Uasin Gishu farmer reaps big from horticulture farming thanks to grafting technology
Meet Samuel Karonei, a farmer from Soy Constituency in Uasin Gishu County. Initially he was a maize farmer. While his former colleagues (maize farmers) were grappling with poor yields, the Farther of three girls ditched maize, opted for avocado and banana and and is today earning more than Kshs.2 million per month from his horticulture farm.
Grafting is a way of producing plants from pieces of existing plants instead of seeds. Branches or buds are cut from one plant and placed on a related kind of plant. The branch or bud that is grafted is called the scion. The plant that accepts the graft is called the rootstock.
It is preferred by farmers since it (Grafting) can join scions with desirable qualities to rootstock that is strong and resists disease and insects.
“As a result of failure in large scale maize farming, I stopped maize farming in 2009. This was after I got losses owing to poor weather conditions, unstable prices and low returns among other factors,” Samwel begins his story
He is today growing bananas, avocado and passion fruits seedlings, which he sees as a very lucrative field.
Samwel, “I used to cultivate about 5,000 acres of maize and I was still making losses each year so I decided to try my luck in horticulture farming. I started by producing cucumbers and tomatoes in a greenhouse which I supply to various markets countrywide.”
Samuel’s farm produces 500,000 avocado seedlings per year, with each seedling fetching Kshs. 120.
James Koech is his farm manager, “It takes about three months for grafted avocado seedling to be ready for planting. After grafting, they are left for three weeks in a greenhouse before they are moved outside for hardening. “
There are two types of avocado seedlings — the Fuerte which yields green fruits with smooth exocarp and Hass whose fruits turns purple when ripe.
Samuel, “Most farmers like growing the Hass variety because they have ready markets abroad. It is rich in fat compared to Fuerte but they are both susceptible to the avocado root rot disease, where the seedling starts wilting and rots. The disease can be controlled through soil and seed sterilization to kill pathogens and using well-drained soils.
He is also producing banana seedlings for four varieties — Fhia17, sweet banana, Williams and Ng’ombe — through tissue culture and macro-propagation. His farm produces a total of 200,000 banana seedlings per year with each selling for Kshs.200.
“My customers mainly come from Western and Rift Valley regions especially during the rainy season. And to increase the supply to cater for the high demand, I am now planning to establish a Tissue Culture laboratory at a cost of Kshs 2 million.
Samuel, “The implementation of a tissue culture lab will improve efficiency of seed production hence reducing the selling price to Kshs. 100 per seedling. It will also reduce our cost of production and increase the number of seedlings. I has already ordered for the equipment and it will be set up soon.”
He is now planning to venture into stevia and strawberry seedling production saying he has already identified a market for the two. “That will be my next stop,” he said.
By Malachi Motano