For many years, farmers in the central highlands of Kenya have depended on Coffee and tea farming as the main cash crops. Everything was going on well with farmers smiling to the banks until sometime back when prices plummeted to the great disappointment of coffee farmers in Kenya.
But just when doom seemed like the inevitable reality for these farmers, came the Hass avocado, a variety that has a high demand overseas. Hope has been rekindled and farmers’ accounts are now swelling since the export market is too hungry for this crop.
Hass avocado farming in Kenya is bigger than coffee. Any unit of the tree if appropriately managed will provide 1,000 fruits/tree a year. According to the current prices by for example Kakuzi Ltd, a single fruit sell between Ksh 10 and Ksh 20 and sometimes goes even beyond Ksh 30.
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With that, we can do a rapid calculation: an acre of avocado can have 150 trees well-spaced (17ft by 17 ft). If at full maturity a tree can give you 1000 fruits, and we assume the market is fair and a fruit goes for Ksh 15, it then means that 1000X15X150 = 2.25M per year
Keeping in mind the under-supplied market and the fact that avocado trees require little attention, this is a venture worth investing in. It takes only 2 -3 years to start harvesting.
Handle all avocados with great care! Export markets, especially the European market, have very strict quality requirements which smallholders may find difficult to meet. Local markets are less complicated but also tricky, because avocados tend to mature all at the same time, making it unprofitable for farmers to sell them.
It is almost impossible for farmers to store or process avocados. Commercial avocado growers must therefore be linked closely to a good market
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Passion fruit grows in warm to cool climates within altitude ranging from 1200-2000m. above sea level and minimum rainfall of 900mm per annum. The most suitable soil is medium texture (loamy), which are deep and well drained, with PH ranging from 5.5-7.5.
The apricot favors well drained soil but doesn’t like to be too dry especially in the summer. Providing a happy medium between the two will be key to success and it is up to you to judge the type of soil you already have and influence the structure as much as you can. Too light or sandy then pep it up with lots and lots of organic rich material. Too weighty or sluggish then alleviate it with lots of grit, sharp sand and leaf mold.
The soil should be well cultivated and friable; double dig-it over if it has not been cultivated before. Clear away all perennial weeds because the last thing you want is added competition from them when your trees are in settled, and growing.
Prepare a hole large enough to take the roots. Apricots are vigorous growers and you may find the root system larger than that of other trees. Set the tree to the same depth as it was at the nursery previously – examination of the stem should reveal the soil mark still identifiable and this will tell you how deeply it was set in the ground before. In any event the grafting point should sit above the soil level and the roots buried in not less than 2” of soil.
Dry mulches should be used to retain moisture while heavy banana stems should be supported to avoid damage. Old diseased leaves should be removed while de-leafing is important to ensure healthy growth. Harvesting begins after 15-18 months, and a light shiny appearance means that the banana is ready for harvest. Harvesting should be delicate to avoid bruising of the bananas. The bananas should be temporarily stored in a cool, dry place and should be wrapped in banana leaves or grass to avoid bruising. If for export, they should be washed using a disinfectant and might require branding.