Why I don’t regret shifting from growing maize to avocado


Why I don’t regret shifting from growing maize to avocado

When Michael Wangombe went for an agricultural benchmarking trip in Canada five years ago, little did he know that this would mark the start of his journey to becoming an avocado farmer.

In Canada, he was surprised at how pricey avocado was.

“I was shocked when I saw an avocado fruit selling at Sh200,” says Mr Wang’ombe. “The trip was an eye opener as I came to realise how precious avocado fruit is.”

He sees a huge potential for the fruit in the international market.

“The export market is expanding by the day and with the recent opening of Chinese market it means local farmers are staring at promising future,” he says.


Mr Wang’ombe was growing maize at his farm in Turi, near Elburgon, Nakuru County before he took a leap of faith into avocado farming.

“I decided to venture into fruits about five years ago after growing maize for several years and earning peanuts.

“I would earn about Sh50,000 from labour-intensive maize farming,” he adds. He specialises in Hass variety of avocado, which he intercrops with beans.

“I was advised by the extension officers to intercrop my avocado trees with beans or peas as they help in boosting nitrogen in the soil,” says Mr Wang’ombe.

In his one-acre farm, Wang’ombe has about 200 Hass avocado trees, some of which are already earning him good money.

“In my first harvest, I sold fruits worth Sh60,000 at Sh10 each to traders from Nakuru, Molo, Elburgon, Naivasha and Nairobi. There is guaranteed income in this business,” the farmer notes.

Mr Wang’ombe, 45, has also invested in tree seedlings. He sells grafted seedlings at Sh100 each.

Currently he has 3,000 seedlings. “The demand for avocado fruits due to its nutritional value and the opening Chinese market has created an opportunity to make good money. In a peak month like April when there are heavy rains and farmers are busy planting, I sell between 2,000 and 3,000 seedlings and this translates to between Sh200,000 and Sh300,000,” says Mr Wang’ombe who has attended training at Kakuzi in Thika and several farm clinics.

“In one farm clinic I was trained on how to trim the Fuerte trees and graft them with the Hass tree. This is one valuable lesson I use in my farming,” he adds.

He reveals that his capital was Sh50,000 which he spent on 80 Hass avocado seedlings. He however lost 28 seedlings due to drought, but he was determined to succeed and the loss did nothing to dampen his spirit.

He says he has no regrets for abandoning maize farming.

“For maize I harvest one season, for avocado I harvest at least four times,” he says.

His biggest challenges, however, are pests, diseases and theft of fruits.

“Sometimes when the fruits are ripe, thieves steal them,” he laments.

Wang’ombe says aphids are among the pests that attack avocado and to address the challenge he sprays his fruits regularly. He also uses traps to keep insects at bay

Joseph Gaturuku, Nakuru County horticultural officer, says avocados should not be planted in an area that had deep-rooted trees.

“Avocado roots are prone to diseases and if the seedlings are planted in an area that had trees with deep roots they could spread diseases and kill the seedlings,” he says.

Soil, he adds, must be tested so that farmers can be best advised on what type of fertiliser to use.

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