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Telecommunication engineer peels money from bananas

Oscar Gitonga studied telecommunication engineering in China, but found his passion in farming where he is making good income

By Caroline Wambui 

Mitunguu ward in Meru County is one of the places in Kenya that can literally be described as, “a region that has gone bananas”.

Rows upon rows of bananas line up farms in the region that has been growing bananas for eons, with the old now giving way for the young.

Oscar Gitonga, 30, is one of the young people growing bananas in Mitunguu on large-scale and reaping handsomely from the agribusiness. 

Gitonga, the second born in a family of three, grows bananas on 30 acres, which he has christened Verdant Farm located in Rwompo village. The farmer supplies the produce to major towns in the country. 

Gitonga studied Telecommunication and Information Engineering at Liaoning University of Technology in China.

But upon his return home, the young farmer realised that his heart is in farming, taking after his father’s career line. 

“My father was an agriculture teacher and has been farming bananas for many years. When I came back, I realised that this is what I wanted to do,” he said.

He has mastered the art of growing the fruits, with the farmer explaining that one needs, “To dig sizeable holes measuring 3ft wide by 2ft deep first then plant the fruits,” he says, adding one wheelbarrow of manure and NPK 17:17:17 fertiliser should be mixed thoroughly with soil and placed in the planting hole. 

He alternates the fertiliser with NPK 23:23:0 and further applies three wheelbarrows of manure per plant at eight months. “The plant should be spaced 13ft in between rows and 12ft from one crop to the other,” he said. 

“The first harvest normally comes after about 12 months from the time the suckers were planted. But good harvesting continues six months after the first harvest as the cycle is continuous,” Gitonga explains 

He harvests the bananas, grades and packs them in crates to curb bruising of the fruits to prolong their shelf-life.

“I sell most of the fruits to traders who come from Nairobi at an average of Sh600 per bunch. This earns me good money that I have never thought of looking for an engineering job,” he said.

The farmer intercrops the bananas with pawpaws, melons and butternuts for more income, but more importantly, melons and bananas act as cover crops that suppress weeds.

“For pawpaws, before planting bananas, I start with them six months earlier. Once they start to flower, I then plant bananas and during this time I also add the watermelons and butternuts which fetch good money in the market,” he explains. 

As fellow engineers grapple with complex numbers, algorithms and structures, Gitonga is one happy farmer reaping from his passion – farming.

He has also diversified to dairy, keeping 15 cows, five which lactate giving him 30 litres each that he supplies to a local milk cooperative. 

Gitonga advises young people seeking to venture into farming to search for the one special thing that they are good at and specialise in it. “In my case, I went for bananas and then diversified later,” he concludes. 

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... Mkulima Young Team

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