Farmer started on a trial and error basis, with several false starts, now he has a story to tell

Boniface Ochieng in his farm in Kuoyo village in Bondo sub-county. (Photo: Isaiah Gwengi| Standard)

Before establishing his own farm, Boniface Ochieng’ was once hawking fruits and vegetables in a local market to supplement his small income as a fisherman. Tired of hawking fruits, he decided to think big. 

“As a fruit hawker I used to make peanuts. I realised I could make more id I grew my own fruits and started selling,” he says. When Smart Harvest visits his three-acre farm in Kwoyo village, Bondo sub-county, it’s a beehive of activity. A handful of traders have lined up to buy fruits and seedlings. Some had come to learn secrets of successful fruit farming.

“At the moment, I am harvesting pawpaw. Since the mangoes are not yet ready, I still harvest other fruits and I hope to rake in good profit,” he says. The farmer, says his farm is now a model farm that attracts curious young farmers.

Though he is an established fruit farmer making a tidy income, Ochieng’ who has been a cocktail of fruits for the past six years, says it has been a journey of highs and lows.

“I didn’t know I could succeed in fruit farming, but I wanted to try it anyway since not many had ventured into it,” he says. Most farmers in the area grow traditional crops such as maize, cassava and sweet potatoes. He says he settled for mangoes because they do extremely well in the region. The fruit is also high-yielding and has a huge market. One of the key challenges is harsh climate, which affects young seedlings.

Young seedlings

“I fetch water about five kilometres away from my farm to irrigate the fruit trees. It rarely rains here,” he says.

He spends Sh1, 000 per day to buy water to irrigate more than his 200 fruit seedlings.

Ochieng’ says he is making more money from fruit selling compared to his former venture- fishing.

“I went fishing for about five years and it cannot be compared to what I am doing,” he says. To cut on farming costs, Ochieng’ prepares his own manure and seedlings. Commercial seedlings and fertilizer are expensive.

“I produce my own farm yard manure which is the best for my fruits,” he says.

Since many farmers are yet to embrace fruit farming in the region, Ochieng’ has become the main supplier of mangoes, passion fruits, pawpaw and oranges in the village. The farmer, who is a member of Yimbo Fruit Farmers Group, has been a beneficiary of much training by USAid, with the latest one being on passion fruit farming. “Through the training, I have been able to practise best fruit farming techniques for profitable returns,” he says. Though successful, challenges abound.

Mango prices vary according to market forces. This poses a great challenge to farmers, who find themselves at the mercy of middlemen.

“Middlemen usually take advantage of desperate farmers, especially those who get high yields but find no market. Lack of ideal market linkages for farmers means brokers dictate farm prices,” says Ochieng’.

Using proceeds from the farm, Ochieng’ can pay fees for his younger brother and comfortably raise his two children.