Brick Business in Kenya: After frustrating years of farming in the remote area of Lusoi village in Nyeri County, William Maina—a disgruntled farmer— has hackneyed the phrase, to every dog its day to read to every farmer his hustle.
Though the area used to receive its fare share of rainfall in the years gone by, illegal timber logging and charcoal burning in the neighboring Mount Kenya forest has seen the rainfall decrease and as a result crops yields. “With years, I have seen the crop yields dwindle to a bare minimum that can longer sustain my family and this worried me a great deal,” says Mr. Maina who used to farm snow peas, French beans and spinach for commercial purpose.
With this reality check, the 45 years old father of three had to diversify to other ways of earning much needed income. “I would do casual work in construction works, road projects and anything else that could bring forth money but still this was this sufficient and I had to hack my brain further for something that brings good money.”
It was while during his many hustles that he came across a man from a prominent Kenyan NGO known as Caritas Kenya explaining how Matofali Jikos can construction to serve on energy and firewood in the rural areas that a bulb hit in his mind.
“Why had I not thought of it?” he mused. In his village and other neighbouring areas, firewood is major problem and thus Mr. Maina knew he had hit a Jack Pot.
After doing abit of legwork and research on how to go about the job, Mr. Maina has now hit the road running on these Matofali Jikos and he is not about to slow down. “The first question I asked myself is whre I can get this Matofali Jikos? Are they readily available? If not so, can I get the necessary raw materials locally to make them?”
The readymade Matofali bricks could not be found within the precincts of Nyeri and so he had to procure the first batch from Iciara in Embu and then work began.
With this he hit the jackpot and now earns Kshs 50,000 monthly
Brick Business in Kenya: What do you need?
Even though he could have built Matofali Jikos of any size, shape or design, Mr. Maina wanted consistency and symmetry in his work and thus settled on a two model jiko that require 55 Matofali, one bag of cement, river sand, gravel, 13 meters of iron bar, ash, red oxide, five twenty litre jerricans of water and of course the artisan’s tools of trade.“It is just like any other construction from a fundi’s perspective apart from using Matofali instead of usual bricks and observing some specifications to ensure the jikos is efficient.
At the beginning, says Mr Maina people brushed of his venture and this almost discouraged him. But, thanks to his close relations with the locals, a few decided to try his jikos and once he built them, they never looked up.
“I remember building about 4 jikos for 4 local women and after that couldn’t find any more work. But after about a month word had spread like bush fire about the benefits of my matofali jiko and customers started warming up to my jikos. The four women were my best ambassadors and I am forever grateful to them,” he says adding that customers now flow to his home and he has been forced to employ and train 7 more artisans so as to handle the workload.
If the customers have all the necessary ingredients Mr Maina says he charges sh 1900 to make one Jiko and on a good day he makes up to 4 jikos. “Out of the money, Sh 1200 is mine while the rest goes to my apprentice of the day.”
In a good month, Mr Maina explains he makes upto Sh 100,000 but on average he gets Sh 50,000. His apprentice, on the other hand, receives Sh18, 000 on average each, which he points out is good money for the young men who work for him.
One of the beneficiaries of Mr. Maina’s brick business in Kenya is Jennifer Wamuyu, 48, who has already started using his jiko.
“As you can see, I am using tree barks to cook tea and it’s almost ready in the few minutes, you have been here”, says Ms Jennifer Maina during the interview. According to her, while in the past she used 6 to 10 fire woods to prepare a single meal, now she only needs a maximum of 2 to do the same. “I haven’t bought firewood for a while but I have never failed to cook.)”, points out the mother of five and adds, “At a cost of only Sh 1900, I think this is an investment worth it.”
For now, says Mr. Maina, the business is good but I also planning to start making the Matofali bricks locally so to maximize on profit. He has already built more than 50 Jikos and he says things can only get better.