- Their president, Damaris Muthoni says that she volunteered to host the project on her land located in the district of the city of Maragua.
- It took them three months to reach the market with 20 Macadamia plants and 160 Hass Avocado.
- To cut expenses along with falling seedlings prices in the market, the group decided to stop buying avocado seeds, instead paying people to collect them from nearby markets and farms.
In 2005, a group of 15 people with disabilities came together in Murang’a South Sub-county and founded Vision Farmers Challenged Group with the goal of building better lives.
They were 10 women and 5 men who after brainstorming sessions, settled on the business of horticultural seedlings.
“There was a craze for Hass avocado and macadamia companies. Apart from the dairy sector, avocado and nuts threatened coffee cultivation, ”explains Rebecca Njeri, the group’s secretary.
At that time, many disillusioned coffee growers were clearing their bushes due to low prices, debt and corruption plaguing the industry and replacing them with avocado or macadamia nuts.
“We analyzed the market for both products and decided it was intended to be long term. We knew as the craze picked up, there would be a seedling rush. In 2005, a grafted Hass avocado plant retailed for Sh 500 while that of exotic macadamia sold for Sh 700 ”, explains Ms. Njeri.
The group says it has developed a market strategy that would allow it to capitalize on the strong demand for both crops. They planned to sell a grafted Hass avocado at Sh 300 and an exotic macadamia plant at Sh 500.
Their president, Damaris Muthoni says that she volunteered to host the project on her land located in the district of the city of Maragua.
“We wanted to base our project with the lowest possible capital. We started with 100 macadamia plants as well as 200 avocados. We bought the seeds from our neighbors and after growing them in a nursery, we looked for grafting experts to turn them from traditional varieties to exotic varieties, ”says Muthoni.
It took them three months to reach the market with 20 Macadamia plants and 160 Hass Avocado.
“We made 58,000 Sh in gross profit and 38,000 Sh in net profit. It was encouraging. But by the time we were making our third batch of sales in 11 months, new seedlings dealers had sprouted up and the price was declining, ”explains Muthoni.
To cut expenses along with falling seedlings prices in the market, the group decided to stop buying avocado seeds, instead paying people to collect them from nearby markets and farms.
“We also decided to eliminate the macadamia seedlings because apart from the expensive seeds, they had proven to be very problematic to graft. Grafting hardwood is never easy and the success rate was so low, ”she adds.
In 2010, the group was doing well, selling an average of 2,000 Hass avocado plants every five months.
“But the prices continued to drop to such an extent that in 2017 a Hass avocado plant went for Sh 200. To beat the competition, we went down to Sh150. This made us popular with the farmers and we were selling all of our stock. We were selling at least 2,000 plants every six months, ”says Muthoni.
The group’s treasurer, Jane Wairimu, said that between 2006 and 2010, each member received an average of 6,000 shillings as an annual salary and that this rose to 8,000 shillings in 2011.
As their customer base grew, the profits rose sharply to reach
Sh 15,000 between 2012 and 2014. At the same time, through training programs, they helped found 12 groups in Murang’a County which have disabled members and are now self-sufficient.
“In 2015, the county government started distributing Hass avocado seedlings for free to farmers. Most politicians also eyeing the 2017 polls have started publishing them for free. Our business has slowed down and our dividends have fallen to 4,000 shillings between 2016 and 2018, ”Ms. Wairimu said.
In 2018, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) joined the group with the aim of producing quality seeds.
“This collaboration has helped us a lot since we have received free inputs as well as our water bills which have been substantially reduced since Kephis gave us water tanks to collect water. He also paid the bills for the purchase of graft buds and also provided us with a grafter, ”she says.
By 2021 the profitability of the group had improved and was able to pay 8,000sh in dividends every six months after Kephis also helped them gain market confidence by giving them a concession certificate and including the group in its list of accredited sellers of Hass avocado plants.
“All we want now is for the government to connect us to irrigation water to save us 20% of the revenue we lose to suppliers during dry seasons. We also started to think about other ways to develop ourselves. We are now working on a way to use our savings to buy land and build commercial houses, ”she said.
The treasurer says they saved enough to buy land for the project “and we are also seeking help from government and donors to help groups of people with disabilities who sell Hass avocado plants acquire more land.” .
On average, she says, one Hass avocado tree per year can bring in a minimum of 7,000 shillings and an acre can contain 350 trees, which represents at least 2 million shillings in income. “If those of us who are not severely disabled can be empowered to carry out our business plans, we won’t mind and we won’t need charity to make ends meet…” says Joseph. Irungu, a member.