By Steven Mulanda
Hortfresh Journal meets Ramadhan Juma Kituyi, a young man who grows and propagates Hass Avocados in Kholera ward –Matungu Sub-County. Sugarcane which is the signature plant of the region is no longer tenable after the collapse of Mumias Sugar Company.
His farm is a typical modern farm where all operations are very orderly. From professional handling of equipment to proper allocation of resources to limit wastage, every resource is used efficiently and effectively.
“After high school, I was employed by a seedling and nurseries institution in Nyeri. This happened to be an eyeopener as I realized the high demand of avocados locally and abrooad. I was also gobsmacked after discovering that people from my home area would actually travel to Nyeri to seek Hass avocados seedlings as well as knowhow of how to grow them,” Kituyi narrates.
With this in mind, he quit employment to establish his farming enterprise dubbed “Western Agro Organic Kenya’’ which specializes in Hass avocado farming and propagation of seedlings.
His persistence and hard work has scaled the heights of farming to the level of receiving recognition from Kakamega County Government who constantly pay him a visit to learn as well as source for seedlings to be distributed to various farmers groups in the County. “The reception of Hass avocado in Western
Kenya region was a bit hard as it was a relatively new crop in Nyanza, Western and some parts of North Rift but the climate is conducive for the plant,’’ Ramadhan says.
His seedling propagation starts with collection of indigenous seeds from open-air markets and villages. From these seeds, he grows the rootstock. The indigenous seeds are important in the growth of quality seedlings because they are hardy, easily adaptable to the local environment and are resistant to diseases.
“Once I get the seeds, I grow them in nylon pots where I first put loam soil mixed with well-composed manure. The indigenous seeds are bigger than the Hass variety seeds,” he says
The plant is ready for grafting after about one and a half month. To graft the seedlings, he gets the Hass avocado scions from various mature trees on the farm.
“Grafting requires great care and precision. I normally start with the rootstock where I chop off the top part of the plant using a grafting blade, then make a V-shaped incision on the stem, “Ramadhan states
He, thereafter, takes the hass scion; which should not be picked from a flowering plant, and chops the sides to ensure it fits perfectly inside the rootstock. He then ties the two tightly using a polythene sheet so that water does not sip into the joint in case it rains.
The farm grafts up to 1,000 seedlings in a day, taking close to five minutes to work on each plant. The plants are ready for transplanting after at least a year and mature in three to four years.
“We sell the seedlings to individual farmers mostly from Western and Rift Valley regions, county governments, schools and non-governmental organizations promoting avocado farming in different parts of the country,” he says adding that he has grafted millions of seedlings since he started. Each avocado seedling goes for KSh150.
He has two models of selling where farmers can opt to buy the seedlings on their own and the other model which he calls ‘a package’ where he delivers the seedlings by himself, undertakes soil testing and monitor the crop for a period of six months.
“The advantages with the ‘package’ is that we usually send an agronomist during the entire six month period, we do the replacement of the seedlings incase some of them don’t pick up well. This model is advantageous as it reduces labor cost, until the farm is well established though it comes with additional cost,” Ramadhan explains
“My goal is to turn this farm into a model seedlings centre where farmers can buy quality seedlings and come for lessons on grafting and seed propagation.
Besides avocados; he also propagates oranges, mangos, lemons, tangerine, kiwi, peach, pixies, grapes, macadamia, passion fruits, and apples, which goes for between Sh50 and Sh350, depending
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