A retired army general's initial investment of Sh30,000 in planting more than 3,000 eucalyptus trees seven years ago is set to reap him Sh15 million in a journey that has been marked by patience, resilience and hard work.
Although he is an active farmer with his 100 acre farm accommodating maize and cattle, his passion has always been in tree farming, as characterized by the patience in the years he has tended to the water guzzling eucalyptus trees, and the variety of trees in his farm located in Nakuru county.
Having perfected the art of planting the trees and ensuring every space has a tree planted, his tree farm has become a model plot drawing guests from farmers, students and corporate. The trees he grows are all primed and enjoy a heavy demand in markets locally and internationally. For example the eucalyptus trees he is farming are in huge demand by among others Kenya Power and the real estate dealers. He grows eucalyptus trees species like Grandis and Camalduonis which are known to be resistant to pests.
He also has indigenous trees which have both economical and medicinal value like Fig tree, Bamboo and Grevillea among others. “I have always haboured a childhood desire for trees having grown up near the magnificent Aberdare Forest. And although I joined the army, the desire to engage in farming was always there, so when I retired in 2003, I automatically decided to delve into tree farming,” said Humphrey Njoroge who is now a retired Lieutenant General.
His farm is a blend of maize plantation, dairy cows and the trees. He has never been keen on investing in maize due to the volatility of the crops and the maize that has been planted on his 20 acres piece of land is used to feed the 30 dairy cows that he keeps.
While the value of his 3,000 eucalyptus trees which he planted in 2007 is approximated to be Sh15 million he has also been selling mature trees from other varieties and their seedlings. On average a tree goes for Sh4500, Sh20 for eucalyptus seedlings and indigenous tree seedlings at Sh50. “While the commercial aspect of tree farming has been my motivating factor, the fact that trees dont harm the environment and infact seems to be taking care of it is what has drawn me to this business. Scenes of chirping birds in my farm, which seeks shelter in the trees warm my heart,” he added.
But it hasnt always been a walk in the park for him. Having gone into tree farming with limited knowledge he was confronted with challenges like how to apply manure effectively and weeding. When he first planted the first batch of th eucalyptus trees, he lost over 10,000 trees to a voracious tree pest known as snout beetle which drills the tree making the wood unusable. Officials from the Kenya Forestry Research Institute advised him to destroy the trees. “Tree farming is a passion, you have to take your time and be patient and also have another income generating activity since trees take up to eight years to be harvested. But the good returns upon harvest are worth the wait,” he said.