Saturday, April 13, 2024

Benard Muhia: I invested in farming after losing my savings in pyramid schemes

After retiring from the Kenya Police Service, Benard Muhia invested his money in pyramid schemes hoping to get good returns but his hopes were dashed when the schemes collapsed.

With the little money set aside, he bought a piece of land in Kambirwa, Murang’a where he tried growing various crops but the harsh climate conspired against him.

He turned to mangoes and avocado but the returns were disappointing, so he cut down the fruit trees in frustration though he did not give up.

After doing basic market research, he tried oranges which did not do well during the first harvest but he hang on, sure something positive would come out.

Muhia says he opted for oranges because very few people grew the fruit in his locality, thus reducing competition but increasing the market price.

“I realised orange farmers were few in the area meaning my fruits would attract good market prices,” he said. To start with he planted 20 trees which he increased to 80.

However, he did not get as much yield as expected, blaming it on excessive industrial chemicals he used on the farm.

“I thought using chemical fertilisers would boost my production and fasten maturity but I was wrong,” he said. After consulting agricultural experts, he opted to try organic farming and the results were encouraging. He got more and big seedlings and used less money for farm inputs.

Instead of chemical fertilisers, he used livestock manure on his farm, mixed it with an organic compound to add nutrients, a method that also reduced his budget on conventional chemicals. Muia says he has gained knowledge from agricultural seminars and booklets on new farming trends.

“Every time I hear of a farmers’ seminar I attend because I am always assured of gaining more knowledge on farming,” he says.

Muhia farms two orange varieties Washington navel and varasia and terjalin (Thandara) to complement his oranges.

He says he does not have to take his fruits to the market as they are ordered even before they are ripe.

“The demand for my fruits is overwhelming and in most cases I am not able to meet the quantity demanded by customers,” he says.

Though he did not disclose the actual amount he makes monthly, he says he records good sales with a piece going for Sh15, a total figure that has enabled him to fend for his family and educate his children to higher levels.

“I don’t regret opting for orange farming because I am getting good money to sustain my family and carry out other development projects,” he says. His major challenge is water for irrigation since the area is semi-arid and the fruit fly.

“I will be happy to access to irrigation water to expand and boost to my farming activities and eventually supply fruits even outside the county,” he said. He also says fighting fruit fly is a major enemy on his farm.

“I have done everything I can to get rid of the fruit fly but no success,” he said adding that agricultural experts should come up with methods of curbing the pest to help farmers to enjoy better yields.

“This insect can cause massive loss of fruits especially during the peak season and we would be happy if we can get means to eliminate it from our farms. Oranges, are a source of vitamins A, B and C, minerals like potassium and calcium.

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