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Story lured chief into farming and he's now making an extra coin

By Joseph Muchiri | January 23rd 2016
Karurumo sub-location assistant chief Morris Ndwiga (centre), his wife Anesia Muthoni and son Martin Nyaga work in their sweet yellow passion orchard. He ventured into fruit farming two years ago and backs on them for secure retirement. BY JOSEPH MUCHIRI/STANDARD

As an assistant chief in Embu East sub-county was mulling over an income generating project to engage in to an extra income, he came across an inspiring newspaper article in Smart Harvest.

Karurumo assistant chief Morris Ndwiga was impressed by the success story of a farmer growing sweet yellow passion in Eastern.

“I thought to myself, if somebody can run such a thriving farm in a dry land, how much more can I do with my fertile ground? That is how I psyched myself up,” he says.

Ndwiga had basic knowledge on farming because he had previously grown tomatoes on a portion of his one-acre farm but stopped after suffering massive losses.

“Tomatoes are unpredictable. They are prone to attacks from pests and diseases and therefore need tender care and attention,” he says.

To boost his knowledge on fruit farming he consulted the local agricultural office on farming best practice.

In November 2014, he bought 90 seedlings at Sh20 each from a nursery near Karurumo market and planted them on his one eighth acre farm.

The planting

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The planting was involving as it required digging holes at a spacing of 9X6ft and adding manure. He was excited when the tiny sweet yellow passion seedlings started to bloom.

In February, last year, he erected posts and wires to support their vines and tendrils.

Ndwiga, who is slowly mastering the art of tending orchards, says in his new journey as a farmer, he is taking one step at a time.

To avoid making catastrophic blunders, he is learning what works and what does not work.

“You see I do not want to make the same mistake I made with my tomatoes. I want to know how to tend to the soil, the crops to get a bumper harvest,” he says.

First harvest

For healthy fruits, he has learnt that one must spray and prune on time to ensure pests and diseases are kept at bay.

Having put in practice everything Ndwiga was taught, he had his first harvest last year in July.

Armed with his produce, he hit the market.

“The first sales were good since buyers offered Sh60 per kilo but later the price fell to as low as Sh25. I noticed that prices in the market can be erratic which is bad for business,” he recalls.

Instead of just sitting and complaining like the rest of the masses, he decided to do something.

“Together with a few farmers, we visited the county government offices and explained our frustrations. We told them our experience in the market and asked them to enact laws to protect farmers from big price fluctuations,” he says.

When Smart Harvest visited him early this week, he had just sold grade one of the fruits at Sh60 per kilo and grade two at Sh40.

During the first season, he harvested 478kgs which he sold at between Sh25 and 60 and made Sh18,000.

On making his calculations, he realised his total production cost was Sh12,000 meaning his profit was Sh6,000. Not bad for a start, he encouraged himself.

“Though I have not made as much money as I would expect, I am not about to give up. I am learning from my mistakes and moving on,” he says.

What keeps his hopes higher is the fact that the crop would last for at least five years, unlike tomatoes which is harvested once.

In August, he added 100 stems and in December another 50 bringing the total to 240 stems.

With this, Ndwiga hopes to be on the market throughout the year and in turn a reliable stream of money.

“A well fed stem can carry between 80 and 100kgs of fruits per season. I expect to be selling a total of 2,000kgs per season at an average of Sh40 thus pocketing Sh80,000 twice in a year.

Ndwiga has also planted tree tomato fruits and thorn melon in between the sweet yellow passion to boost his earnings.

Even though some people may assume that farming is a walk in the pack,  Ndwiga that farm work is engaging and taxing.

To ensure he is not overwhelmed, the father of four says he is assisted in the farm by his wife and older son.

“There is a lot of work in the farm but for now, I cannot afford to employ farm hands, that is why I am working hand in hand with my family,” he says.

So how does he balance his chief duties and farming?

“I work in the farm from 6-8am then I head to work. Most weekends I also spend on the farm,”

In the near future, he intends to increase his vines so that by 2020 his farm will be able to sustain him and his family 100 per cent.

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