Q&A with a tea farmer: Rael grows profit margin with better pricing

By Sarah Fox

Rael Mukeira isn’t putting all her tea leaves in one basket.

It’s the end of her work day, around 3:00 p.m. Typically, Mukeira would be heading home to meet her kids after school, prepare dinner and make some quick sales of local produce in her neighbourhood, but not today. On this sunny afternoon, Rael makes her way through the heaps of tea shrubs at Limuru Tea Farm in Kenya to meet her female co-workers for training.

The training, made possible through WE’s partnership with Lipton Tea, doesn’t pertain to her job as a tea worker. Instead, surrounded by crawling hills of radiant green tea, the women gather to learn more about financial literacy.

Conveniently held on the farm, each biweekly training session offers lessons in financial planning, savings, investment strategies and business planning. “For me, I don’t live near the farm,” Rael says. “If I had to wait until after work, I would never attend the classes, because I get home, I’m tired, I prepare dinner.”

Since the trainings commenced last spring, the mother of four has improved her side business, started renting her own plot of land and, she says glowingly, learned to make soap. The budding entrepreneur dreams of one day growing her own tomatoes and selling them (she currently works through a wholesaler)—further tapping in to this lucrative business in her hometown.

WE’s financial literacy program is helping her get there.

The aspiring businesswoman sat down one-on-one with WE to share how the training has changed her perspective on budgeting and saving, and her goals for the future.

Q&A with: Rael Mukeira

Why did you first want to be part of the trainings?

 When we were first told about the trainings, I thought it would be helpful, and I would learn things I didn’t know before. As I continued to go to the classes, I could see they were actually helping.

How have they helped you?

My mindset was changing; things I used to do that weren’t helpful for my family, I stopped doing. Originally, I would go to the market and see nice things, pretty plates and cups, that I had not budgeted for, and I would just buy. But when [the trainings] started teaching about budgeting, I would get my salary, and then budget and prioritize things I actually need, like school fees, food, sugar, salt and tea leaves, before the other things, and look at the other things as extra.

Before starting the training, you already had a vegetable stand. How has the training helped your business?

I sell kale, onions, small fishes and tomatoes at my shop. The trainings have helped me know how to price my tomatoes. Now, I know how to price so I am getting a better profit.

From the profits I have from my small business, I’ve been able to save and put that money toward renting a small piece of land, where I’m planting corn. So now I want that business to increase. So I can sell more and get more profits, and I can also continue planting.

What is your dream for what you want to accomplish?

I took out a loan to add to the savings to rent the farm, but I want to pay off the loan. When I’m done with that, I want to expand my business. I would like to plant tomatoes on my farm and sell more of them. Where I’m from, the tomato business is very big.

Anything else you’d like to add?

For me, I enjoy the classes and I want them to continue so much. The classes might seem like a small thing, but it has a very big impact. Now I have new skills. In August, I actually went home on leave, and took the skills of soapmaking, and I went home and made soap for my grandmother, and she was so happy. I love the classes and I hope they continue.

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