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    High Yield

    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.


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    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, CEO, Central Valley Vineyard.JPG

    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.





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    Margaret feeding her chicken in their chicken pen which has over 5000 chicken. Photo courtesy.

    A family half an acre farm next to Thika River, in Kiambu County is housing two fish ponds, a poultry pen and a dairy unit. This has attracted farmers and experts who visit the farm to learn how a small piece of land can be used to run different agribusiness activities.

    Kenneth Macharia, a husband and father of two daughters and a son, decided to introduce his family to agribusiness after retiring as technician from the Ministry of Transport. Each member handles a different farm unit, a factor that has contributed to the farm’s 10 to 15 farmer group visits every week.

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    “Our farm receives visitors weekly. Recently we hosted a delegation of farmers from Homa Bay County which had come on a series of agribusiness activities in Nairobi and extended their visit here,” said Macharia.

    Macharia's wife, Margret and first born son Kevin, a graduate of Kenyatta University (KU) handle the poultry pen which has over 5000 chicken. The family tarted with layers and broilers until 2010 then switched to indigenous chicken which Margaret learnt from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

    “With time we decided to leave indigenous variety to try Kuroiler breed by investing Sh200,000 to purchase 50 chicken which have multiplied to what we have today,” said Margaret.

    Every day the two collect 20 crates of eggs that are sold in the local markets and shops in Thika.

    With the introduction of incubators that have a capacity of holding 3000 eggs, they can now incubate their own eggs and increase their poultry farm.

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    Macharia takes care of the dairy unit which has 30 dairy cows under zero grazing that produce 250 litres of milk every day. He ensures the right feed is given to the cows, oversees their health status, milking and milk distribution process.

    “I loved farming though I was a transport technician. I thought it was a nice idea to introduce my family that we may together increase our production,” said Macharia.

    Maureen the second born and also a graduate from KU handles the fish business which started with an investment of 1000 tilapia and catfish.

    “Dad started with some fish but with time the business grew and we decided to diversify into ornamental fish and the making of aquariums. It is a business that has blossomed and now earns the family a profit of Sh2000 each month,” said Maureen.

    Besides making and selling aquariums which have a selling price that ranges from Sh35,000 and Sh40,000 depending on the design, the family sells a kilo of catfish at Sh200.

    The last born in the family called Diana Wambui helps the family across the sectors when needed.

    Beyond farming, the farm is registered as Sky Blue Farmland, producing a yoghurt brand called Highland Yoghurts. It has been in the market for the last six months. This has seen the farm employ seven permanent employees and other five on casual basis.

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    “Our yoghurt brand has received warm reception in the areas we have sold it like Kawangware and Baba Dogo areas in Nairobi. We have also earned supply contracts with Kassmatt Supermarket though the heated political climate in the country has dwindled our supply,” said Macharia.




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    Joseph Maweu, a mango farmer from Kanzokoea sub location in Kathonzweni, Makueni County is reaping big from mango farming, his only source of income. He earned an average of Sh121, 000 in 2017 up from Sh12, 800, his earnings in 2011 this was after joining a farmers’ group which helped him and other farmers market their produce.

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    Mango farmers in Makueni County are milking cash from their mangoes after forming a common interest group and a mango cooperative society to market their produce. Through the group, farmers in the region have benefited from a series of trainings on disease and pest control, orchard management and post-harvest management.

    Before 2011, Maweu had 18 mango trees which were not doing well due to poor methods of farming. Like many other mango farmers in his area his mango fruits were of low quality. Furthermore, he and other the mango farmers in his area were not organized into producer and marketing groups. This led to exploitation by middle men.


    Farmers branding some of the mango fruit juices

    The farmers sold the mangoes fresh (unprocessed) which resulted to very low incomes earned. Their problems were compounded by the fact that the harvesting season comes once in a year in the period between December and March for all the farmers. This resulted in mangoes flooding the market during this time, while farmers had nothing to sell during off-season.

    The Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP) helped Maweu and his fellow mango farmers in Makueni to form a group in July 2014 so as to enable them consolidate their income from the crop.

    KAPP in collaboration with other agricultural stakeholders such as the Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF) built the capacity of 2306 farmers by sponsoring them to tour mango processing firms in Thika and Kitui.

    In this, farmers were encouraged to take mango farming as a viable agribusiness. Farmers participated in research work on integrated crop and pest management where they learnt skills on control of mango weevil and fruit fly. 

    “I have planted more mango trees on my idle land and improved the 18 trees that already existed in my farm. I also applied the technology I had acquired from the training on disease management” said Maweu.

    “I have increased the number of crops in my farm to 170 mango trees. I have also established links with other value chain actors including exporters, pesticide dealers and mango processing firms”

     Through the cooperative, Maweu has sold mangoes worth Sh121, 000 in a single season. He is among the 851 farmers who have bought shares worth Sh1.49m from the cooperative, which was registered in July 2014.

    The farmer has also been able to pay school fees for his school going children with ease. His vision is to gradually increase his mango trees to 600 and reap more from the mango agribusiness.

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