Agri-business for Pastor David Odera pays tremendously.
David started a tree nursery just for his own home use, but years later he is sought after by many who require seedlings from his nursery. He says his nursery has benefitted all and sundry as he gets calls from as far as Nairobi. He is also sought for his diverse knowledge on the various trees and its benefits.
“I started my nursery tree and farming generally in 1990. I had developed a keen interest on the best farming practices considering that I had grown up seeing people farm but not reaping maximum benefits. Whenever an opportunity arose that involved learning anything on agriculture, I would avail myself. AYODEF was particularly helpful in bringing the extension officers to talk to farmers as well as other capacity building activities for the benefit of the farmers,” stated David.
AYODEF an Awareness Youth Development Foundation is a community based rural youth organization involved in community based initiatives and integrated rural development in western Kenya.
David owns a diminutive farm in the rocky areas of maragoli in Gambogi, yet he is able to reap maximum benefits in a land that many would desist from farming as it does not boast of a rich loamy soil that is best known for agriculture.
Pastor David’s nursery boasts of over 200 different species of trees; from fruit trees, to the exotic ones that are well sought after. Apart from growing food in his small farm for subsistence as well as small scale agri-business, he earns a living by selling the seedlings in hisnursery, teaching farmers on the various farming practices as well as students who visit his farm from time to time to learn from him effective farming methods.
“I normally prepare the seed beds, plant the various tree species especially the ones that I am certain are highly sought after and then distribute them to the various centres, farms as well individuals who buy them. They in turn transplant them in their farms and there are many success stories from the people who bought my seedlings,” stated David.
He has fruit trees which have become a favourite of many farmers in the rural areas which was not previously observed. From pawpaw’s to different varieties of the passion fruits, kales, yes even kales are normally planted in a nursery before they are transplanted. Tomatoes, oranges, to name but a few.
“If one wants a fruit tree, I normally take them through the process of transplanting which is very important. This will ensure that the seeding grows and matures as a healthy plant. I always advise farmers to use the organic manure to transplant as it keeps the pests at bay,” he stated.
I inquire on the different types of fruits that I am interested in learning and he gives me sufficient advice and some seedling to plant in my Father’s farm.
“An orange tree for instance takes between 18 months and 3 years to mature depending on the type of orange. The grafted ones take a shorter period of time to mature. The grafted paw paws take between 6 to 8 months while the traditional ones could take up to 2 to 3 years. I also have two varieties of passion fruit. The black and the yello
w ones. For one to gain maximally from the passion fruit, they need to create for them a support structure that can be natural – planting it beside the trees or bushes – or a man-made one. They also need to be tended from time to time.” he advises.
I ask him how true some of the myths surrounding the passion fruit that I have heard many times before are. That the plant attracts snakes.
“It’s true what you are saying, they are simply myths, no truths whatsoever. Snakes like bushy areas and that does not mean that the passion fruit tree attracts them. The best way to keep such animals away is to ensure that when transplanting one uses cow dung manure. Snakes do not like the smell of the cow dung and this will ensure they slither away, “he advises
Passion fruit ordinarily take 6 months to mature. Dig a hole, take at least 1 kilogramme of manure, and plant it. They need to be sprayed to ensure that pets don’t attack them. However, one has to wait until the plant has flowered before spraying,” headed.
David also plants watermelons; a fruit that is not very common in this area. This is to his advantage as there is less competition. They take a mere 6 weeks to develop after planting and the benefits are tremendous. He has 8 water melon plants.
Butter nuts are also vegetables that are foreign and being ignorant about them I am glad that I can learn a lesson or two about the plant. Butternuts resemble a guard and they look something close to the cassava plant. He explains that they are like the potatoes. One is required to peel them just the way one does the potatoes. They are then cut into small pieces and fried or boiled. They can be cooked alone, or be put in foods like githeri- a mixture of maize and beans – and eat them.
He is not surprised that I have never tried eating the butternuts because for a long time, many people from around this area viewed certain kinds of food as only belonging to “other” people or the urban residents as they looked foreign and many thought it was hard work to tend them.
“The butter nuts are very healthy as the nutrients therein help the body to fight illnesses and that’s why I am embracing them and teaching people about them which gives me so much joy. I sell my farm produce at the Kiboswa market or even to the members of my community who have discovered about them, mostly through referrals and word of mouth. I am glad that even as the women come to buy my produce I still teach them how they can improve their farming and make money,” stated David.
“The kitchen garden crops are also doing well in my farm as you can see. Kales can be very profitable if planted well with sufficient manure. They also need to be tended properly from time to time. Tomatoes and onions as well. One can make money from their kitchen garden without breaking a sweat if the best farming practices are utilised,” he added.
David also plants cassava and he says that his children prefer ugali – maize meal – made from the cassava plant as its healthy and tastes better. “Each time we cook ugali using the cassava flour, my children brag to the neighbour’s children that we have eaten ugali made form chocolate. To them it tastes like chocolate,” stated David.
David’s first born is in Form Four. The fact that he has been able to educate his children through farming, expanded his farming, built a better home for himself as well as paid his debts is definitely commendable. His children also learn by observing and he sometimes sends them to deliver the seedlings to clients. They also help to water them and he in return pays them some small commission which they use for their own needs like buying lotion for the girls.
The prices for his seedlings range between 50 cents to up to 200 shillings. Kales plus other vegetables One stick costs Shillings 0.50; Pawpaw Shillings 30, Oranges Shillings 30, Passion fruit Shillings 30, Pineapples Shillings 20, Avocado Shillings 40, just to mention a few.
“Top dressing is also an important procedure that many farmers ignore and thus end up with poor results. The produce also needs to be sprayed when need arises. Agravalia is a type of tree that the agricultural expert’s advice be used in the mixed crop farming for the best yields. I have tested it myself and the results are wonderful. It “mingles” well with the plants and does not take up the crops nutrients, it instead ensures that the crops mature faster and thus better yields,” advises David. They help to carry the seedlings to the various clients, they also help to water them and they get their share.
David’s wife, Judith Udira on the other hand is in charge of their grade cow. The cow which was worth Shillings 30,000 is currently 6 months pregnant.
“I am eagerly waiting for it to give birth as I know the returns will be tremendous. I know these types of cows produce a lot of milk. Considering that the price of milk per litre currently is Shillings 60, I am certain that I will get good returns. Perhaps 10 litres of milk each day,” stated Judith.
Many have learnt from David, that even from rocky soils, sufficient food supply throughout is possible.
By: Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications