My father inspired me to mint money from the soil
When twenty-nine-year-old Kennedy Kivindu’s formal employment income was not coming in two years back, he became destitute. Life became harder with rent and other bills to pay in an urban setup.
Disgruntled, he left his work as a plant operator in Machakos town and went back to his rural home in Mulingana village, Kangundo subcounty to seek advice from his father.
“He taught me that wealth is in the soil, much more than what people generally think is in the cities,” Kennedy says of the outcome of the talks with his father as we set out for a tour of his farm earlier this week.
Kennedy is one of the small-scale farmers that are contracted by our accelerator client, Miyonga Fresh Greens to supply it with fresh fruits for export. On this day, I accompanied Yvonne -the founder of Miyonga Fresh Greens- to some of the farms that supply her company.
Kennedy grows grafted avocadoes and mangoes in his small piece of land. His harvest for last season was average and he made some modest income. Prospects for the future can only get brighter for him. He has 102 grafted orange, 86 avocado and 41 mango trees, all of which shall have matured by this time next year.
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Tellingly, Kennedy has decided to go against the grain by moving away from the traditional crops such maize, beans and coffee because such crops don’t fetch as much as fruits. Growing of fruits is beneficial since it is not as labor intensive in comparison to the mentioned crops. Grains for instance require a lot of handling including preservation and storage, which means additional space.
Fruit trees also have the potential to easily adapt to changing climate. Even when the rains are scarce, they still survive and produce fruits. The loam soil in in the slopes of his area retain a lot of moisture, which is another adaptation method.
It is easily noticeable that the air around Mulingana is very fresh. Fruit trees dotting the rolling landscape makes the view breathtaking. Because trees, including fruit trees, need carbon dioxide (CO2) to survive, they absorb CO2 from the air and expel oxygen thereby acting as a filter for the air.
For now, Kennedy’s main challenge has been in the use of pesticides to spray the fruit trees. Quite often, he encounters unapproved pesticides in the market, some of which turn out to be counterproductive. Yvonne advises him to verify authenticity of the pesticides through the use of unique codes provided in the labels.
The cheer of growing fruits is slowly spreading to his peers, some of whom do not consider agribusiness as a viable venture for the youth. Kennedy’s brother who runs a business in a nearby town recently remarked that with his trees, Kennedy was headed for financial stability. Another friend of his has also visited him to learn the secret of growing fruits seeing, as it was, that it was fetching good returns.
With Miyonga Fresh Greens providing a steady market for the fruits, Kennedy and other farmers within Mulingana can comfortably concentrate on their business of growing the fruits, a sure manifestation of how green jobs not only transform livelihoods, but also the environment.
By Vincent Ogaya