- East Africa
By MOSES MUTUA
Makueni County is located in the former Eastern Province of Kenya. Makueni has grown to be famous for farming in recent years. Already, there are water management community projects like dams, irrigation schemes, and boreholes that boost agriculture, thereby bringing wealth to all.
Over 27,000 farmers from Makueni County had benefited from certified seeds distributed by the county government of Makueni for planting during the October–December rain season in 2023. Beneficiaries were drawn from II wards that had prioritized planting seeds during the budgeting process for the 2023 financial budget.
Living in Makueni County is Mr. Jimmy M. Sukali; he is a father of three sons, one daughter and a grandfather of two daughters.
“Before I decided to venture fully into farming, I worked as a manager for a tour and travel firm. I worked there until 1998, when there was the bomb blast in Nairobi affecting the company in terms of business and forcing me to go back home and venture fully into farming.”
“My father motivated me to venture into fruit farming. He used to farm oranges and mangoes. He taught me a lot about fruit farming.”
In the late 2000's, I decided to venture fully into fruit farming. I acquired ten (10 acres) of land where I had to call a professional from agriculture to come and do some tests on my soil so that he could advise me on how to go about it and which variety of fruits to plant.
Under the 10 acres, I have planted 1,300 pixie fruit plants, 640 oranges plants and 250 Mango plants. Inside my farm, I do not use fertilizers since they affect soil pH in the long term, but with composed manure, it helps improve the structure and health of the soil by adding organic matter.
In my last harvest, I got 8 tons of pixie fruits, where 1kg of the fruit goes for around 80 to 100 Kenya shillings, depending on the market. In return, I made Kshs 80,000 after selling the pixie fruit. With oranges, I harvested 1 ton and 1kg of oranges for around 30 to 40 Kshs, depending on the market price. In return, I earned up to Kshs 30,000 from 640 Orange plants. Mangoes are not that profitable since brokers purchase them in bulk, with one going for Kshs 5, while in the market they retail for Kshs 10, where the profit is very marginal.
Apart from that, I rear cows, which provide me with milk for sale to the community. I also buy small cows for fattening, and then I sell them for profit. On the other hand, they provide me with manure, which I use on the farm to boost soil nutrients. I have also employed workers who assist me with cultivating and managing the farm.
The main challenges that I face are the infection of pests and diseases in the plants. As of now, the price of insecticide is very expensive. For example, if I apply Thunder to the plants, one litre goes for Kshs 8,000and I must spray 10 acres.
With most people doing farming, the supply is in surplus, making the price shoot further down. This has become a challenge where the cost of living and production is very high since I have to pay my workers and buy insecticides.
By trying to increase the prices so as to get better profits, you end up not getting clients since they are also facing hard economic times. Most farmers in Makueni have also embarked on pixie farming, which has made the competition twice as hard.
For someone who would want to venture into farming, I would advise them to pursue fruit farming since the return on investment is very high and it doesn’t require a lot of input for better yields, which is cost-effective. Farming is the backbone of our economy.