Clad in a checked shirt, matching trousers and shoes, Elisha Lang’at holds a clipper, which resembles a pair of scissors, in his left hand.
He then holds a ripe avocado fruit dangling from a tree and cuts it from the stem before putting it into a pink plastic basin and going for the next.
Lang’at is one of the farmers in Bomet who have embraced farming of the crop as market prospects brighten.
He began farming the fruit in 2015 after raising Sh15,000 capital, with nearly half going to purchase of seedlings.
“I started with 40 seedlings that I bought at Sh150 each. The rest of the money was spent on labour (digging holes) and manure,” shares the farmer, who farms in Teganda sub-location, Bomet Central.
Currently, he has 60 avocado trees of the Hass variety and harvests fruits from 40. “The fruit trees take three to four years to mature,” he says.
Before planting the seedlings, the farmer first digs holes that are 2 by 2 feet. As he digs the holes, he separates the topsoil from the subsoil.
“I mix topsoil with well-decomposed manure,” he explains, adding that he mixes the soil with two buckets of manure.
He then removes the plant from the nylon pots and plants 6m between the rows and 7m from plant-to-plant.
“You should ensure the soil around the hole holds firm. Then the plant should be watered well, mulch applied to reduce moisture loss and prevent weeds from growing.”
Pests such as spider mites, thrips and whiteflies are some of the threats to his crops but he controls them by spraying pesticides. One avocado tree, he says, produces 250-300 fruits of fruits per season.
He sells the produce at Sh60 per kilo to the Nairobi-based Davja Investment Limited – an exporter of fruits and vegetables.
“This farming is profitable compared to any other crops so long as you manage to keep pests and diseases at bay.”
Lang’at grows the crop on a half-acre plot, but he is working to increase the acreage to two as the market expands, especially following the deal between China and Kenya.
Other farmers in the county are following suit as they see avocado farming pays as compared to maize. Carol Mutua, a crop expert from Egerton University, says the best climatic condition for avocados should be warm to cool climate.
That is between 1,800m and 2,100m above sea level. “Warm temperatures are essential for the fruits set,” she says.
“Avocados do well in areas with rainfall averages of 1,000-1,500mm per annum, well distributed throughout the year. Irrigation is essential where rainfall is not sufficient.”