Farmers in Kiambu County frustrated by poor returns of coffee and tea are shifting from growing the two cash crops to the more lucrative macadamia trees to make good earnings.
Coffee and tea produce disillusioned them, when the sectors stagnated paying them as little as Sh10-Sh15 per kilo despite the huge investments they have made in the sectors.
They said to increase their returns from farming, they will diversify their farming by intercropping macadamia with coffee and tea, and eventually ditch the two cash crops if the sectors continue to frustrate them.
Speaking at Kanyoni village during a farmers’ education day on Saturday, the farmers said the macadamia market is lucrative and was worth investing in.
They described the coffee and tea sectors as thankless outlays that despite heavy investment, the returns are very low and sometimes lead them to incur losses.
“We feel like we have wasted all the years we have invested in coffee and tea following their little returns. How does someone pay you Sh15 per kilo which you wait for a whole year? We have waited for the improvement that the government had promised, but nothing is forthcoming. Slowly, we shall shift to the better-paying macadamia sector,” said Leah Njiru, one of the farmers.
James Waweru, another farmer from Githobokini village, Gatundu North Sub County said intercropping was the only way to make the most from their diminishing land for farming, to be able to get good returns.
“One macadamia tree can produce over 30 kilos of nuts per harvest and with each going for Sh200, we are assured of good returns. Also, their payment is instant after they receive from the farm. Again, the cost of investment in macadamia is low, compared to coffee and tea where you spend money on pruning, chemicals, harvesting and labour on farming,” said Waweru.
The farmers received 1,000 macadamia seedlings variety that matures after a year from Thika MP Patrick Wainaina who is also the CEO and founder of Thika-based Macadamia processing company, the Jungle Nuts Ltd.
Wainaina said the company intends to increase macadamia plantation from 200,000 annually to one million trees and added that he hoped the initiative would contribute to 10 million macadamia seedlings by 2022, in an effort to increase the country’s macadamia production.
He added that the initiative would not only help in increasing the country’s tree cover but will also empower farmers to get better returns.
The MP also assured the farmers of a ready market at good prices, and advised them to beware of brokers whose intention is to exploit them by buying their produce at low prices.
By Muoki Charles