By MURIMI GITARI
He probably never knew that he would one day be recognized and get awarded not only as the best avocado farmer but one who has ventured into organic farming of this green gold.
Robert Mburu Murega, a 66 year old retired Lab technician who worked in the ministry of Education took his early retire after seeing the potential of making more income from avocado farming. He had planted fuerte varieties that were the only grafted avocados in the early 80s when he was still a civil servant that would give him enough money.
In the year 2003, Mr. Mburu decide to quit his job to invest in farming where he added more avocado trees that he had already had in his farm.
Located a few meters form Kihumbuini shopping center in Kihumbuini sub-county in Muranga County, Mburu’s farm has a total of 1,800 avocado trees of the hass variety after cutting all the fuerte and grafting them with hass.
“I decided to cut the fuerte variety and graft with hass due to the black spot deficiency in fuerte and the low prices they were giving at the time,”Mr. Mburu tells HortiNews after paying him a visit in his 8 acre farm. “I started with 100 hass trees after seeing the potential in them when I visited a farm at Kandara in Muranga County giving me a total sense of the variety where I grafted my fuerte and within six months started bearing 10-15 fruits,” he adds.
From the year 2006, Mr. Mburu started planting plants not less than 200 seedlings that he makes from his nursery which is in his farm and fully cerified by the certification bodies in Kenya. He also sells the seedlings to farmers who come to buy from him and during our visit he had grafted 1,000 seedlings to a farmer who is yet to pick at a cost 0f Ksh 25o per seedling.
He started making his harvest in the year 2009 from the old grafted trees and the new ones by making an harvest of 40, 000 piceses of avocados from the old ones while the new ones would give him 20, 000 seedlings in a season.
‘I do organic farming in my farm as it Is cheap due to the fact that I do not depend on pesticides or fertilizers but rather use compost manure that I make in my farm,” Mr. Mburu says. He does not use any machinery in his farms as he has traps that he uses to counter fruit flies and False Scolding Moth FCM which are the most threatening pests in avocado farming.
“These traps are the best when it comes to monitoring the pests in your farm as they will help you know if the farm is highly infested by pests or not, you are able to do daily recordings in a pest control file of the pests that in your farm by the means of the traps,” he explains. The recordings do not occur to those that use pesticides in their farms as they might not know what pests they have killed after spraying.
All the traps in the farm are numbered and contain phenomenon inside that attracts the pests where once they get inside they are trapped by getting stuck to a gummy paper and put inside the traps. When the farm is highly infested, Mr. Mburu keeps the traps all over and within a couple of days there will be few or no pests in his farm. FCM traps are kept overnight as the pests invade the fruits at night when they are very small in size.
He says that organic farming is very sensitive as one has to keep guard to the farm to ensure there are no strange things within the farm. He has a pit consisting of charcoal and concrete mixture where he throws away any kind of strange liquid that he finds in the avocado farm. The farm is well organized by having separated farm house, offices, cow sheds and the farm.
Mr. Mburu depends on rain water to water his plants and does not use any kind of irrigation.
His pruning stars in the first year after planting the seedlings while he prunes the mature trees after every harvest he makes. This is for the management of the plants where they will be able to get enough lighting and to control overcrowding. After pruning he applies liquid copper and white emulsion to the pruned plants that help control fungal infection.
He has put 40 fruit fly traps in the farm and 10 FCM traps. The farm has golden tree varieties that are believed to grow quickly and produce avocados early. There are also giant trees that produce about 4,500 pieces in every season with each piece estimated to go at a price of KS 15 though he sells his avocados in boxes.
The retired lab technician who served he government for only ten years applies the manure he makes to his plants in the months of July and August when there are no fruits to harvest. He gets more manure from the Maasai community to add to what he makes which is believed to be much nutritious to crops.
He currently sells his produce to Mavuno Orgnics, Kandia and Sunripe exporters but he is in the process of getting certified where he will be exporting directly from the month of September.
Mr. Mburu is certified by Eco-cert from Madagascar but based in France to practice organic avocado growing and Afri-cert, a Kenyan certifying body that is global.
When asked about the new China market, he overwhelmly supports it as it will bring a lot of benefit to the Kenyan avocados as there will be no further rejects again. This means that, with the exportation of peeled and frozen fruits, both fully grown avocados that are considered as rejects will also find their way to the export market together with the export ones.
Muranga county alone, exports 10 containers a day with farmers having planted more than 5 million avocado trees this year as the market continues to expand.