A USAID-funded programme has made significant strides in bolstering the financial prospects of over 3,000 farmers in Western Kenya by facilitating their entry into the lucrative export market for avocados.

This transformation has been realised through the provision of clean planting material, resulting in enhanced fruit production and a marked reduction in disease-related issues, which is a major hindrance in accessing the overseas market.

The KCDMS Feed the Future initiative, conceived by the United States Agency for International Development, is at the forefront of this positive shift.

Its core objectives revolve around promoting avocado nurseries by offering soil treatment facilities and comprehensive training to cultivate robust avocado seedlings along this value chain.

KTL avocado seed nursery in Trans-Nzoia County. It is one of the enterprises that has benefited from KCDMA programme. Image:BDA.
KTL avocado seed nursery in Trans-Nzoia County. It is one of the enterprises that has benefited from KCDMS programme. Image:BDA.

The ripple effect of this initiative is profound, as it has virtually eliminated seedling mortalities experienced by farmers, substantially augmenting their productivity and income once the harvest season commences.

The KCDMS program, primarily focused on smallholder farmers, has effectively empowered a group of farmers to access the export market through established marketing firms.

In a compelling illustration of the programme’s success, the Bungoma Association of Avocado Farmers in Bungoma County successfully exported over 2,000 kilograms of avocados in the past season, marking a watershed moment in their journey.

Speaking on behalf of the association, Ndegwa Ndirang’u underscored the transformation that has taken place under the aegis of KCDMS.

“Before KCDMS intervened, we approached avocado farming casually; now, even on our modest plots of land, we treat avocado cultivation as a serious business to secure our income,” said Mr Ndegwa.

Moreover, KCDMS facilitated a benchmarking trip for the farmers in Murang’a County, renowned as one of the nation’s top avocado producers.

This experience exposed them to best practices, which they have since implemented in their own avocado farms.

The goal is to harness the two avocado seasons in Western Kenya to supply the global market, taking advantage of the periods when leading producers such as Peru and Colombia are not in season, thereby maximising their returns.

Mr Ndirang’u, also serving as the cooperative chair, lauded the training they received on proper crop husbandry, which significantly boosted their yields.

With over 70 percent of avocado exports originating from smallholder farmers, this segment plays a pivotal role in the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

To further underscore this point, Mr Ndirang’u said, “Given their crucial role, small-scale farmers require support to produce high-quality fruit that can compete effectively in international markets.”

Damaris Omuka, a manager at KTL Farm in Trans-Nzoia County. Image:BDA.
Damaris Omuka, a manager at KTL Farm in Trans-Nzoia County. Image:BDA.

KCDMS has committed Ksh30 million to modernise KTL nurseries in Trans-Nzoia County. A portion of these funds has been allocated to the construction of a soil sterilisation chamber, which effectively eliminates pathogens in the soil that could lead to diseases in seedlings.

Damaris Omuka, a manager at KTL farms, highlighted the benefits of this modernization.

“Optimal soil conditions significantly enhance the survival rate of seedlings, and this sterilisation chamber has provided us with the opportunity to produce more seedlings with an impressive survival rate,” she said.

She went on to emphasise their intentions to escalate the production of grafted seedlings to meet the burgeoning demand as more farmers seek to join the avocado production enterprise.

The nursery has already distributed 45,000 seedlings to 2,750 farmers while also imparting crucial training on meeting the stringent avocado export requirements.