A drive through Bwake ward in Bungoma county and farms are characterised by a dry maize crop, while some have young well-green sugarcane crop.
At Khachoge village is a farm of its kind. Here, you are ushered in by an orchard with different fruits varieties.
There are short flowering mango trees, well fruited pawpaw trees, some gooseberries plants, avocado as well as macademia trees in the one acre farm.
One would be forgiven for thinking that this farmer actually decided to establish the orchard to get fruits for his family.
However, this is not why the orchard was established, as its owner, Gervase Wakoli, explains.
“This is an experimental farm, on which I wanted to identify the best crop not only for my vast farm, but also for the community around this area,” says Wakoli
One by one, he observed the crops and with keen consultations with agronomists, eliminated them.
He did not like the mango because when frost falls, which is a common occurrence here, it destroys all the fruits. That way, he decided to cancel the crop out of his list.
Gooseberries he explains, is not only labour intensive, but he also has no connection to a ready market. So he dropped this one too.
While pawpaws look like they are doing great, they are affected by frost as it leaves marks on the fruits, which later turns black, thus not attractive to customers. Besides, a market survey revealed that these fruits sell for as low as Sh20 each in the local market. For these two reasons, he decided not to venture into large scale pawpaw farming.
Settles for Macadamia
Finally, Wakoli decided to venture into macadamia farming. Although macadamia trees take long to mature he says, he will be patient as he is optimistic that he will not only earn handsomely, but also spend less money and time on labour.
Besides, he is eyeing a macadamia processing plant at Bungoma, town for a ready market.
Over the last two months, Wakoli has planted over 350 macadamia trees in his five-acres farm.
To ensure that he keeps off weeds, and benefits from the farm as the crop matures, he wisely chose to intercrop the macadamia with sweet potato vines.
“I got certified sweet potato vines seeds from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) in Bungoma,”he says, adding that certified seeds are an almost assurance of high quantity and quality harvest.
He has a ready market at a local flour processing plant which he says, mills sweet potatoes to flour for sale.
Besides establishing his own farm, Wakoli has already started selling macadamia seedlings to farmers around his farm, most of whom are his clients for indigenous chicks.
Over the last three months, he says, he has sold over 3,000 seedlings to about 75 farmers. He sources the seedlings from a certified breeder, and sells to the farmers at Sh400 each.
Like many other farmers, Wakoli is eyeing opportunities to benefit maximally from macadamia farming.
In a bid to promote this value chain, with funding from the European Union (EU), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), is running the Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) project to empower stakeholders in the macadamia value chain.
The project aims at promoting standards and expanding markets both locally, regionally as well as internationally.
“I am praying that I will benefit from the MARKUP project so that I can learn from other stakeholders including experts who will be involved in the project,” says Wakoli
If he gets to sharpen his skills and knowledge about macadamia farming, he says, he will vigorously enlighten other farmers on the need to broaden beyond just the traditional maize and sugarcane farming.
To him, he says, macadamia is a crop which may create a positive economic revolution in the future.
Besides macadamia, the MARKUP project will also focus on passion fruits, chilli, groundnuts, mangoes, snow peas and French peas.
The project is implemented in 12 counties across the country.
Kenya is set to host the ninth international macadamia symposium in August 2021 during which attendants will deliberate issues about this nut, including achievements and challenges.
The event, which is held after every two years, brings together stakeholders along this value chain who include scholars, experts, farmers, processors, entrepreneurs among others.