County positioning to reap from the avocado boom
Kiambu County is positioning itself to reap from the expected avocado boom expected after the signing of an agreement between Kenya and China for the supply of avocados. Joseph Kamau the CEC Agriculture in Kiambu says the County through the leadership of Governor Ferdinand Waititu is making deliberate efforts to improve avocado production in the county as it eyes the international market.
“We have discovered the main challenge is the lack of clean planting material for the farmers. To avert this problem, we are establishing a nursery that will have clean planting materials for the farmers certified by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS),” says Joseph Maina the CEC Agriculture, Kiambu County.
“We are also going to partner with other stakeholders like Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation to ensure that whatever we provide to our farmers is clean. So, towards this in the next financial year, we have budgeted and we are setting up a nursery at Waruhiu Agricultural Training College. At Waruhiu ATC, we are going also to offer training so that when farmers get their seedlings, they will be trained in the best agricultural practices to achieve maximum production. These include grafting and use of proper inputs so that they can meet the standards required also ensure that this is sustainable,” he said.
Kamau says they will also partner with the National government to ensure that the issue of value addition is key in the whole process. Farmers will be trained on proper packaging, post-harvest handling among other practices in order to reduce the losses. “As you have heard China is going to be a major market and they have stringent measures, so we want to ensure that our farmers meet these particular standards. In terms of technical aspects, we will train farmers on disease control, pruning, harvesting and fertilizer application and all this will be taught at Waruhiu,” says the CEC.
The CEC says that the county expects to reap big in the next three years as it has given a lot of certified seedlings to the farmers to plant. Last year the farmers received about 100,000 seedlings from the county and this year Kamau says with the establishment of the nursery they will raise this to about half a million seedlings. He says there has been a positive response from the farmers who have embraced the crop as they diversify from coffee whose prices have been falling recently observing that there is also a ready local market for the fruit.
“We are also grateful because there is a consortium that has been formed to organize farmers in avocado growing counties into groups to produce avocado for export to China. The initiative targeting small scale farmers is spearheaded by the Kiambu Chapter of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other stakeholders and they have chosen Kiambu County to host the pilot project before they move to the other counties. We have the advantage of neighboring Nairobi t6he capital city so we are near the local market and we will also be able to get inputs for the farmers in real time,” says Kamau.
The good transport system in the county will also work to their advantage according to the CEC including the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) with Kikuyu Railway Station expected to become a hub for transporting farm produce for export. The County extension officers will be involved in educating the farmers about the initiative including assisting them in forming cooperative societies. “We have also partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in carrying out various capacity building activities in our Co-operative societies. I urge our farmers to organize themselves into groups as this will be easier to reach and assist them. Training a group is easier than training individual members and it also makes it easier to access markets for their produce due to economies of scale,” says Kamau.