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Monday, 17 March 2014

Youth farmer ventures into horticulture farming

By Bob Aston
Youth unemployment has remained one of the most daunting challenges in Kenya’s socio-economic development. Today, unemployment in Kenya stands at 40%, and 70% of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35. Victor Gachigi a 30 year old, from Naibrom area in Laikipia County decided to venture into farming from 2013 instead of looking for a white collar job.
Victor has planted carrots, cabbages, kales and spinach in a one acre piece of land. He has planted the Nantes variety of carrot and Gloria F1 variety of cabbage.
Victor said that he has always had a passion for farming. Last year he planted half an acre of maize but the returns were not good hence he decided to venture into horticulture this year, returns in horticulture is better than maize.
Victor accessing computer at Ng'arua Maarifa Centre
Victor said that he decided on Gloria F1 as it is adaptable to various climatic conditions as they can withstand high temperatures, matures early, has uniform growth, and also due to its early maturity.
“Cabbage requires rain water or irrigation as it has high water requirement during growth. I have now been able to reduce costs used in pumping water for irrigation due to the rainfall currently being experienced in the country,” said Victor.
Victor also decided on Nantes carrot as they are popular among farmers, easy to grow, mature early and have a sweet taste.
Victor said that most youths fear venturing into horticulture farming due to the high cost of agricultural inputs, horticulture crops perishing very fast and the fluctuating horticulture prices.
 “The major problem in this area is elephants eating farm produce. It is common to hear that elephants have destroyed an entire farm in Naibrom,” said Victor.
Victor has been a frequent user of Ng’arua Maarifa Centre. He is normally seen using a computer to research on carrot and cabbage farming as well as reading agricultural books.
During one of his visits to the Maarifa Centre he was encouraged to use Sokopepe- an online and SMS based platform that provide market prices information to farmers and links farmers with buyers.
Additionally Sokopepe provides other services like access to input suppliers, extension services and a pool of information on both crop farming and livestock.
Victor at his farm
“I am now able to query prices of cabbage and carrots in major towns in Kenya through Sokopepe. This will help me make an informed decision on where to sell and at what price when I harvest,” said Victor.
Victor said that use of Sokopepe has enlightened him a lot as he can even query farming tips. This has enabled him to learn a lot about diseases that affect carrots, cabbages and kales.
“Today I have queried price of cabbage in Nairobi and Nakuru. Cabbage is going for Ksh 1000 per bag in Nakuru while in Nairobi it is going for Ksh 2200 per bag. One will get a higher value for his crops in Nairobi,” said Victor.
Victor has encouraged other youths to venture into farming instead of travelling to Nairobi to look for jobs. He said that the high unemployment in Kenya can only be reduced when youths change their attitude on farming and take farming as a business. This he said will improve their livelihood as they will be able to improve their economic status.
“I can advise my fellow youths to appreciate farming. Farming has a lot of potential. I expect that I will be harvesting cabbages from June while I will be harvesting carrots from July,” said Victor.
Horticulture is the most vibrant sectors in Kenya's agricultural sector and contributes immensely to the socio-economic development of the country. The sector currently records an average growth of 15% to 20% per annum.
The sub sector employs approximately 4.5 million people countrywide directly in production, processing, and marketing, while another 3.5 million people benefit indirectly through trade and other activities.
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