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Kwale farmer producing clean certified coconut seedlings for colleagues and institutions

ready coconut seedling

Coconut seedlings. Photo courtesy.

A farmer from Kinondo, Msambweni in Kwale County has ventured into coconut seedlings production to help colleagues and institutions access the clean planting materials that have witnessed severe shortage in the recent past.

According to a 2011 research by E. C. MWACHIRO of Pwani University College and R.W.GAKURE of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) on Factors Affecting the Coconut Industry from Benefitting the Indigenous Communities of Kilifi District, Kenya, coconut farmers generally rely on their current crop to get seedlings, by merely picking up what has fallen down and germinated on itself, thus there is no determinant to yields.

It is because of this reason Mwinyi Amir Bendera decided in 2010 to focus on seedling production other than growing the plants for the nuts and break from the traditional way of subsistence way of cultivating the crop to commercial farming.

“I started farming with my parents who used to grow cashew nuts, coconuts, mangoes, and oranges among others on small scale and it is from them I inherited most of the farming practices,” said the 59-year-old farmer.

In May 2010, Amir decided to attend trainings by the Ministry of Agriculture and Kenya Coconut Development Authority (KCDA) at Mombasa Polytechnic where farmers were being taught on coconut farming and got in-depth knowledge on seedlings production.

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From there he bought some seedlings from one of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) centres in the region. The seedlings were of two varieties; Eat Africa tall and dwarf coconut types.

He then allocated a portion of his six and a half piece of land where he could plant the seedlings. After four to six months the plants were mature and started producing nuts. He would then use the nuts to propagate the crop and multiplying the seedlings.

“I noticed that more farmers were coming for the seedlings and this motivated me to raise more for the meet the demands,” said Amir.

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In June 2016, he started his own company, Gazi Farm Enterprises Ltd upon receiving production certificate from KCDA to produce the seedling for sale to other farmers.

Today the farmer has over 15,000 coconut seedlings ready for planting. He sells one seedling of East Africa tall coconut variety at Sh200 and East Africa dwarf coconut variety at Sh400.

His buyers include fellow farmers from different parts of Kenya and beyond. He also sells to institutions and organisations which buys the seedlings for farmers.

“I use currier services and public transport means to reach the seedlings to the consumers. I have also started exporting the seedlings to Uganda on order,” said Amir.

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Before choosing on the variety of the seedlings to plant, Amir advises that farmers are supposed to know the purpose of their production because the varieties are of different qualities.

“There are some farmers who would like to intercrop coconut with other crops so their choice and planting of the two varieties will differ.”

Tall variety should take 8×8 or 9×9 metres spacing or if it is to be intercropped with other crops, it should take 12×12 metres spacing while dwarf variety should be planted on 6×6 or 7×7 metres spacing distance or 10×10 metres for intercropping with other crops.

The dwarf variety takes 3-4 months to mature while the tall variety which yields 40-60 nuts at first harvest matures in 5-6 months.

Dwarf variety takes only 60 years then the production starts reducing while the tall variety takes 160 years of constant production before it starts declining in yields.

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