One of the mandates of the Kenya Prison Services is rehabilitation of custodial sentenced offenders for community reintegration.
Kiambu Prison has well demonstrated the fulfillment of this mandate through its farm nursery that sits on 0.03 acres.
The Kiambu Prison Farm Nursery produces trees, fruit and herb seedlings for sale in Kiambu County and its environs and the farm whose source of labour is the incarcerated individuals, serves to rehabilitate the offenders as well as earn revenue for the government through the sale of the seedlings.
Ms Anne Mumenya, the Superintendent of prisons as well as the farm manager told KNA that their main fruit seedling for sale is the grafted avocado seedlings.
“The farm has over 800 types of fruit seedlings which include avocados, mangoes, passion, paw paws, strawberries and the uncommon white sapote but of all the various seedlings we produce a higher number of grafted avocado seedlings as their demand is higher compared to other fruit seedlings,” she said.
Mumenya noted that grafting of avocadoes has seen the harnessing of the best characteristics of different varieties to produce high-yielding avocado trees and this is demonstrated with trees that take a shorter time to grow compared to the traditional plant.
“Grafting is done by binding the scion and the root stock together to form a graft union and hence subsequent growth. Grafted avocado plants grow faster and start producing fruit within two years. Also owing to their high demand in the international market, people have turned to avocado farming,” she explained.
The grafted avocado plant produced in the farm is the Hass avocado which happens to also be the main fruit that is exported in Kenya.
When it comes to tree seedlings, the farm’s production is unmatched. Cypress carries the highest number of seedlings at 2000 followed by Gravillea at 500 seedlings. These two are the most marketable due to their fast growth rate and numerous uses; roofing, fencing, and timber among others. Others include eucalyptus, podo, croton and macadamia.
Mumenya says the prison farm gets water from a nearby natural stream as well as rainfall and with the climate experienced in Kiambu providing favorable conditions, the seedlings grow very well.
The farm, she added also grows potted plants and flowers such as the green variegated griselinia and the golden variegated griselinia. These two, she added are very popular, reason being they are used for fencing.
“The green and golden variegated griselinia have a very high demand because they serve both to beautify and to fence. They can also be trimmed into different shapes as desired by the owner. They also have a fast growth rate,” explained Mumenya.
Joseph Ngugi, one of the inmates who provides labour at the Kiambu Prison Farm Nursery told KNA that he has reaped a myriad of benefits since he began working in the farm.
Top among them, he said is learning how to graft different plants and how he can use the skill to earn a living.
Ngugi said the farm keeps the inmates busy and at the same time offered them a chance to learn new skills.
“I enjoy working at the farm because of the fresh air and the serene environment. I have also learnt many skills here such as grafting different plants. I can convert this into a business which as I have learnt requires little capital to start. Once I exit this place, I will have a skill that I will use to earn a living,” Ngugi said.
Some of the challenges they experience according to the manager are inadequate rains and sometimes inadequate labour force when inmates are few. The stream they usually depend on for water, she adds is also adversely affected during dry spell affecting their overall production.
The farm is open to members of the public every day to purchase the seedlings whose prices are very friendly with an avocado seedling costing Sh100 and a mango Sh150. Besides farming, inmates engage in other activities such as carpentry and livestock rearing.
Chief Executive Officer at the Avocado Society of Kenya (ASK) Earnest Muthomi says that Kenya is keen on expanding the market of avocados globally following an increase in demand of the fruit in the international market thus the high demand for the seedlings.
By Terry Njueini