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Murang’a farmer reaps from Kakuzi’s smallholder avocado gold rush

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In 2021, Lucas Wainaina, from Thangira village of Makuyu in Murang’a County was among 3,500 smallholder farmers who received an early Christmas gift following a Sh 31 million bonus pay-out by Kakuzi PLC for quality Hass avocado fruits delivered earlier to the firm.

He has also been able to tap into Kakuzi’s already established export market, every season, he delivers three pickups full of avocado fruits with each carton fetching him a minimum of Sh 300. 

Sorted fruits are packed into cartons of either four kilograms or 10kg. 

“The first payment is done immediately after delivering the fruits. Two weeks later after processing, they usually send the second payment. And at the end of the year, I do get a bonus which is always good money,” Wainaina reported. 

Kakuzi usually pays farmers a farm-gate price on delivery of the fruits, packs and sells the fruits, and then shares the resultant profit (bonus) with farmers.

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Mzee Wainaina has been an avocado farmer for the past 12 years and has no regrets about venturing into the fruit’s farming after full-time retirement.

His initial avocado trees were Fuerte variety which is an older variety in Kenya and is often seen as the standard avocado. 

“I initially started with Fuerte variety and I only planted five trees which dried up except one. At that time, Kakuzi had not introduced avocado farming,” he said.

In 2012, when Kakuzi PLC initiated the integration of smallholder farmers into their business with the goal of empowering them economically, Mzee Wainaina joined a local group which the company helped organise. “That’s when I realized avocado farming would be more profitable than mangoes. Kakuzi introduced me to Hass variety,” he added. 

Presently, he has over 200 Hass variety avocado trees which occupy about three acres of his land. This has placed him in an advantageous position as this type of variety is the most popular avocado for export since it enjoys a good market in Europe as compared to other varieties. 

The fruit’s prominent feature is that it turns dark purple when ripe.

Having started with mangoes and other food crops such as maize and beans before shifting to avocado farming after he realized the potential the fruit had, he made a deliberate effort to invest heavily in the avocados by securing more space in his five-acre farm. 

“I have come to realise that avocado farming is actually a godsend venture due to the higher returns I have been getting lately from the investment,” said Mzee Wainaina.

He has also been enjoying free extension services guaranteeing him better crop husbandry and output translating to more production and more money in his pocket. He added that the firm has a fully-fledged smallholder department that has extension officers who visit his farm regularly, offering training sessions in line with Kakuzi’s best standards.

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“The extension services are a broad range of activities – since I have matured trees and others are young. Even when I was starting up, they helped me to get seedlings from their nurseries: guided me through the process from planting, harvesting, post-harvest, and marketing, and they are always available to offer assistance,” he said.

Mzee Wainaina is set to add more avocado trees.

“Every season I will be adding a few more trees targeting high returns because the Hass avocado market is growing each day and when a big company like Kakuzi embraces this opportunity by planting hundreds of its acres under Hass avocado due to the stability of the variety’s market and high returns, then, why not me?”

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