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Macadamia is the crop of the future, Bungoma farmer says

Tuesday December 3 2019

Gervase Wakoli

Gervase Wakoli from Bwake village in Bungoma County inspects one of his macadamia trees. The farmers says that he is eyeing opportunities to benefit maximally from macadamia farming. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

RACHEL KIBUI
By RACHEL KIBUI
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A drive through Bwake Ward in Bungoma County reveals farms which are characterised by a dry maize crop while some have young lush green sugarcane.

But in Khachoge village is a farm of its kind.

Here, you are ushered into an orchard with different fruit varieties.

There are short flowering mango trees, well fruited pawpaw trees, some gooseberry plants, avocados as well as macadamia trees in the one-acre farm.

ORCHARD

One would be forgiven for thinking that this farmer actually decided to establish the orchard to get fruits for his family.

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But its owner, Gervase Wakoli, explains that this is not why the orchard was established.

“This is an experimental farm, on which I wanted to identify the best crop not only for my vast farm, but also for the community around this area,” says Wakoli.

One by one, he observed the crops and with keen consultations with agronomists, eliminated them.

Wakoli tends his macadamia seedlings, which he
Wakoli tends his macadamia seedlings, which he has intercropped with sweet potato vines to keep off weeds PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

CROPS TRIAL

He did not like the mango because when frost falls, which is a common occurrence here, it destroys all the fruits. That way, he decided to remove the crop from his list.

Gooseberry farming he explains, is not only labour intensive, but he also has no connection to a ready market.

So he dropped this one too.

While pawpaw look like they are doing great, they are affected by frost which leaves marks on the fruits. The marks later turn black, making the fruits not attractive to customers.

Besides, a market survey revealed that these fruits sell for as low as Sh20 each in the local market. For these two reasons, he decided not to venture into large scale pawpaw farming.

MACADAMIA FARMING

Finally, Wakoli decided to venture into macadamia farming.

Although macadamia trees take long to mature, he says he will be patient as he is optimistic that he will not only earn handsomely, but also spend less money and time on labour.

Besides, he is eyeing a macadamia processing market in Bungoma town.

Over the last two months, Wakoli has planted over 350 macadamia trees on his five-acre farm.

INTERCROPPING

To ensure that he keeps off weeds and benefits from the farm as the crop matures, he wisely chose to intercrop the macadamia trees with sweet potato vines.

“I got certified sweet potato vine seeds from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) in Bungoma,” he says, adding that certified seeds are an assurance of high quantity and quality harvest.

He has a ready market at a local flour mill which he says mills sweet potatoes to flour for sale.

Besides establishing his own farm, Wakoli has already started selling macadamia seedlings to farmers in his village, most of whom are his clients for indigenous chicks.

SOLD SEEDLINGS

Over the last three months, he says, he has sold over 3,000 seedlings to about 75 farmers.

He sources the seedlings from a certified breeder and sells them to the farmers at Sh400 each.

Like many other farmers, Wakoli is eyeing opportunities to benefit maximally from macadamia farming.

In a bid to promote this value chain, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), with funding from the European Union (EU), will be running a four-year project that will empower stakeholders in the macadamia value chain.

The project aims at promoting standards and expanding markets both locally, regionally and internationally.

“I am praying that I will benefit from the Market Access Upgrade Programme (Markup) project so that I can learn from other stakeholders including experts who will be involved in it,” says Wakoli.

BEYOND MAIZE FARMING

If he gets to sharpen his skills and knowledge about macadamia farming, he says, he will enlighten other farmers on the need to broaden beyond just the traditional maize and sugarcane farming.

To him, macadamia is the crop which may create a positive economic revolution in the future.

Besides macadamia, the Markup project will also focus on passion fruits, chilli, groundnuts, mangoes, snow peas and French peas.

The project will be implemented in 12 counties across the country.

Kenya is set to host the ninth international macadamia symposium in August 2021 during which participants will deliberate on issues about this nut, including achievements and challenges.

The event, which is held after every two years, brings together stakeholders along this value chain who include scholars, experts, farmers, processors, entrepreneurs among others.