Monday, August 15, 2022

How I make millions from my vanilla farm

Andrew Simiyu, a 35-year-old farmer from Kwale County ventured into vanilla farming. He is now earning a lot more from his vanilla farm than he had anticipated. For a crop that is rarely grown in Kenya, Simiyu has beaten the odds and owns almost 3,000 vines of the vanilla crop.

The vanilla variety grown by Mr. Simiyu is known as Vanilla Planifolia. The vanilla sells at a high of Kshs. 25,000 per kilogram.

“I ventured into vanilla farming in 2018, and this will be my fifth year growing vanilla,”

He says.

Mr. Simiyu is the owner of Kusini farm where he plants the vanilla.

“I stumbled upon it while researching the most lucrative plants one can grow here in the tropics, and quickly realized it grows in places with similar weather conditions as ours.”

For the initial investment capital into this business, Mr. Simiyu put in Kshs. 250,000 because the crop had to be imported. However, these days it is easy to start vanilla farming because the vines are easy to find.

The Vanilla variety “Vanilla Planifolia” grown by Mr. Simiyu in Kusini farm, Kwale county. A kilo of this variety costs Kshs. 25,000.

He started growing the crops on one acre and later expanded it to two acres. He looks forward to diversifying his project to ten acres soon.

“Vanilla requires shade and support to thrive; therefore, I took advantage of the trees that are available on the farm such as mango trees and cashew nut trees.”

He says.

The father of one started with 1,000 vines and due to his inexpertise and drought-related problems in the country, he suffered a loss. He however recovered and he now has 3,000 vines.

The vanilla vines are sold at different prices depending on the length of the vine you intend to buy. For example, a 60-80 cm vine costs Kshs. 150, 1-meter costs Kshs. 300 and 1.5 Meters cost Kshs. 500 each. The length of the cutting is very important as it determines how fast the vanilla will grow.

“The longer the cutting, the faster it will reach maturity. For 60-80 cm cutting, it will take two to three years.”

“For me, it takes two years to mature and another six months to bear fruits after flowering but the duration to maturity depends on the length of the vine. The longer one, 1.5 meters matures faster than the shorter ones.”

Says Mr. Simiyu.

Before starting vanilla farming, he conducted a lot of research and traveled to several places to learn more about the crop.

He faced several challenges while starting which include, a lack of water. Vanilla is also a labor-intensive crop during planting and pollination since pollination is done by hand and not by bees.

“We are selling our beans locally and in most cases, clients contact us from recommendations. Here in Kwale County, we sell some of our produce in Diani Beach where there are hotels, resorts and tourists”

He adds.

“Vanilla farming is very rewarding and I highly encourage those who have available land and a passion for farming to take it up. It will change your and your family’s life. It is a long-term venture as the plant can keep producing up to 10 years or more with good management.”

Andrew Simiyu plans to expand his crop capacity to ten thousand vines so that he can start selling both locally and for export.

Some of the uses for vanilla include flavoring drinks such as yogurt and medicinal purposes.

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