HOST – AVOCADO TRAINING
Nyeri county department of Agriculture, TEHU (Tetu Huhoini) hass avocado group and Business Innovation Facility (BIF) organized and held an open day for Tetu sub county hass avocado farmers in Kigogini sub location, Tetu location at Mbao’s farm.
Present officers included Nyeri county agriculture Director Ms Mary Njine, agribusiness Nyeri representative Ms Editor, Mr Amedeo from AFA Nyeri, Others in agriculture department include Mr. Rukwaro Kagwaini (Host), Agnes from Aguthi-Gaaki Ward, Mr. Gatere from Wamagana ward, George Muraguri from Nyeri Central (Plants Clinic department), Mr. Mbao from Othaya Sub county etc.
Business Innovation Facilities (BIF) in patnership with Nyeri County want to assist Nyeri avocado farmers to market their fruits. BIF want to link farmers with marketers and at the same time ensuring farmers engage in best practices on avocado farming.
Planting and Management of Hass Avocados
Mr. Chege from BIF insisted on following the right procedures during planting and caring for the trees. He insisted that hygiene while transplanting should be adhered to. Hass avocado should be planted at a spacing of 5m by 5m to a max of 10m by 10m. However, after several years, thinning should be done so as to have at most 120 trees in an acre. Pruning should also be done and the best time to do so is immediately after harvest. “don’t wait for your trees to flower, you will be tempted not to prune” Mr. Chege Reiterated. He also advised Tetu farmers who were very eager to learn to ensure their trees don’t go above 15ft high. This according to him will ensure there is enough sunlight and easy while picking. In addition, a farmer should ensure there are no dry branches as this harbors diseases and other fungal infections.
Mr. Chege noted that trees are just like mothers,” strong mothers will give birth to strong babies, same as these trees”. Its therefore necessary to ensure manure is applied every season. Farmers were cautioned not to apply manure just at the base of the tree since there are no feeder roots there. A farmer should dig a trench around the tree root zone and apply at least three wheelbarrows per tree. The same method should be used in water application (If need be). In case a farmer doesn’t have enough manure, fertilizer can also be applied (not recommended for organic farming). The recommended fertilizer is NPK 17.17.17.
Marketing of Hass Avocado
Another speaker Mr. Denis from BIF cautioned farmers from harvesting their fruits before they are fully mature. He noted that we are favored by the market as our fruits mature differently from major distributors in South America. South American countries such as Mexico, Peru and Brazil produce avocados mainly between Jan and March while tropical areas such as Kenya produce from [may all the way to September.
Pests and Diseases
Mr. Denis told farmers that hass avocado doesn’t have many enemies in terms of diseases. However, farmers were cautioned to ensure there is no weed or any other plants around the trees as the weed can harbor fungal diseases. Dry branches as had said by Mr. Chege also increases the chances of fungal growth. However, in the recent times hass avocados has had new enemies(insects) these insects eat soft leaves lowering the flowering process as well as production. Since most farmers are small scale farmers, it’s not economical to spray the trees and the best way to control such pests is to use fruit fly trap. If you have an acre under hass avocado, you only need 4 traps distributed evenly. The fruit fly according to Denis has a chemical that entices the male insects trapping them hence reducing their production and eventually a farmer has a clear farm free from pests.
Power of Unity
TEHU (Tetu Huhoini) a group of hass avocado farmers in Dedan Kimathi ward was formed with an intention of uniting farmers and removing the middlemen who over years have exploited the farmers. “So, what do you get as a farmer” Mr. Muthami the chairman of TEHU group asked the farmers. He noted that when small farmers join for a common goal and work together, they have a bargaining power and can’t be exploited. In addition, Mr. Muthami insisted that every exporter/investor wants volume. ” There is no investor who will come here for 5 fruits”. He also noted that there is job creation since young men from the region will get pruning and harvesting jobs. In his speech, Mr. Muthami noted that now the president has signed deals with many countries including china on exports such as Hass avocado. However, Muthami noted that, it’s not the president who will export, it’s the individuals who now have that goodwill from the government.
Mr. Muthami noted that, if you as a farmer think that you can go alone, well do so but note that the risks are high. When they were founding TEHU as a group, farmers in the region used to get Ksh 3-5 per fruit but since they formed the group, the prices have changed and this year they recorded prices at an average of Ksh 12 per hass fruit. “Don’t get satisfied, keep fighting for better” Mr. Muthami said. He noted that they will keep fighting and they hope they will get higher prices next year.
Mr. Muthami also noted that they already have more than 10,000 mature trees among their members and by 2020 their target is to have more than 30,000 trees.
Message From Nyeri County Government
Nyeri county was well represented by Mrs. Mary Njine, the Nyeri Director of Agriculture. She noted that although the county had previously embarked on supplying seedlings to farmers, some didn’t sprout while others dried up. According to her, its mainly because the farmers never followed the right procedures. She also said that going forward, the county can’t just supply seedlings because of the laws of acquisition which states that there must be public participation to ensure accountability. Local leadership, i.e., MCA’s, Mp’s and opinion leaders must also be involved and included in such processes.
Mrs. Njine urged farmers to harvest water this short rainy season. She noted that it rains everywhere but the difference will be between those who will harvest and those who will not. However, she cautioned farmers not to just dig trenches but have them inspected by agricultural officers.
Mrs. Njine also urged farmers to register with sub-county agricultural officers and get government subsidized fertilizers.
One Mrs. Ngambi ,a vocal opinion leader in Karaihu-Githakwa asked Mrs. Njane to ensure there is a processing plant in Nyeri County to ensure the farmers sell processed avocado as it would increase the prices and offer more jobs. Mrs. Njine while answering noted that is in pipeline but farmers should ensure they have quantity and volume since a factory process large quantities and can only be in place if it will have economic value.
Message From C.E.O OxfarmAg Ltd
OxfarmAg Ltd was among the exhibitors and stakeholders of the open day where Mr. Dickson Kahuro C.E.O OxfarmAg Ltd also Chairman of Mt Kenya Certified Nursery & Orchards Operators, had a chance of addressing farmers. He noted that there are selfish people and companies who over time now have been going round with false statements that seedling sellers are selling substandard seedlings. While he noted that it might be true, he urged farmers to ensure they buy their seedlings from certified nurseries such as Oxfarm, Aden Nursery, Forest Edge nursery, and Aberdare Technologies Ltd also who were present on the day.
The certifying bodies include, KEPHIS and HCD. Any farmer buying the seedlings should request for a certification from the seller. He also noted that with the current trends, the hass avocado market is growing tremendously and farmers should plant more and form marketing groups so as to have better bargaining powers. He also hailed the support from Nyeri county government, other bodies such as AFA, and the local leadership for continued support to farmers.
OxfarmAg Ltd is an agricultural company which aims at easing the work of a farmers for them to focus on production. The company has fruit tree nurseries and demo in Nyeri (Mkulima Wa Nyeri farm), in Nairobi (Ridgeways farm),Embu and many other nurseries across the country.
(Contact Mkulima Wa Nyeri Farm on 0706222888)
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