Securing livelihood from growing strawberries in multistorey garden

Securing livelihood from growing strawberries in multistorey garden

The resilience of young people in this day and age and the painstaking efforts they are putting up to embrace farming in Kenya is encouraging. During this Covid-19 pandemic, when Kenya is experiencing massive job losses, young people are adopting innovative ways to put food on the table and have a sustainable living.

One such person is Dennis Njuguna who after being laid off from his research job as an information technology (IT) consultant with an institution of higher learning in Kenya, decided to embrace farming. Unfortunately he is among the estimated 1.7 million Kenyan’s who lost their jobs according to the just released quarterly labour report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

“After being laid off I became befuddled, I have a young family that is looking up to me for sustenance. It’s at this juncture while perusing through the internet that I came across strawberry farming and recalled sometimes back my wife gave me five splints of strawberries to plant though at that time, they looked nondescript and they withered. I did more research and discovered there is a big market for strawberries in Kenya,” he explained.

Armed with this information, he leased a 50 by 80 plot in Mukuyu village, Juja sub-county and embarked on a farming journey which he revealed that so far is paying well. His farm is luscious with strawberries well thriving in multistorey gardens.

Initially before venturing into multistorey gardening, he first planted his crops in plastic bags; unfortunately the bags were occupying a lot of space with fewer crops. His plan was to plant 5,000 splints and while on facebook, he came across multistorey garden which were being chaperoned by another farmer in Gatundu. He consulted the farmer on how to construct the multistorey and also inquired about the advantages; though he reveals it turned out to be very costly. He decided to construct his own instead of purchasing them. The multistorey garden has many benefits. For instance he says, “The production of strawberries planted in multistorey garden is high compared to those planted directly in the soil. For my case, one garden occupies 80 plants. If I could have planted my splints in the same space one multistorey garden is occupying, I could have done 16 plants. This technology increases the production by 4 times and you are guaranteed clean berries unlike planting directly,” he said.

To construct multistorey garden, he sources for dam liners of the heavy gauge and bolts. Once he has the materials, he goes to where they are supposed to be constructed and measures a diameter of 5feet which is the foundation of the multistorey garden. Depending on the crop he needs to plant, he reduces the diameter by 4inches as he constructs the garden upwards. “We also construct multistorey gardens for farmers at a pocket friendly fee of Ksh 2,000 for one garden. We have managed to install them to many farmers in several parts of the country,” he said.

His crops are well grown and intercropped with spring onions whose pungent smell puts off snails and other pests. He has mulched his crops with dry grass which helps to suppress weeds and retains moisture around the berries. It takes 75 days for the crop to fully grow and start producing berries.

He has christened his empire as Green Farm Kenya where apart from growing chandler strawberries he also sell seedlings to other farmers at ksh 30 per seedling. Before venturing into chandler variety, he used to grow pajero variety. According to him, pajero is an ornamental strawberry because of its small berries. The Kenyan market demands big and succulent berries.

In a week, Dennis harvests, twice, garnering 80 punnets per every harvest which he sells at Ksh 150. His niche markets are households and bakeries which have insatiable demand for strawberries. He is in the process of expanding his farming area to one acre.

“Commercial strawberry farming is a venture that can easily be achieved in this era even in urban areas where land is considerably scarce. The secret is to be smart about it, to remain dedicated and to focus on production since the market is readily available with unmet demand,” Dennis Njuguna advises.

By Steven Mulanda

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