A Young farmer makes a fortune in growing watermelons

A Young farmer makes a fortune in growing watermelons

Steven Mulanda

The difficulty of finding a job in Kenya has seen some young people pursue opportunities in agribusiness instead of spending many years looking for employment. One such person is Derrick Mutugi. Unlike his peers in his age group who take up farming by chance, Mutugi has always had a passion for farming as it has been his family’s mainstay

During his tertiary training at Kenyatta University, he had to sometimes skip some lecture lessons to attend to the farm especially during days when planting, spraying and harvesting was being done.

He has found greener pastures in watermelon production, making a tidy sum from the juicy crop. He ventured into melon farming after learning about the high demand of the crop in Kenya and beyond.

Driven by his mantra of “building my own dreams while am still young least someone else will use me do build his” he has leased a three acre piece of land at Gati- Iguru Village,Gatanga constituency in Murang’a County. Armed with a seed capital from his savings he opted for Sukari F1 variety watermelon seeds, and purchased other requisite farm inputs, prepared the seed bed and his mission took off. He asserts that seeds and pesticides are quite expensive as seeds to plant an acre cost him 11,500 shillings.

“The first step to producing watermelon is to choose the variety you want to grow and proper preparation of the seed beds. One has to meticulously follow the laid down procedures of planting the crop which is quite rigorous,” he says. For his case, he had to contract an agronomist who advised him to first carry out a soil test on the farm before embarking on the actual planting. After the soil test, it was discovered it had an accumulated amounts of acidity which they neutralized with agricultural lime.

He gets manure for his crops from Maasai herders. His farm is majorly organic but avers that he top dresses with CAN to boost nutrient levels in the plants.

He narrates that for the crop to generate well, the crop should be well spaced. The seeds take between 7 to 10 days to germinate, depending on the soil temperature and the depth they are sowed.

Despite some challenges in his first harvest, Mutugi fetched a profitable amount from the crop he had planted on a half- an acre. This, he says, motivated him to invest more in the crop.

Determined to scale up production, he has bought irrigation pipes and a water pump, in addition to leasing more land in the area which he has diversified to tomatoes and onions farming. “We draw water for irrigation from Thika river which passes near this place. The river has been very helpful to us during dry spell we witnessed in this area and in the country at large,” he said.

However, there are challenges the farmer is grappling with: fungal diseases multiply rapidly

on melon leaves, alternaria leaf spot, anthracnose, and gummy stem blight produce spots on leaves, while stem blight also forms bleached or tan sections on stems. Downy mildew causes yellow or pale green leaf spots, while powdery mildew produces white spots on leaves. He treats by spraying fungicides. ‘’White flies, aphids, melon fly are some of the pest that give me headache. I do routine spraying to control them and have erected traps to trap them and especially melon flies which can be a menace if not controlled early,’’ he asserted.

He has employed a farm manager who does the daily operations and sources for services of other employees when work on the land demands additional labor during weeding and planting. Finding trustworthy employees in the region is one of the undoing’s he had to go through.

“I usually sell my produce at Makongeni Market, Thika town. Currently the price is low as a kilo is fetching between 18 to 20 shillings,“ he said.

His advice to young people; Follow your passion, be Prayerful, be committed to your work and exercise patience as it takes some time to recoup investment back as it is business like any other. However, “If you are interested in farming and your parents have land at home, do something on the farm and it will earn you some cash as you wait for your dream job.” he added that since people need to eat every day, farmers are unlikely to lack customers.

Share This


Wordpress (0)
Disqus ( )
× Whatsapp us