Yes, money indeed grows on avocado trees

Patrick Yegon

Patrick Yegon on his avocado farm in Bomet County. 

Photo credit: Peter Changtoek | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Patrick Yegon pumped into the venture Sh75,000, Sh60,000 which went on 200 seedlings and the rest on labour.
  • Since then, he has kept on increasing the number of avocado trees and today, his two-acre family farm hosts only the fruits.

Patrick Yegon smiles as he holds an avocado fruit dangling from a tree on his farm in Murany, Longisa ward in Bomet East sub-county.

He plucks it and then looks at it keenly to check if it is ready for sale. The farmer supplies the fruits to an exporting company that buys them from producers in the area farmer.

Yegon, a diploma in general agriculture holder who studied at the Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology, says that he has been growing the fruits for three years.

“I planted my first trees in April 2019 after developing interest in the fruit while working as a field officer at Olivado EPZ Ltd. Then I was working directly with farmers and saw the handsome returns they made,” says the 32-year-old.

He pumped into the venture Sh75,000, Sh60,000 which went on 200 seedlings and the rest on labour. Since then, he has kept on increasing the number of avocado trees and today, his two-acre family farm hosts only the fruits.

The seedlings are better planted during the rainy season, particularly before the onset of April rains.

“You dig 2ft by 2ft by 2ft holes, then mix the top soil with fully decomposed manure in a ratio of 1:1. One then plants the certified seedlings. In my case I bought from Olivado Epz nursery,” says Yegon.

The spacing between the plants and rows should be 7m by 7m.

“Make sure the soil is heaped to avoid water stagnation in the hole, which will lead to root rot and finally kill the avocado plant. Plant your seedlings at the top of the heap and water it.”

As the seedlings grow, among the field activities one should do are weed control, pruning and manure application. Good seedlings from a certified nursery, according to him, will start bearing fruits at two years and production will keep on increasing as the tree canopy grows bigger.

“I am an organically certified farmer. I only use fully decomposed animal manure to grow the fruits,” reveals

Yegon, who farms mainly Hass avocados and a few Fuerte trees.

Avocados

Avocados from Patrick Yegon’s farm. peter changtoek | NATION 

Photo credit: Peter Changtoek | Nation Media Group

For the best yields, he advises, one must apply manure immediately after harvesting.

“During the main season, we harvest up to seven tonnes and off-season, three to four. The main season is between April and July and off-season September to December,” he says, adding that the company does the harvesting and collection of the fruits from the farm.

His main challenge is irrigating the fruit trees during dry seasons. 

“Most farmers depend on rains and when they fail during flowering, you must irrigate lest the trees get stressed and end up aborting flowers,” says Yegon.

Another challenge in the business, according to him, is brokers, who harvest immature fruits and pay low prices, taking advantage of farmers who have cash problems. 

“The Horticultural Crops Directorate should come up with measures to stop harvesting immature fruits,” says Yegon, who sells his produce to Avo Group, his employer, at Sh90 per kilo for export.

Among the pests that attack the fruits are false codling moth and fruit flies as well as Phytophthora root rot disease. “My target is to have at least five acres of the fruits in the next four years,” he says.

Carol Mutua, a crop specialist from the Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University, says avocados require warm to cool climate and the area should be 1,800m to 2,100m above sea level. 

“Warm temperatures are essential for the fruits set,” says Mutua. “Avocados do well in areas with rainfall averages of 1,000-1,500mm per annum, well-distributed throughout the year. Irrigation is essential where rainfall is not sufficient.” 

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