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Agriculture teacher learns fortune of growing flowers

Peter Mwangi in his flower farm in Narumoru
Peter Mwangi in his flower farm in Narumoru, Nyeri County. He grows Ammi variety. PHOTO | PETER CHANGTOEK | NMG 

Dressed in a white t-shirt, grey pair of trousers and blue rubber shoes, Peter Mwangi inspects ready-to-harvest flowers in his farm in Burguret area in Naromoru, Nyeri County.

The graduate from Egerton University, who holds a bachelors’ degree in agricultural education and extension, grows Ammi variety of flowers, and sells to a Thika-based company that exports the produce.

The farmer, who also teaches agriculture and biology, ventured into floriculture in 2019 after being inspired by a friend.

“A friend made good returns from his flowers on half an acre farm,” reveals Mr Mwangi, 46.

The secondary school teacher started the venture with a capital of Sh30,000.

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“I started on a quarter of an acre, but currently I’m doing one and a half acres,” adds the father of three.

Aside from inspiration from his friend, there were also other factors that drove him to venture into farming.

“I wanted some extra cash and show my younger folks in the village that they can grow flowers profitably, instead of over-relying on employment from local flower farms,” says the farmer who prefers Ammi variety of flowers because it is not prone to pests and diseases.

“Also, it (Ammi) grows well on relatively poor soils and in the open without greenhouse,” says Mr Mwangi.

The farmer says managing the flowers is not a difficult undertaking.

“Keep uprooting weeds, support the flowers on the edges with poles and wires, watch out for blight which is rare, and irrigate when necessary,” he explains.

He sells the produce to an export firm in Thika at Sh4 per stem. However, there are also brokers who buy it for as low as Sh2 per stem.

“I sell Ammi white to brokers at varied prices which can be as low as Sh2 or as high as Sh10 per stem, depending on the market forces of demand and supply,” he tells Enterprise.

Like many other farmers, Mr Mwangi has not been spared by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 had brought the flower business to a standstill. The flower I had during the global lockdown luckily had not reached picking stage though it had passed the white stage.

“Now I’m selling as Ammi green and though prices are a bit low, there is hope for better prices.”

He advises those who intend to venture into floriculture to use virgin land.

Mr Mwangi reveals that the amount that a farmer can earn per acre depends on the price per stem. For instance, he says, if a stem is sold at Sh3, one can make around Sh150,000 in five months, and if a stem is sold at Sh9, then a farmer can earn up to Sh450,000.

According to Bernard Lang’at, an agronomist, farmers should target to harvest between October and June, which is high season, to maximise returns.

“July-September is off season, and flower prices are low,” he reveals.

The agronomist adds that flower farmers should ensure that they have access to water for irrigation during dry spell.

“Since the flowers are only for export, the farmer should ensure that he gets a reliable company through which he can sell his flowers. They must also get into contractual farming with the company,” advises Mr Lang’at.

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