China telecoms graduate opts for farming

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It’s all about bananas in Meru’s Mitunguu Rwompo village. But one farm stands out. Verdant Farm, a 30-acre farm owned by one young man Oscar Gitonga.

Gitonga, though a graduate in Telecommunication and Information Engineering from Liaoning University of Technology in China, says he found passion in farming.

And just how does he grow the bananas?

“To grow bananas, one needs to dig sizeable holes measuring 3ft by 2ft deep. Bananas should be planted deep as good anchorage is provided by deep planting while at the same time preventing premature emergency of suckers. One wheelbarrow of manure and two handfuls of fertilizers are mixed thoroughly with soil before planting is done,” Gitonga explains.

Gitonga uses spacing of 13ft from one line to the other and 12ft from one crop to the other. After eight months, Gitonga applies three wheelbarrows of manure per plant, spreading it on the open ground at the location of the roots. He then uses three bags of fertiliser NPK 17:17:17 per acre and thoroughly mixes by use of a Jembe while ensuring plenty of water to the crop.

Gitonga applies fertiliser at the onset of every rainy season in an alternative manner where if in the April rains he used NPK 17:17:17, the next season the October rains he will use NPK 23:23:0 and within eight months the bananas flower producing a lot of suckers.

“The first harvest is after a year. Serious harvesting starts six months after the first harvest after which you will be harvesting monthly and the cycle is continuous,” Gitonga explains.
When the bananas are mature enough, they are harvested, graded, packed in crates and transported a method that ensures that the fruits aren’t bruised and their shelf life is improved.

Gitonga sells his banana that supplies Nairobi and its environs. On average the least he gets per month per acre is Sh30,000.

Crop intergration Since bananas take nine months to form a canopy and mature, Gitonga integrates other crops such as pawpaw, water melon and butternut that act both as waiting crops and also as cover crops.

“Before planting bananas, I start with paw paws which I plant six months prior to the time I plan to plant bananas and once the pawpaw start flowering, I then plant bananas and during this time I also integrate other cover crops that also act as waiting crops such as water melon and butter nut which fetch premium in the market,” he explains.

Today, as his fellow engineers grappling with complex numbers involving structures, designs and all, Gitonga is one happy farmer reaping from his passion.

He also managed to venture into dairy farming, rearing 15 cows 6 of which are bulls, 4 heifers, and five lactating cows managing an average of 30litres per cow.

To the youth, Gitonga advises, them to try realize that one special thing that they are good at and specialize in it instead of sitting and waiting for others to discover something for them.