Yesterday I decided to go on a road trip to visit John Cheserem. John is one of the pioneer Hass avocado farmers in Uasin Gishu County. His farm is located in Chembulet, which is about 26 km from Eldoret town. Chembulet lies along the Eldoret-Iten road. My journey was smooth and I give thanks to God. It was actually my first time visiting Chembulet, and I was afraid of going past the center. I didn’t have Google Maps, so I stopped to ask for directions.
Umefika. Chembulet iko hapo mbele.said one pedestrian.
I was elated. I had finally arrived. I saw John standing next to the main road, and he waved at me to stop. He stepped into the car and we started driving towards his home.
The drive to the farm was smooth. I could see maize and beans growing all around us. The weather was perfect. The neighbors waved at us as we passed by. There were trees everywhere. It was easy to see why John and his family chose to live here. It felt peaceful and friendly.
When it comes to avocado farming, John Hataki Mchezo. When we reached his compound, all I could see were avocado trees everywhere.
He started the farm with his wife, and they now have 300 Hass and 100 Fuerte avocado trees all planted within 3 acres. He has trees that are between 2 and 5 years of age.
We ventured into Avocado farming in 2016. We started with a few number of threes as we expanded over the years. Uasin Gishu farmers used to suffer because we never had any cash crop that was sustainable. Avocado farming is our opportunity to earn big and consistently. “-he says.”
No part of the farm has been wasted. He has grown vegetables in between the avocado plants, which act as a source of food for him and his family.
Why avocado farming is great
After the tour, we were welcomed into the house for lunch by his wife. The lunch was delicious. Mr. and Mrs. Cheserem are cheerful and humble. They are forward thinkers and only talk about development and progress. This can be clearly seen in how they have managed their farm.
They believe that if you want a stress-free retirement, then farmers in Uasin Gishu County should grow avocados. Avocado has little to zero maintenance and the income is sure and steady. They are literally trees and trees are less likely to fail compared to other seasonal crops.
Avocados will not fail you. All you have to do is plant one tree and be patient for three years. It will give you an assured income that grows as the years go by. You will profit from your farm for at least the next 20 years. John tells me.
Their avocados are harvested 3 times a year, and the best thing is that the market is assured. As soon as the avocado fruits are ready, the buyers come and pick them up on the farm. Imagine that! Yaani, you incur no harvesting expenses. The avocado fruits are then exported to various parts of the world.
Some of the reliable buyers in Kenya are Kakuzi, Bio-Farms, Vegpro, Sunripe, Kenya Horticultural Exporters, and East African Growers. These companies source their avocados primarily from smallholder farmers.
You can start harvesting avocadoes once a tree is between 2-3 years old. At this age, a tree can give you between 3 kg and 10 kg. The yield depends on how well you have been feeding and irrigating the tree. Where you source the seedlings also matters. Some seedlings grow well while others do not. Quality matters. Says John
I am getting up to 40kg per tree on some of the trees I grew 5 years ago. That is around 2 crates full of avocados. The yield will go up to 100 kg per tree when the tree gets to 7 years old. He laughs.
How to succeed in avocado farming
His avocado farm is doing well. So I asked them what their secret was. I have seen people who have avocados that are not producing well. Some of the points they shared were:
- It all boils down to how you manage your avocado trees. You need to weed your farm, fertilize, and irrigate your plants on a regular basis. Irrigation happens every day. Your plants should not get stressed because of drought.
- You need to test your soil and determine if it has the right nutrients. If not, then you need to repair your soil under the guidance of a soil expert.
- You also need to buy genuine seedlings from certified sellers. It’s easy to fall prey to unscrupulous sellers who are looking to make money off you.
- Start small and grow slowly. It’s the journey that matters.
- If you can drill water, then do so. This will secure and solve all your water problems. One of their sons is a geologist who helps with drilling boreholes. They are happy to share their contact information if you require one.
John and his wife have drilled a 90m deep well that supplies water to an overhead 5000 Liter tank. They pump water using a solar water pump thus saving money and energy. The water from the tank is used in both his home and farm.
All their avocado plants are under drip irrigation. The small trees are irrigated using small adjustable button drip emitters which pour water at the base of the stem, while the large trees are irrigated using micro-sprinklers. The reason for this is that avocado roots grow outward from the tree trunk in all directions, reaching beyond the tree canopy. The micro-sprinkler can irrigate a radius of 1.5m away from the tree trunk, thus providing water everywhere.
Bye-bye avocado farm
The tour was great. We talked about a lot of other things as well. Life and business. Everything was inspiring. I got there at 11 am and it was not 3 pm. Time flies. It was now time to go. They gave me a huge bag filled with avocados to take home. I mean, such generosity is rare. We need more people like the Cheserems.
After saying goodbye to Mrs. Cheserem, John and I got into the car. He told me the tour was not yet over. He has a friend who he wanted me to visit before I went back. Apparently, this guy had planted 5 acres of passion fruit and was earning around 300K per week. Wow. I mean, is this the kind of money Uasin Gishu farmers are earning behind the scenes? But this is a story for another day. I need to get my eyes off the computer.
I enjoyed my trip to Chembulet farm and if I get another chance to visit, I won’t miss it for the world.