Nyeri farmer finds fortune in fruit farming

Wambugu grows apples, pomegranates, dragon fruit, peaches, pepino melons and guavas.

In Summary

• The 65-year-old farmer purchased 23 acres in Laikipia where he grows fruits.

• A 90 kilo bag of peaches sells at Sh180, 000 while a full grown apple tree can produce 4,000 fruits . 

Peter Wambugu and his son Martin Ndirangu at his fruit tree nursery and checking on a grown apple tree
Peter Wambugu and his son Martin Ndirangu at his fruit tree nursery and checking on a grown apple tree
Image: By KNA

Tucked in the semi-arid plains of Ngobit village in Laikipia county lies a lush green orchard.

The orchard has among other fruits, apples, pomegranates, dragon fruit, peaches and common ones such as pepino melons and guavas.

The beautiful scenery of cool shades and ripening fruits gives one an impression of how the biblical Garden of Eden might have looked like.

The farm christened ‘Wambugu Apples Eden Garden’ is owned by Peter Wambugu. 

“Welcome to the garden of Eden,” Wambugu welcomes us to his 23 acre-farm.

The farmer has perfected the art of nurturing fruits for the last three decades and made him a sensation in the media and farming circles.

Out of curiosity, we decide to peruse his visitor’s book before we append our signatures. We come across names of high-profile individuals who have visited his farm.

Wambugu's story dates back to 1985 when he started cultivating apples on small-scale at his ancestral home in Tetu constituency, Nyeri. He secured an order to supply fruits to a tourist hotel in Nanyuki town.

Unable to cope with the rising demand, Wambugu started thinking of ways of increasing his apple trees. He got wind that there were wild apples growing in the neighbouring Aberdares Forest and started picking them.

He transplanted some of the seedlings to his farm and grafted them with the regular hybrid varieties and this gave rise to ‘Wambugu Apple’ that has to date become his brand name.

Unlike the conventional ones that are round in shape, Wambugu’s apples have an elongated oval shape and have undergone tests with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), now renamed Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO), and given a clean bill of health.

Apple farming was introduced in the country dates back to the during the colonial era.  A white settler started cultivation until the country attained independence.

Freedom fighters took some seedlings and planted within the Aberdares Forest that served as their main hideout.

It was here that Wambugu got seedlings and planted them on his small Nyeri farm as well as graft with other varieties.

With the proceeds he got from his venture, the 65-year-old farmer purchased 23 acres in Laikipia and relocated his business where he now grows fruits on large-scale. He has a nursery for various varieties of fruits.

Thirty-six years down the line, the farmer has roped in his entire family into fruit farming.

He says that despite the venture being labour-intensive, the returns are good. He did not disclose how much he makes from the venture.

“It is a profitable business because we no longer walk on foot, all my four children are driving and living comfortably,” Wambugu says.

He says that a piece of apple goes for Sh100 and a seedling sells at Sh1,000. For dragon fruit, he sells one fruit at Sh1,000 and the seedling at Sh2, 000, pomegranates and peach sell for Sh500, with peach seedling going for Sh10,000. Pepino melons sells at Sh200.

“A 90 kilo bag of peaches sells at Sh180,000 while a full grown apple tree can produce 4,000 fruits in one season and mathematically speaking, this should tell you that there is value in this business,” Wambugu says.

He says there is a huge local and international market for fruits that has been growing steadily over the years and challenged the large chunk of the unemployed youths to consider venturing in the trade.

The farmer says the interest from his produce of fruits and seedlings has been growing and he is receiving orders from the US, Europe as well as in some African countries.  

“I have raised and educated my children from this venture and upon completion of their education, all of them decided to join me,” Wambugu said.

He says some of his children have been going to various countries in the continent such as Nigeria, Malawi, Botswana and Malaysia to sell the seedlings and offer extension services as demand keeps growing for his products.

He says the secret behind the growing demand for his fruits is because they are naturally grown with no chemicals as the demand for organic food keeps on growing globally.

Wambugu says he repels pests using a concoction of aloe vera, Mexican marigold and pepper to repel pests.

To ensure constant supply of water in his farm, Wambugu has sunk a borehole and dug water pans from where he pump waters to his plants using drip irrigation.

At the base of every plant, he has also planted legumes such as beans to provide the much-needed nitrogen.

He urges the government to collaborate with him to sell the idea and his art to Kenyans especially the unemployed, as he believes that there is a huge opportunity in fruit farming enough to transform the fortunes of many people and the country at large.

“The government can as well buy each young person 10 seedlings of these exotic fruits for a start and by so doing we will to some extent, be able to alleviate the perennial problem of joblessness in the country,” the farmer says.

In future, the farmer hopes to expand the business and start doing value addition to some of the products such as apples to produce juice and wine.

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