Retired soldier thrives in avocado farming
Some 10 kilometers south of Meru town in Imenti Central is Mugambone Farm owned by Gideon Gitonga, a retired major from the Kenya Defence Forces. The two-acre farm that lies near the equator is an orchard where Gitonga has over 250 avocado trees of the Hass and Fuertes varieties.
On arrival, the retired army major is inspecting the plantation with the perfectionism likened to the military. “These trees mean money to me and I cannot compare them to any venture,” he says.
Last season, Gitonga harvested an average of 900 pieces from the 80 mature stems selling a piece at Sh12 bringing his total to over Sh864,000.
“Avocado farming is one of the best ventures one can engage in. The varieties I grow are not only tolerant of the different climatic conditions that prevail in this region but are also less labour intensive,” he says.
Gitonga is even eying more money from the other maturing fruits say that there is a growing high demand both in the local and export market that other farmers can take advantage of.
“The market has grown both locally and internationally as more and more people are now more focused on their health and want to consume healthy organic foods free of chemicals,” he explains.
Gitonga does not struggle to look for customers as customers come for the produce right from his farm. In ensuring maximum production per every tree Gitonga identifies from a tender stage some three vigorous branches that he sustains and prunes the rest away to allow the three branches to produce maximally. “It should be an umbrella upside down, that’s what I tell farmers,” he says.
To enhance his farming, he rears fish, keeps goats, and bees. The bees help boost his production as they aid pollination, and besides, they are a source of honey. Gitonga gets at least 15 kilograms of honey that he sells at Sh1,000 every six months.
For goat farming, Gitonga rears the Toggenburg breed which he says is highly productive. He has seven goats and milks four. Besides milk, goat farming also guarantees him manure at the farm.
Rearing fish is also a key venture at Gitonga’s farm. He rears catfish which he states that it’s an important diet for the protein source. His choice of catfish being that the variety is less prone to diseases grows fast, has few bones and more meat. He sells the fish locally with prices ranging from 200 to 1,000 per piece.