October 4, 2023

After a 32-year stint with the Ministry of Agriculture, Alfred Maingi retired two years ago.

He was the Molo Sub-County Agricultural Officer then.

Maingi directed his energy on his agri-business at Cheponde Farm, a few kilometres from Elburgon town in Nakuru County.

When the Seeds of Gold team visited Cheponde Farm recently, the 62-year-old and his daughter were tending to avocados.

Before his retirement, Maingi grew maize but switched to avocado due to the high cost of fertiliser, chemicals and other inputs.

“Since I wanted to practise intensive farming on my one-acre piece, I eliminated maize and livestock and switched to avocado,” he says.

“Producing maize had become expensive but I was not making any money after harvest.”

He planted four seedlings of Fuerte avocado in 2010 but bought 40 Hass avocado seedlings two years later.

Maingi kept increasing the number of seedlings planted by 40 every year after that.

“I sourced the seedlings from nurseries certified by the Horticultural Crop Development. I needed quality avocado seedlings that could guarantee maximum yields,” he says.

He applies farmyard manure in holes that are 2x2ft deep and spaced at seven by seven metres.

Such spacing allows Maingi to plant peas, beans and other crops that add nitrogen to the soil.

The auxiliary crops also boost avocado tree growth, he says.

Maingi attributes his success to good management of his avocado trees.

He applies manure and water and treats the trees using the recommended chemicals.

Maingi also ensures the trees are free from pests and diseases.

Because Hass avocado fruits are in great demand, he has increased the trees to 150.

“Hass avocado have a market locally and abroad. A well-managed avocado tree can produce 1,000 and 1,500 fruits every two weeks when in season,” he says.

The farmer says he harvests 500 to 1,000 fruits per tree but targets 2,000.

“Harvesting is two times a year,” he says.

Maingi sells his fruits to exporters who flock his farm. An avocado fruit goes for Sh10 to Sh16.

To beat exploitation by brokers, Maingi has joined an avocado farmers’ group in Elburgon .

But the middlemen take advantage of farmers as they have direct contact with buyers .

When there is a glut in the market, the fruits can remain on the farm for long, occasioning losses as they end up rotting.

It is such times that the middlemen rule, buying avocados at throwaway prices.

If not cared for properly, avocado trees can be attacked by aphids, especially mealybugs.

Maingi also has other trees that attract bees, which help pollinate his avocado plants.

He advises Kenyans to embrace avocado farming, saying there is always a market for the fruits.

According to Maingi, a farmer with two acres of avocado can make as much money as one with 10 acres of land under maize.

He plans to add another acre of avocado by next year.

“If all goes well, I will have 10 acres of avocado in five years,” he says.

The long dry season took a toll on Maingi and many other farmers in Elburgon.

The borehole on his land dried, making watering his plants a huge challenge.

He urges the devolved government of Nakuru to provide farmers with water and help market their produce.

Maingi grows other fruits for domestic consumption.

He attends seminars, workshops and field days to get new information on innovations, diseases, biological pest control and markets.

“I apply the Calcium Ammonium Nitrogen two times a year, especially during rainy seasons,” he says, adding that an avocado tree can live for more than half a century if managed properly.

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