The Nakuru County government has launched a project aimed at the reforestation of degraded arable land through fruit farming.
Under the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) programme through the National Agricultural Rural and Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP), the county intends to distribute more than 200,000 fruit trees to farmers.
Already, 20,000 avocado fruit trees have been given out in Kuresoi North Sub-County.
In the first phase, the county has targeted 800 farmers in Sirikwa and Kamara within the northern part of the county bordering Mau Forest.
MAXIMUM LAND USE
The County Agriculture Minister, Dr Immaculate Maina, says the project is meant to encourage the adoption of appropriate land-use systems by farmers. This will, in turn, enable them to maximise the economic and social benefits from the land while maintaining or enhancing the ecological support functions of the land resources.
“We want to tell our farmers that we can grow maize or any other crop on the farm, but at the same time still plant fruits, which they can sell and make money,” she explains.
Through the SLM programme, the county hopes to distribute 20,000 avocado trees, 4,000 plum trees, 4,000 pear trees and 100,000 brachiaria splits, which can be used as terrace stabilisers and fodder by farmers.
In the 2019/2020 financial year, the county government allocated Ksh52 million to boost avocado farming.
The money will be used to obtain and distribute avocado seedlings to over 10,000 farmers.
In 2019, some 600 farmers in Naivasha got free avocado seedlings from the county.
Nakuru County Agriculture Chief Officer Kibet Maina says the aim of the project is to sensitise farmers on the need and importance of crop diversification, income generation and the promotion of food and nutrition security.
“The aim is to restore the lost forest cover while at the same time boosting food security and nutrition among our people,” he says.
Market for product
Avocado farming has been gaining pace after the county initiated a drive to look for markets in China and Europe.
The county decided to directly look for markets for farmers to shield them from unscrupulous brokers.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui has been wooing farmers to diversify their by venturing into avocado, macademia and pyrethrum growing.
To further promote and encourage avocado farming, the county is also establishing purchasing, sorting and packing bays for the produce in several locations.
Statistics from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) show that Kenya exported avocados worth Ksh10 billion in 2018-2019, with Europe providing the largest market.
In Africa, Kenya is the second largest producer of avocados after South Africa.
Kenya exports produce to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, with Europe forming the bulk of market.
The country has 7,500 hectares under avocado cultivation.