From Grace To Grass And Back


For a man who thought his life was coming to an end, Masilahi, as he was popularly known, has risen from the ashes like a phoenix bird.

Charles Nyingi started out his career as a teacher. At his prime, he trans versed various constituencies in the then eight Provinces to thrive in his vocation.

“Being a teacher in the 90s and 2000s was a big deal. The word teacher had so much meaning and respect then.” Nyingi reminisces.

In 2006, he was promoted to be the Head Teacher of Githiga Primary School in a village where only two schools were popular. His and Dr. Kiano Secondary School. This made him popular and fast. All parents in the neighbouring wards wanted to be acquainted with him, with the hope of having their children admitted to the school.

Having been raised in the village that now saw him as a champion, gave him a lot of influence. Charles narrates with a giggle in his speech how he was invited to events in homesteads, churches and even elevated to an elder in his village. Everybody wanted a piece of the Head Teacher. Hence the nickname Masilahi.

Charles Nyingi at his home in Githiga

Through his teaching career, he was able to educate his children and even build his family home in the same village in Murang’a County. Charles had a good life.

However, in 2011, life offered him lemons. He suffered a detrimental accident one night when going home, that left tongues wagging in the village and segregating him from a community he thought was dear to him.

“It had rained so heavily that day, so I sort shelter at the shopping center. When the rain died down, I began my walk home. Going down a hill to my house, I fell so hard that I remember hearing my own bones crack.” Recalls Mr. Nyingi.

Months went by. A man that was a popular figure in the village had now become a rare sight to behold. While recuperating at home and in need of hip bone surgery, speculations about his whereabouts, absence from the school and accident stormed the villages. He was forced to retire early two years shy from his retirement to completely heal at home.

“Rumours circulated in the village that I was about to die. Others said I had contracted HIV/AIDS hence my absolution from the school. Friends and community members disengaged themselves. The visits kept on reducing till it was just close friends and family.” Nyingi narrated.

With no income to rely on, and medical expenses rendering him broke, he decided to turn his lemons to lemonade.

Around his homestead, he had bare land that ran up to half an acre. Due to the injuries he had sustained, going to the farm was not something he would undertake anymore. So he decided to try his hand at dairy farming.

He called in fundis to build cow shelters putting into consideration cemented floors and feeding bunks. This highlighted his journey as a dairy farmer.

One of his cows in the shed

Starting with just two traditional cows, a lot of buying, reselling and using of artificial insemination, Charles has increased his herd to 12 dairy Friesian cows. This gives him at least 380 liters a day where he sells to local suppliers and milk processors like Murang’a Cooperative Creameries to earn approximately Ksh. 13,000 a day.

Transporting milk for sales

One key milestone was acquiring a machine that made feeding the cows more efficient. With the variety of feeds like Napier grass which the farmer grows, wheat straw, sweet potato vines and maize stover, management of the cows has been less stressful. For protein, he buys maize germ, dairy meal among others to ensure the cows get the nutrients they deserve.

“After every maize harvest, I store the stover for the cows and use the machine to slice the stover into small pieces. Making homemade dairy meals ensures the cows are constantly fed, which I find to be cost effective.” noted Mr. Nyingi.

Storage of maize stover in the farm
Machine that slices the maize stover into small pieces for cows to consume

Life for the late-60s farmer has been graceful. He has currently employed three workers and his son whom he is grooming to take over from him soon.

“I would now say this has been my best work yet.” These are the final words of Charles Nyingi with a smile on his face as he walks away with a limp.


Wanjiru Kiarie

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