Intercropping avocado with potatoes pays big for farmer


By JOHN NJOROGE
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From Elburgon town in Molo sub county, a potholed road leads the Seeds of Gold team to Karuma Mau Farm Technology at Kapsita village, where we meet Samwel Karuma weeding his Hass avocado trees.

He is clad in a blue dust coat, navy blue trouser, a red sweater and black gumboots.

“I have some 100 avocado trees,” says the farmer, who grows the crop on a sloppy one-and-half-acre land.

“I started with 120 seedlings in 2015 that I bought at Sh150 each from a dealer certified by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis),” says Karuma.

He further used Sh3,000 on land preparation and animal manure. There, he planted two types of avocados; Hass and Fuerte, all which do well in areas like Molo which have sufficient rain.

“I chose Hass variety because it has a longer shelf-life. It also grows and produces more yields,’’ says Karuma.

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The farmer, who trained in sustainable agriculture for two years at Baraka Agricultural College in Molo, says he used to farm other crops but the cost of inputs like seeds and fertiliser put him off.

“There is a time I incurred a loss of more than Sh30,000 for land preparation and seeds I had planted because the rains were inadequate. This is what made me switch,’’ says Karuma exuding confidence.

Karuma has spaced his avocado trees 8 by 8 metres, which allows him to intercrop the fruits with potatoes, earning him more cash.

He also runs a seedlings business, where he grows tree tomato, passion fruit, lemon, sukuma wiki, beetroot and capsicum, among others.

One mature avocado tree offers up 100 fruits, says the farmer, who harvested last month.

“I harvested from each tree at least 70 fruits that I was selling at between Sh7 and Sh10 each. I expect to collect during the second harvest,” says Karuma, who sells the fruits to middlemen who transport them to Nakuru and Nairobi, among other towns.

As many other farmers in the area, one of his main challenge is the avocado lace bug, an insect which invades fruits.

“We use the fly catcher to trap the insect which hides under the soil,” says Karuma, who trains students from neighbouring schools how to grow seedlings.

He says his ambition is to become the leading avocado farmer in the region as he works on extending his acreage under the fruit.


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