In the tranquility of Kamiu village in Embu County is a fruit seedlings nursery that leaves one admiring the industriousness of Kenyans. On a 5 acre farm, there are over 500,000 fruit seedlings of various species at different stages of growth, all well-tended to by a workforce of more than 20 people. This is a business of two brothers Cyrus Kariuki and Paul Njiru.
The nursery was began in early 80’s by their father as an agro-forestry, they later changed it to fruits propagation centre after realizing an upsurge demand of fruits.
According to Kariuki and Njiru, Kenya’s climate conditions are favorable for fruit farming with various regions experiencing diverse weather conditions which makes it unique to various fruit cultivation. “We have Mangoes, Avocados, Macadamia, Oranges, Tederine, Lime, Grapes Pawpaws, South Africa Apples, Quavers and many more,” Cyrus Njiru the Production Manager of the farm says.
With the onset of the long rains, Paul Njiru’s phone who dubs up as the Marketing Executive of the farm keeps interrupting our conversation as he responds to calls from various clienteles making inquiries and placing orders for the various seedlings. “We receive orders from all over East African region. We have successfully delivered seedlings to the war torn Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda among others,” Paul Njiru says.
The brothers aver that setting up a fruit nursery unit is easy. One requires a good supply of clean water, target different markets and acquire certification by KEPHIS and HCD which is critical. “This two Government bodies are essential as they give advice and rectify where mistakes are noted. KEPHIS usually visits us after every six months to inspect if there are pests and diseases and recommend effective chemicals to use. They also help in terms of marketing as they usually refer clients to us. They referred World Vision NGO as well as Embu, Laikipia and Nyandarua county Governments, who bought good number of Hass avocados. The Embu Catholic church has also been supportive as it buys seedlings and distributes to locals in the region,” Kariuki happily said.
They have witnessed an increase in demand for macadamia, avocados and mangoes. For avocados they are propagating; Hass and Fuerte, Mangoes; Apple, Tommy, Kent and Ngowe while macadamia they have Murang’a 20, Kirinyaga 15 and Embu 1.
The propagation process begins with collecting seeds which they attribute to being suitable for rootstocks. The seeds are potted with soil in black polythene papers and left to germinate. Twenty one days after germination, they are checked to ensure they have reached a pencil thickness which is the recommended size for propagation.
They source for scions from different orchards including KARLO, Embu. Scions of high quality genes and good dormancy are selected. “The cuts we make should be absolutely clean, boat shaped, even and smooth. The ends of these cuts should be round and not angular. The cut surfaces of both stock and scion we make them to coincide facing each other so that there remains no hollow space between them. We tie a polythene strip of about 1.5 cm in width around the union. Later after 21 days, they are untied and are ready for planting,” Kariuki explained.
“Macadamias have to be put in a greenhouse under net tunnels after propagation for a period of 35 days. They need special treatment and their temperatures have to be regulated before we take them to the open fields for hardening,” he continued.
The farm sells all s_ eedlings for 100 shillings each with the exception of macadamia which goes for 150 shillings. According to them their prices are reasonable since the products are of high quality compared with those of other farms doing the same business. They usually deliver seedlings to farmers who request in far-flung areas by use of courier services.
“Our farm offers trainings on nursery management.
Recently, we hosted a group of students from Embu University College whom we trained and urged them to look at agriculture as a source of income and not a dirty work. It is possible to make money in rural areas. We have been able to educate our children in boarding schools and create employment” Paul Njiru said.
Driven by their motto ‘farmers success is our pride’, they are encouraging farmers to plant many fruit seedlings which will in future be used as food and agro-forestry too. This they say will be a milestone in assisting the Government initiative of planting trees and increasing forest cover.