilot project in Aberdare View, Nyeri County.

“We decided to change the game and solve a national problem which is food shortage,” he says. “This innovation is a value-add to our clients who purchase land with PRC. With the current climatic changes and the unpredictable weather patterns, Kilimo Biashara has opened up the opportunity to turn unused fertile lands into a leading food basket.”

Before diving into real estate, Mr Gacari who cut his teeth as a business administrator and a marketer at Strathmore University, had worked as an intern at the US Embassy, Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), and as a sales and marketing coordinator at Subaru Kenya. In mid-2009, he accepted an internship position with Health Life Beverages Company in Accra, Ghana.

Individuals close to him say that he is a visionary self-starter who has over the years used his skill set and dynamic experiences to build a strong brand and sub-brands within the real estate and entertainment sector.

Actually, he is purely driven by passion to see ordinary people and especially the youth grow and develop into economically empowered individuals who can contribute positively to the growth of the economy.

“I think it’s time young people embraced agriculture. It’s the way to go. I would advice the young and old to embrace farming. What we’ve done here was not done in the first project, and will not be same in the next project,” he says.

He is thriving in a sector fraught with risks. Some individuals jump into ventures like these using loans from banks, while others even talk of having borrowed some cash from relatives. But are returns guaranteed?

“Just like any business it has its risks. But how have I mitigated the risks? If there is theft for example, I have insurance. If it is crop failure, there is still insurance to cushion me. If there is no market, I have a fall-back plan… there is market A, market B and market C,” Gacari explains with confidence.

He is glad that a representative of the PS Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Lorna Odero, graced the launch occasion, an indication that he is enjoying the backing of the government at a time when food insecurity has over the past few years become a major issue in the country.

“I am impressed by what is happening here. This is very high-level farming and we need to involve all stakeholders. Government has put into place policies that guide these kind of projects,” says the PS, Agriculture and Livestock.

PRC is targeting a ready local market despite the tough competition that comes from other real estate companies including Optiven, Uriithi, Diamond and Gakuyo, looking to thrive from the same concept. Currently, clients buy an eighth of farmland from them (PRC) at a cost of Sh750, 000 and green house (Sh250,000) which his company manages at no cost for a period of one year. And with flexible payment plans, he says people are signing up in big numbers.

“Customers are patient with us, and they will get money based on sale of their produce. The money that you are getting is coming from your produce. That’s the unique bit about this one. What we’ve done here was not done in the first project, and will not be same in the next project. And here, it’s a pool. We do it in a bunch of 50 green houses to realise economies of scale. There is strength in a community,” Gacari says, adding that 200 casuals including professionals are employed by the Mbuni project as per now.

The humble and growing Gacari says his business is not only helping his clients but also the community. The people around his farmlands are benefiting from casual and professional jobs.

“Last year this place was different. It is a property that was full of rocks. But now it is thriving with crops growing. This place was all rocks but when I see the produce being taken out, or being sold I can say we are doing the right thing and I don’t think there’s going to be shortage of tomatoes, cucumber or capsicum. The produce is clean as we use soft chemicals; chemicals that cannot contaminate plants,” he says.

But what gives him sleepless nights?

“It’s really sad that a country that can produce food is not doing so. We will own this country when the local person can produce his or her own food. You don’t have to rely on someone.