What this 79-year-old farmer knows about mixed farming
About 15 kilometres from Meru town along Meru-Marimba-Chogoria road, you will find mixed farming being practiced at a village known as Kasarani, by an elderly farmer.
The 10-acre farm is owned by 79-year-old Fredrick Karani. When the Kilimo Pesa team arrived at the farm, it found Karani tendering to his diary goats. But his pride is the avocado trees which last year gave him a gross income of Sh1 million.
He tells us how he ventured into agribusiness after he retired as an office secretary at Mariara Cooperative Society 21 years ago.
When Karani retired in 1998, he had already planted 163 Lamb Hass avocado variety trees. He bought the grafted seedlings from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in Embu. Lamb Hass varieties grow fast and yield more. It also produces more oil.
However, before he retired, Karani had some other 38 avocado trees of Fuerte variety which he had bought from a certified nursery in Thika town.
Currently, this farmer has close to 300 trees plus several trees of macadamia and tea. He has ten dairy goats of Toggenburg and Germany Alpine varieties. He keeps several Friesian cows.
“l cannot compare the earnings from my grafted avocados to other crops on this farm. One secret is that avocado has less maintenance costs,” he said.
Having cultivated avocados for a good time Karani advices farmers interested to venture into it, to get seedlings from certified tree nurseries.
The farmer says he got interested in avocado farming after he read an article shared with him by a friend who used to work as a horticulture officer.
“If we can have a factory there would be the creation of value addition, most of the farmers will benefit and avoid exploitation from the middlemen,” said Karani on the possibility of earning more from avocados.
The farmer sells the export grades to the brokers a piece at Sh9 Lamp Hass variety, while Fuete is sold at Sh7.
In between the months of August-September, Karani had a bumper harvest whereby he sold 80,000 pieces of Fuete and 40,000 pieces of Lamp Hass, earning him a cool one million shillings.
Avocado trees mostly flower in the months of November and December, with the fruits being on the peak from the months of July to September.
Pruning is done after every harvesting season. Karani practices organic farming at his avocado farm.