A visit to a commercial vineyard and winery in Morendat-Naivasha in 2015 inspired Mwangi Gachonde and his partner to co-found Central Valley Vineyard in which he is the Chief Executive Officer.
They conceptualized the idea after visiting a retired teacher who grew grapevines in half an acre farm and literally lived off it.
“I realized this is what I wanted to do, establish a vineyard that will bear fruit for the next 60 years and make good wine out of it, both as a hobby and a commercial venture” said Mwangi.
“In an industry dominated by only imported grapes and wine from South Africa and Europe, we decided to dive deep into the art of establishing a vineyard for production of fresh grapes initially and eventually venture into making wine. Through that, Central Valley Vineyard was born”
Mwangi Gachonde, Photo/Courtesy
Mwangi together with his partner are currently running their emergent two-year old vineyard in Murang’a County, in a seven-acre piece of land with over one acre under current production.
“The first harvest which was in October 2017 produced sweet table grapes which we sold in the market. The feedback from the consumers was exceptional and this gave us satisfaction that better times lie ahead” said Mwangi.
He harvested approximately 150kg of grapes which he sold to various consumers who had already booked the fruits before maturity. A kilo fetched him between Sh600 and Sh700. He is expecting to harvest 0.5 tonnes of the fruits in April next year, three times more than the first harvest.
Considering that very few people have ventured into vineyards commercially in Kenya, the knowledge and information to establish and successfully manage one has been an uphill task for Mwangi.
“The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization has not been of much help because their model farm is not in a good shape, however they have provided useful theoretical information”
“We had to research a lot from the few established vineyards, online articles and guesswork to reach the position we are in right now. Equally, different sources have given us differing information regarding the same enquiry and therefore we have had to try our best to strike a balance based on our climatic and weather conditions”
At the moment, the entrepreneur is pursuing ways of sharing the acquired grape farming knowledge to others who would like to venture into the space. In this, Mwangi has developed a curriculum on how to establish and manage a vineyard and is in the process of having the curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education under the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) program.
In the meantime, he is training farmers who are willing to venture and start their own vineyard, through the entire lifecycle from learning, seedlings acquisition and hand-holding them until their vineyard is up and growing.
“As Central Valley Vineyard expands and grows to make its own wine, I plan to hold meet-ups and wine fests for wines and grape lovers with the aim of promoting locally produced wines and grape products”
Mwangi, an IT expert by profession is also the current Head of ICT at Invesco Assurance Co. Ltd. He previously worked at Access Kenya Group, Barclays Bank and Synergy-Pro Limited.