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Seeds collection is backbone of his tree nursery empire

By FILEX MURIITHI | December 20th 2014

Harrison Njuguna drives a spade into a mixture of red soil, manure, charcoal dust, ash and sand. The ease with which he scoops speaks of a man adept in the task. Njuguna has over 20,000 seedlings on his two nurseries.

Walking into the nurseries at Gatitu and Ithanga in Kiambu County on Thika-Garissa highway one can’t help but marvel at his evergreen seedlings. And the 38-year-old farmer is proud of his fulfillment: “It was hectic taking my firstborn through his secondary school education when I was a driver. Now, I am educating the other three with ease.”

But his job is not as easy as it may sound. He has to move across forests and tree plantations collecting different types of seeds and seedlings that he grows and later sells at his two nurseries. Njuguna picks mature seeds that he says grow quickly. “When collecting seeds for growing, one should be careful enough not to collect the immature ones and should pick those which are free from diseases.”

He says: “Seeds collection is the backbone of my tree nursery business. I have 14 people who sell the seeds to me. Each kilo goes for Sh600 if processed and Sh400 if unprocessed.”

After collecting the seeds, Njuguna winnows and sieves the seeds. “Others, we use water to grade them, the floating ones are rejected. Those that sink are the best for planting.”

The seeds are left to shoot in wet soils and later transplanted in polythene bags in a mixture of red soil, manure, charcoal dust and sand.

“In this mixture, the sand helps in ensuring the water has infiltrated to the bottom. Charcoal dust in the mixture works as a coolant as it maintains water in the soil and it is also disease free while we recommend cow, goats and rabbits manure in the mixture. We don’t recommend chicken manure as it has a lot of nitrogen that destroys the seedlings.

He buys a pick-up track of manure at Sh6,000, a 90kg sack of charcoal dust at Sh400 and a 90kg sack of ash at Sh200.

Before establishing Vision 2030 Tree Nurseries eight years ago with skills learned from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and ICRAF, Njuguna worked with an NGO in Nairobi. To begin the business, he invested Sh4,000 to buy polythene papers. 

He sells seedlings at his nurseries at between Sh50 and Sh700 depending with the types, age and the diameter of the papers they are planted.

Njuguna also sells vetva grass for cow feed. “I did not know the importance of this grass, although I planted it in mass until I read an article in a local newspaper of its use. From that day, I started sub-dividing the grass into small pieces that I sell at Sh20 each. Last week, I sold grass worth Sh20,000 and now I am working on Sh50,000 orders.”

Obed Njamura, an officer with Kyeni Division Agribusiness, says tree nursery is one of the best venture one can involve him or herself in: “You need to know the ingredients a certain tree or plant requires for optimum produce.”

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