Venture into Avocado Farming
Farmers in Lari have been advised to practice avocado fruit farming as it grows well and effortlessly, therefore allowing them ample time to attend to other farm activities.
An elderly Lari farmer, Mr. Michael Mwiko while talking to KNA from his farm at Karugu village in Kagwe location of Lari sub-county yesterday said more farmers should venture into growing the fruit owing to its ready market.
He said he earns a minimum of 98,000 and maximum of 120,000 shillings from every harvest of the crop after discovering that they could do well on the soil in his home. He said that farmers should give a shot in this business, especially persons of his age group.
A spot-check by KNA at the farm revealed that Mr. Mwiko also practiced livestock farming with his four dairy cows, alongside a tea plantation, a fish pond and grew cereals on his 3 acre farm. This has kept him on feet since his retirement from the white collar Job and he says he was able to make good returns from his ventures
He says that he took farming seriously in his old age as he derived the passion from his colleagues whom he said were making good money from the venture. “For one to thrive in farming you need to be passionate and have full interest,” he told the KNA writer.
With now 18 mature and 6 more young avocado trees, Mr. Mwiko planted his first tree 10 years ago and now depends on the harvest for it is one of his sources of income and it pays him well.
He noted that the only cost of avocado farming he had incurred was on labour as it needs to be put manure annually and watered periodically. He also spent money to buy seedlings in the early stages which he said he had become cleverer as he now prepares his own seedlings whenever he wants to plant another avocado tree.
Avocado farming comes in as an advantage to Mr. Mwiko since Water is locally available as he owns a borehole in his home which also comes in handy for his keeping dairy cows.
He sells his fruits at 6-8 shillings per avocado depending with the season and harvest However the farmer who was awarded in 2009 was awarded by Food and Agricultural Organization for being the best Agrifarmer from Gatamaiyu says market plays a major factor on pricing, if market demand rises the prices go high. He sells his fruit to a middle-man who visits him in the farm to purchase the fruits. With such an agreement, he says he does not bother looking for buyers for his produce.
Owning two types of avocado fruit, hass avocado and fuerte avocado, he says that hass avocado does well and better than fuerte for marketing since it has a long shelf life thus its price for one is costly than fuerte.
With some of his trees planted in the tea bed spaces, Mr. Michael says that during pruning days of the tea plantation the leaves act as manure which saves him the labour. He further explains that planting the avocado trees in the tea plantation saves him farm space as avocado plantation requires and covers big spaces of the ‘shamba’.
“As the avocado tree matures, it branches out and creates a big shade and no farming activity can take place under the tree’s shade. Due to lack of sunlight exposure nothing can do well other than tea plantation and that is why he has intercropped his Avocado within the tea plantation,” he explains.
Mr. Mwiko says he benefits much from farming avocado as it is edible, acts as a source of income through farm gate selling, during pruning days of its branches it produces good charcoal for fuel plus it has no waste, everything about avocado is profitable.
However, he opted to do individual farming due to aging where keeping up with a group was tedious for him.
He points out that there are a few challenges he has to bear with nearly every season as individual volume lacks also hailstone rains poses as a risk to avocado farmers. “If avocado farming is intensively grown as a cash crop then it can sustain a farmer and boost economy.” Mr. Mwiko made is final remarks while challenging other farmers to diversify their farming activities.
An avocado tree requires cool to warm temperatures, with a minimum not falling below 70C and a maximum of 200C (the optimum range is 150C to 250C).”
Brian Gesimba, the agro-marketing manager at Amiran Kenya who is in-charge of avocado management at Soloplant, a gated farm off Kabati in Thika says that avocado can grow well anywhere in the country apart from the coastal region due to salinity. The farm specializes in propagating of grafted Hass avocado seedlings and its sales which have been selling like hot cake during field days in Kiambu.
Another avocado specialist at the same farm Mr. Ran Kadosh advises that fruits should be planted on ridges to avoid waterlogging which causes root rot which is one of the challenges that hit the farmer if he does not manage his farming properly.
Ron Yariv, a manager at Soloplant say, “You need to consider water availability, the soil characteristic and the prevailing climate conditions.”
By Lydia Shiroya and Irene Njuguna