Retired teacher makes a bundle of cash from fruit farming

Mr Kigima Kamau at his farm in Rongai, Nakuru. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH

What you need to know:

  • Today he has 260 mango and 800 orange trees which he harvests twice a year with the fruits being sold on order.

In 2005, Kigima Kamau retired as a secondary school teacher after three decades and decided to spend his sunset years on his 10-acre farm in Rongai, Nakuru County.

While most farmers in the semi-rid area engage in tomato farming, the 67-year-old had devised ways of making extra money from horticulture farming.

Mr Kamau, who turned down several offers to teach in private schools, now grows mangoes, oranges, pawpaws and bananas on one part of the farm and Eucalyptus trees on another portion.

This is his new found passion. It was however borne of misfortune.

“At one point I lost my entire tomato crop to drought. That is how I settled on fruits. They are far much easier to tend since they require less attention,” he told Enterprise during an interview at his farm.

He was motivated to explore alternative crops when his first harvest of oranges proved a success. Following this, he made a visit to Kitui and bought more orange tree seedlings to expand his venture.

Best paying crop

Today he has 260 mango and 800 orange trees which he harvests twice a year with the fruits being sold on order.

With good management, he says, each mango tree can produce about 500 fruits. At the moment, his farm grows nine varieties of mangoes; apple Mango, Ngoe, Tommy, Vandyke, Sabine, Marya, Kent, Apple variety B and Sensation.

This is his best paying crop.  He initially planted maize on a half-acre piece of land. He replaced it with pawpaws which, after just a year, were earning him between Sh50,000 and Sh100,000 — about three times more than he used to earn from maize.

To improve his pawpaw yield, he sourced tissue culture seedlings from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

“Papaws are not seasonal. They are harvested throughout the year. This makes them more profitable than other types of fruits,” he says.

Bananas now occupy one and a half acres of the farm while pawpaws grow on half an acre. Mr Kamau sells a kilogramme of oranges at Sh22, mangoes Sh25, bananas Sh40 and papaws Sh20. He earns more than Sh500,000 per year.

There is a ready market for fruits, he said. He sells the fruits at his farm, increasing his margins since he does not incur transport costs.

Mr Kamau’s advice to farmers is that they should strive to increase their knowledge, divulging that he regularly attends seminars and networking visits to farms to learn new ideas on improving yields.

He has also established a demonstration section. He charges visiting students and pupils a small fee for practical farming lessons.

The greatest challenge to fruit farming is theft, Mr Kamau says.

“Apart from other pests and diseases like weevils, bugs, fruit flies and mildew, human beings are the most challenging pest as they can cripple a farmer because all the produce can be stolen in one day,” he says.

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