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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Resilience pays off as fruit farmer enjoys good returns

By Bob Aston 

Starting an orchard has always been hard for most farmers as the duration that it takes for some fruits to mature is long. Despite this factor 75 year old Elijah Mathenge, a resident of Makutano B decided to start fruit farming and was not discouraged by the long wait.
Mathenge used to be a businessman but he decided to quit business in order to fully concentrate in farming. He started by planting oranges then eventually moved to other types of fruits.
Mathenge standing next to an avocado tree
“I like fruits because of their nutritional benefits and also once they grow up they do not require a lot of taking care of,” said Mathenge.
Mathenge has grown fruits in a two acre piece of land. The fruits grown include; Macadamia, pineapples, oranges, guavas, passion fruits, tree tomatoes, custard apple, mangoes, bananas, apples, pawpaw, avocado and loquat.
 “I have been going to agricultural extension officers for help. I have learnt how to graft fruits through the various trainings that I have attended,” said Mathenge.
Beside the fruits Mathenge has planted various crops like cabbages, kales, tomatoes, onions, red pepper and cassava.
Mathenge has also kept ten cows under zero grazing and also has bee hives. He has set aside a quarter of an acre for fodder production.
“Fruit farming requires someone who is patient and dedicated. The problem is that some farmers cannot wait for fruit trees to mature hence they decide to plant something else,” said Mathenge.
Early this year he sold 21 bags of oranges in the process earning a total of Ksh 44,100 from orange sales along. He also sold four bags of mangoes and four bags of avocadoes in Samburu. Most of his clients are from Sipili Division but he usually transports his produce to Samburu or Nakuru.
“Farming has really helped me. I have improved my livelihood through farming and I am happy as I am able to live a comfortable life through my farm produce. I do not depend on my children to take care of me,” said Mathenge.
He said that he has been encouraging his neighbours to also grow fruits. Few farmers in Makutano B area have grown fruits but this trend has started changing as more farmers are learning from Mathenge.
Farmers viewing cabbages at Mathenge's farm
“I have given other farmers fruit seedlings so that they can plant. We want to benefit together due to economy of scale,” said Mathenge.
His farm does not depend on rain fed water as he has dug a water pan as well as a borehole. He is also using the water pan to breed fish.
Mathenge urged youths to venture into farming instead of complaining that job opportunities are scarce.
 “Youths should stop saying that there is no work. Most of them do not want to get tired hence the reason why they do not like farming. I have been encouraging them to join farming but most of them are not interested,” said Mathenge.
Like other farmers in the area he has not been left behind in maize farming which is the predominant crop planted by most farmers in the area. He has just planted maize in a three acre piece of land which he now expects to harvest in October.
Recently he hosted the Sipili Division agricultural stakeholder’s forum for a field day at his farm. This provided an avenue for other farmers to learn from him and also share farming experiences.
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