After returning home from Afghanistan in 2013, where he was working as a truck driver for a US army contractor company known as Dyncorp International, Joseph Mutie, 30, decided to venture into farming fully, specialising in fruits and vegetables.
He used four acres of his father’s land to establish a green orchard with an assortment of fruit trees such as mangoes, lemons, oranges, pawpaws, Hass avocados, bananas as well as vegetables like spinach, amaranthus, collard greens, tomatoes, capsicum, carrots, among others.
The farmer, who reveals that he spent an initial capital of Sh150,000 in the venture, carries out this type of farming in Miaani village, Kola location, Iiyuni sub-location in Machakos County.
“I was introduced to farming by my mother. She has been my guide and inspiration in all my projects. Immediately after I cleared high school, she started encouraging me to keep all seeds of fruits and plant them, a project that has seen me have 350 fruit trees producing fruits and 700 young plants,” says Mutie.
Currently, the farmer has 80 orange trees, 150 mangoes, 50 pawpaws, 20 lemons and 50 avocado trees, which are producing fruits.
In addition, he has other fruit trees that he planted in the last rain season, which include 200 avocados, 200 oranges, 100 pawpaws, 100 bananas and 100 lemons; making a total of 700. “I am targeting 2,000 assorted trees,” adds Mutie.
He first started using a greenhouse. “I bought the seeds from an agrovet in Machakos town for Sh3,000, but nowadays I propagate them myself. At the moment, I have tomatoes and capsicum. I also have a nursery inside the greenhouse with all kinds of vegetables,” reveals the farmer, adding that he sometimes grows maize, beans and peas.
Mutie says he hires labourers to till the land, though he and his mother do most of the work in the farm.
“I prepare organic manure from weeds, maize stalks and cow dung as I have dairy cows too. After planting, we take care of the crops by weeding, trimming both trees and vegetables, and do irrigation as we don’t depend on rains,” says the farmer, who relies on a dam in his father’s farm and another one some 700 metres away.
The farmer says some vegetables take one month while others take three to be harvested, whereas fruit trees take a few years to produce fruits.
One of the challenges that he has experienced is lack of reliable market to sell the produce. He sells within Machakos County. However, he has resorted to online marketing to increase his sales. “I sell within Machakos, but I am planning to venture into other markets out of here,” he says.
The market dictates the prices of the produce. “It depends on the commodity. Right now, I am selling 10 lemons for Sh50. Prices vary with market movements. Carrots can at its worst go down to Sh1,000 and at best up to Sh4,000 a crate, which is rare. Tomatoes can at the lowest go down to Sh3,000 but can shoot up to Sh15,000,” says Mutie.
Another challenge that the farmer has come across is diseases and pests.
“We normally get fungal infections in all plants especially in cold months, but we control these through spraying. Also, butterflies and locusts have attacked at times,” reveals the farmer.
He encourages other young Kenyans to venture into farming. “Farming is good. Even in the Bible, we are told that Isaac made 100 per cent profit and so can everyone with good farming practices,” he adds.