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Kirinyaga County macadamia farmers up their production thanks to ready market

macadamia at limbua

Mature macadamia trees can produce between 80kg and 300kg of nuts per harvest. Currently, a kilo sells at Sh70 in the Kenyan markets. Photo courtesy.

Macadamia farmers from Githure and Kianyaga in Kirinyaga County who were recording poor yields due to lack of proper farming knowledge and viable market have now tripled their production per farmer from 1,000kg in 2010 to 3,000kg currently, thanks to a processing plant in the region which offers them training and market for their produce.

Limbua Group, a macadamia processing plant was put up in the region in 2010 by Peter Wangara and his business partner Matti Spiecker after extensive research which incorporated Egerton University’s Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils and Kenya Organic Agriculture Network.

“Some residents in this area used to grow macadamia on small-scale because the nuts had no viable market which could offer them a good return. The farmers were also faced with pest and diseases which destroyed the crops hence lack of hope among them,” said Peter Wangara who is also an auditor by profession.

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The farm which started with only eight small-scale farmers then, is now working with over 5,000 farmers in the county while others come from the neighbouring Embu County.

For quality purposes, the farmers are trained on how to curb pests and diseases and the requisite standards they must meet for the export market.

“Apart from ensuring that our farmers have the required and certified seedlings, we insist on organic production of the nuts. This is because we realized many farmers were oversupplying fertiliser and pesticides to grow the nuts,” said Wangara.

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After waiting for about 10 years maturity period of the plants, a farmer would start harvesting for the first time, between 30kg and 50kg, depending on the variety and the attention given to the trees as production increases at every harvest.

Very mature trees can produce between 80kg and 300kg of nuts per harvest.

“We then source the produce from the farmers, process the nuts by removing the shells, drying and packaging to meet international standards,” said Wangara.

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However, after harvesting, macadamia nuts must be husked within 24 hours and kept in a well-ventilated place to prevent deterioration due to heat, which makes them mouldy and even leads to germination.

According to experts, an acre of land can hold up to 71 macadamia trees. This should earn a farmer, going by the current government market regulation of at least Sh70 per kilo of nuts, up to Sh1.4m per acre, depending on agronomic practices and favourable weather conditions.

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Though it has been a long journey, Limbua Group is now exporting the nuts to the European Union markets where the demand is overwhelming.

“There is much competition from our buyers in the international market and that is why we need more farmers willing to do organic farming of macadamia to grow the crop,” said Wangara.

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