On the banks of River Daua, the only natural water source in Mandera County, Mr Ahmed Abdirahaman Hassan is about to achieve his dream.
Hassan, a citrus fruit farmer plans to start a fruit processing plant to supply locals with fresh fruit juice.
“I started fruit farming in 2010 and I have been holding on to my dream dearly and I see it coming true in the next two years,” he says.
On his 16-acre farm located at Shafshaey location of Neboi division, you will find oranges, mangoes, pawpaws, lemons, water melons and guavas planted in segments.
“I started this project due to lack of fresh juice in Mandera,” he said.
Hassan aims at reducing the expenses and distances of getting fruit products from Nairobi.
“In the coming two years I must have a light fruits industry here and even export my products to Somalia and Ethiopia.”
“I started with 631 orange trees, 13 mango trees and 813 guava trees.”
He says he has only harvested twice since the onset of the project in 2010 selling the produce to the local market.
“What I got in past two harvests was little as the trees were still growing and each was giving me between 70 to 90 fruits but they are fully grown now and I expect above 150 fruits from every tree on my farm,” he said.
Hassan expects his profit to grow from Sh1,500 to Sh3,000 per tree as they reach maturity.
DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEM YET TO BE FINALISED
Hassan gets his grafted orange seedlings from Nairobi, something he terms expensive.
“We don’t have readily available seedlings in Mandera and I have to get them from Nairobi and use air transport which is an expensive affair,” he said.
“I am introducing avocados because as I move towards getting all types of fruits in Mandera which is classified as a semi-arid area,” he said.
Hassan has six employees tending to the fruits.
“The county government came in and purchased a water tank for me and promised to develop drip irrigation system that is yet to be finalised.”
The farmer uses trenches for irrigation that waste water and lead to soil erosion.
“I have to pump water from the river to the tanks then release it into the trenches on the farm which is a waste and has led to erosion,” he said.
Monkeys are also invading Hassan’s farm causing destruction and have forced him to erect scarecrows.
Mr Bernard Ogutu, the Mandera County Agriculture Director, said the county has favourable climatic conditions for production of high value crops like mangoes, bananas and guavas.
There is also increased production of watermelons which customers in Nairobi like as it’s sweeter.
FOCUS ON VALUE ADDITION
“As county government we are encouraging individual farmers venturing into fruit farming targeting commercial production and we are providing them with seeds, fertilisers and tractors at subsidised rates,” said Ogutu.
He said the county government has no opposition to farmers like Hassan wanting to establish their own processing plants.
The river providing water to the farmers in Mandera covers about 150 kilometres along the Kenya-Ethiopia border.
On Hassan’s farm you will also find simsim, sunflowers, tomatoes, kale and local vegetables like kunde.
“To succeed in crop or fruit farming in Mandera one has to be patient enough and ready to spend,” said Hassan.
He says he spends 20 litres of petrol to pump water on his farm daily which is costly.
Ogutu advices crop farmers to be patient and view agriculture as a business and not as subsistence for it will deny them benefits.
“We want farmers such as Hassan to focus on value addition to reap maximum benefits in Mandera,” said Ogutu.