As the years of his professional service keep nearing the finishing mark, Mr. Mwadime has always been a man on a mission. His drive for life has been to be independent and productive even deep into his retirement years.
Being a resident of Wundanyi, Taita Taveta’s agricultural haven, going the farming way was always a natural option.
In recent years, Mwadime has ventured into all sorts of farming with crop diversification at the top of his mind. On his 3-acre sloppy land overlooking a seasonal meandering river, there are land portions of tomatoes, scattered bushes of coffee, an assortment of vegetables, sugarcane, cassava, and maize.
But one section that captures attention is the alluring green section of the less than two-meter-tall avocado trees. Not that the avocado tree is naturally a beholding look, but the fact that the trees are carrying heavy loads of green avocado fruits was quite a spectacle.
“These are Hass avocados. I have around 35 trees in this parcel now. I planted them two and half years ago and this is their first production cycle,” explained Mwadime after noting our eye-popping curiosity at his avocado section.
Barely 1.5 meters above the ground, the Hass avocado trees had their branches spread wide with tens of avocado fruits hanging invitingly on several branch joints.
The Hass avocado is a new variety that has been scientifically modified through grafting to significantly reduce its maturity period to between 2.5 years and 3 years from the typical period of 6 to 7 years.
“I would say I’ve hit the jackpot with Hass avocado because I’m not only getting produce in a record fast time but also more yield,” an excited Mwadime added.
It was not always a happy avocado story for Mr. Mwadime before the introduction of the new avocado variety. His other avocado varieties would take up to 7 years to mature and still give him fewer yearly yields.
The avocado story of Mwadime changed when officials from the Kenya Crops and Dairy Marketing Systems (KCDMS) through VegPro (K) LTD reached out to him to pilot the Hass avocado project on his farm.
With training and financial support, Mwadime took up the challenge and has never regretted taking up the opportunity. He is now looking to harvest more than 150 tons of avocado in a month with a market readily available for his produce.
“From my 35 trees, I’m looking in the upwards of 150 tons in a month or so. It’s a record I’ve never hit with my previous traditional avocado trees and I can’t be more joyful,” elated Mwadime stated.
With the success story of Mwadime, KCDMS through VegPro (K) LTD in partnership with the county government and the national government’s Climate Smart project targets to reach more farmers with the new variety of avocado.
KCDMS Field Officer John Mbung’o said the project has been a success and time has come for more farmers to join the new sustainable and reliable avocado farming with a guarantee for the local and international market.
“The time is ripe for more farmers to join Mwadime and turn this into an economic revolution that will become an endless source of revenue to the farmers, the county and country in general,” insisted Mbung’o.
VegPro (K) LTD’s Agronomist Moses Karonjo praised the uptake of the project by local farmers and emphasized that the potential was limitless.
He was keen to point out the benefits of the Hass avocado variety to not only the farmers but also the final consumers on the other end of the supply chain.
“Farmers are taking up this project with enthusiasm and it’s a good sign this will be a success. We’re not only looking at a super short maturity period, but also more yields, twice-a-year harvesting, climate resilience, and longer shelf-life,” remarked agronomist Karonjo.
With such early success, Taita Taveta is on a trajectory to become an avocado hub in the country and contribute to the massive national, regional, and global avocado market.
In Africa, Kenya was ranked the number one avocado-producing nation and globally at number 8 in 2020 with an estimated export of 69 metric tons of the produce between January and October in 2021, bringing in a revenue of Sh14.48 billion.
The global avocado market has been a target by the national government in its agenda for agricultural diversification through empowering small-scale farmers with policy, financial, and technical support to grow climate-resilient crops that match the global quality standards.
With the new wave of avocado farming biting the farmers in Taita Taveta, the county is set to join Murang’a, Kiambu, Nakuru, Kisii, Nyamira, Meru, and Bomet in exploiting the limitless potential of the overseas avocado market and propel Kenya to become a global force in the perishable market niche.
By Arnold Linga Masila