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Kisii County distributes 200,000 avocado seedlings to farmers

Farmers in Kisii County are a happy lot after the County launched the distribution of 200,000 Hass avocado seedlings for planting during this rainy season.

Speaking at the Kisii Agricultural Training Centre (ATC), on the outskirts of Kisii town, Governor Simba Arati, said the seedlings had been nurtured at the facility through a partnership between the County government and the European Union under the EU-IDEAS project.

Arati noted the County is dominated by the local Jumbo avocado variety, which is currently estimated at 1,564 hectares, with an average production of 16.5 metric tonnes per hectare, annually translating to 25,800 metric tonnes.

However, the Governor said that Kisii has the potential to produce more than 60 metric tonnes per hectare, hence the need to promote the adoption of quality planting materials for improved quality and crop productivity.

“This is why my Administration came-up with this initiative to help farmers avail of quality and affordable planting materials in order to boost avocado production in the long run,” he pointed out.

Arati said the first production cycle at the fruit tree nursery had a capacity of 200,000 avocado seedlings, and moving forward, they were anticipating the capacity to increase and accommodate banana and coffee seedlings (RUIRU11 variety), to support those respective value chains.

The County Boss urged the farmers to take advantage of the ongoing rains, to acquire the seedlings as they had been adequately hardened and were ready for planting.

The Fruit Tree Nursery at the ATC was established at a total cost of Sh7.5 million and has been duly registered and certified by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (KEPHIS), to ensure they produce the best quality seedlings.

Arati added that the Department of Agriculture was keen on addressing the challenges in avocado production, including limited access to quality and clean planting materials, poor markets with informal structures, and middlemen, who are exploiting farmers, as well as significant post-harvest losses due to the high perishability of the fruit.

For instance, they had trained 50 Agricultural Extension officers as Trainer of Trainers (ToTs) with the support of the Micro-Enterprises Support Programme Trust (MESPT), and the Tots had proceeded to train another 400 avocado farmers, drawn from the nine Sub-counties in the region.

“These lead farmers, will therefore act as learning centres on Avocado crop management, for the other farmers,” said the Governor.

In addition, the Department had put in place an elaborate system for avocado seedling application, with priority given to the local farmers at a subsidised rate of Sh100 per seedling. Each Ward is expected to place a demand of roughly 4,000 seedlings.

Arati said the cash collected from the sale of the avocado seedlings will be used to create a Revolving Fund at the ATC, which will take-up the Fruit Tree Nursery, as one of their enterprises and, hence, limit reliance on the County Treasury for sustainability.

Notably, the Governor pointed out that, with the support of MESPT, the County was installing a manual watering system at the nursery.

“This enterprise, if nurtured, will position the County as a major player in the Avocado industry with enormous potential benefits to the producers, given the growing market demand both from traditional and emerging markets,” he concluded.

The Fruit Tree Nursery initiative is a flagship project of Arati’s Administration and is aligned to the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2022-2027, which identified increased crop productivity, as an avenue to increased value chain competitiveness and commercialization of key agricultural commodities in the County.

By Mercy Osongo 

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