Most farmers in Uasin Gishu County have embraced Hass avocado farming alongside maize.
Mr Samuel Yego CEC Agriculture said avocado farming was introduced mainly to eradicate poverty index in the county adding farmers are able to get good yield at least twice a year.
He said that in the past years farmers faced challenges such as soil infertility, unfavourable climatic conditions and also low-quality yields which they are correcting through avocado farming.
“Farmers are in a mad rush to embrace diversification in a bid to gain financial stability that in the recent past has been evasive due to weather shocks, stiff competition and fluctuating market prices. Several companies such as Habex agro and Bio farms have approached us, a clear indication of a ready market,” said Yego.
He pointed out they have been engaging farmers in training and offering them free seedlings which has encouraged mass exodus from normal food crops to adoption of high value crops that will earn them high returns. “We are giving out free avocado seedlings to our farmers and also offering them training on how to grow avocado. Climate shock has been affecting the production of maize and now planting many crops will increase financial gains unlike before where they incurred losses,” he added.
Mr Yego reiterated, avocados were more tolerant to rainfall variations than maize, are low-maintenance plants and require less attention adding they are an ideal cash crop. “Besides they are among the most popular fruits throughout the year in local markets,” he added.
Mathew Kibet, an avocado farmer in Ainabkoi Sub County, is among those who benefited with seedlings from the county government. He said the main reason he switched to avocado farming was the assured ready market for the produce.
“I started avocado farming in 2018 whereby I planted eight acres in contract with the Habex Agro. It is now 3 years since I planted and the yields are quite pleasing,” Mr Kibet said.
He said even though he invested a lot in the growth of avocado he is satisfied with the yields and hopes to break even soon. So far he said he has harvested twice since the beginning of this year and still expects to harvest more fruits before the end of the year.
Mr Yego added that just like any other crop, avocado faces challenges including inadequate water supply during dry seasons and some crop diseases in the early years of growth.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago has been instrumental in urging farmers to embrace diversification. Recently he said they will embark on irrigation projects to ensure the crop do well even during dry seasons. “This will not only realize financial stability to farmers but will also increase our influence in the international markets,’’ he said then.
By Hassan Adan Ali and Cynthia Chemutai