By George Munene
At NjabinI, Kinangop Samuel Mbugua has built a seven-acre flower farm that rakes in Sh5M per season.
“Having spent most of my adult life working in the flower sector; I have been a supervisor at flower farms for five years. I mastered all things flowers—from their growing to the market dynamics and in 2014 I gathered the courage to strike it out on my own,” says Mbugua.
The 34-year-old majors in the farming of craspedias with 3 acres of his farm under the summer flower. On another four acres, he grows alliums and purpurea on two acres each. On a smaller half an acre he is currently farming scabiosas on a trial basis.
Whilst the big flower farms major on roses, smallholder flower farmers are making their fortune in summer flowers used to adorn and blend bouquets.
Starting out he says, the biggest challenge most farmers face is land—“the flower export sector demands high quality and quantities.” You’ll need a minimum of two acres to qualify as a small scale export grower. The other challenge is the cost of seedlings and the availability of unadulterated seeds. Most seeds are manipulated due to crosspollination.
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For his first crop, he bought seedlings from a neighbour also engaged in the trade. An uprooted craspedia can give 20-50 rooted splits. This makes their propagation easier.
For an acre, you will need 30,000-40,000 seedlings, and each seedling costs three shillings. Machine tilling and ploughing costs for an acre of virgin land average at Sh15,000. He spends Sh7,000 on hiring casual labourers to prepare the flower beds and Sh3,000 on planting. He uses four 50kg bags of organic fertilisers at planting and two bags of NPK fertiliser at top dressing done at five months during their vegetative phase and the crops’ first harvest. If you have adequate manure you do not need to use fetrtiliser at the planting phase.
Craspedia require little water and is capable of going to up to a month without watering. Though watering is crucial at the planting stage when they are their most vulnerable. Given the usually favorable Kinangop climate, Samuel mostly relies on rainwater, but has sunk a well and has access to piped water if need be.
“Pests affecting flowers are largely limited to cutworms and aphids sprayed on a scouting basis with Duduthrin and Thunder respectively,” Mbugua explains. Weeding is done on a monthly basis.
Craspedias take 90 days to mature and are continually harvestable for up to a year with proper feeding. One plant gives about 100 stems every year. “Harvests are done once every week, but if well-tended to you can have two harvests in a week,” says Mbugua.
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An acre can give up to 500,000 flower stems.
Mbugua exports his flowers mainly through Wilmar Flowers Limited. The prices vary depending on season peaking over the January to February window at five to 15 shillings per stem and falling to Sh3 per stem during off-peak months of August to September.
Mbugua is working to increase his acreage and on getting an export license— this he says will enable him to sell his flowers at no less than Sh5 a stem throughout the year.