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Kate Wambugu: Laikipia Farmer Making Millions From Apples

Agriculture is one of the most profitable industries in the world, employing over a billion people and in Kenya, several individuals have taken advantage of the largely available market and ventured into farming.

In this article, WoK focuses on Kate Wambugu of Wambugu Apples who runs a multi-million fruit farm in Laikipia County. During an interview on September 22, 2022, with YouTube channel Business Hour KE, the businesswoman revealed that she made the decision to venture into the field after witnessing the success her father had achieved.

She revealed that her father began apple farming in 1985 and was successful in the venture. 37 years later, Kate is following in her father’s footsteps, better yet, named her farm after him-Peter Wambugu.

“This is the 37th year we are farming, My father was the founder of the Wambugu Apple, he started in 1985, and it was named after him,” Kate Wambugu said.

“We’ve seen our dad making money. Whatever you do is more about the end product. Whether the job leaves you clean or dirty, what matters is what you are getting out of the hustle.”

Kate Wambugu: Laikipia Farmer Making Millions From Apples
File image of Kate Wambugu at her apple farm in Laikipia County. |Courtesy| Wambugu Apple|

During the interview, Kate stated that Kenya imports most of its apples from South Africa, Egypt and the Middle East, however, added that the country will soon produce its own fruits since farmers are now beginning to exploit the field.

She explains that apple farming is not labour intensive as many would presume, adding that it is easy to farm the fruits since one only needs land, water and manure to grow the trees.

The apple farmer further stated that the venture is also among the most lucrative.

“Once you plant the seedlings, it takes nine months only for the trees to start producing fruits,” Wambugu explained.

“One acre can accommodate 600 seedlings. However, you can start with a few seedlings. One tree can also produce close to 200 fruits at the bare minimum per harvest,” she added.

Kate stated that the main advantage of farming apples is their longevity, noting that the trees can be harvested for 100 years. She further explains that a farmer can rake in Ksh10 million per acre per harvest. depending on the plantation season, one can harvest up to three times a year.

She insists that manure is key in apple farming and can become the difference between success and failure.

Apples are sold to local consumers while others are sold to the United Kingdom (UK) among other countries. Before they can be sold or exported, the fruits are ascertained by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

Kate Wambugu: Laikipia Farmer Making Millions From Apples
File image of an apple tree at the Wambugu apple farm in Laikipia County. |Courtesy| Wambugu Apple|

Apples are believed to perform well in cold regions, specifically coffee and tea zone areas. Cold climate enables them to abort leaves, a vital stage to allow the flowering process to take place.

“Apple is a temperate fruit, which requires cold weather to break its dormancy. Cold stress them, resulting to the shedding of leaves,” Peter Wambugu told the Standard during a past interview.

He added that temperatures of between seven to 10 degrees centigrade are ideal at that stage.

Mr Wambugu further noted that in Kenya, extreme cold season is experienced in the month of July, implying that locally grown apples can only be harvested once a year. He, however, explained that the fruits can be harvested twice a year when artificial methods are used to break the dormancy.

“Manually, remove all leaves and sprouting shoots. Two to three weeks later, apply a lot of water in the plants, they automatically start flowering and fruiting,” he explained, noting that flowering is the major problem in apples.

Although apples can flourish in different soil conditions, deep and well-drained soils are most ideal. The most preferred soil pH is between 5.5 to 6.5.

Mr Wambugu revealed that the new grafted Wambugu Apples can be grown in semi-arid areas and harvested twice a year.

“I invented new Wambugu Apples in 2014, practically for the last five years they have been proven to perform well in both cold – humid and semi-arid areas,” he asserted.

According to kate, the Wambugu Apples unlike other apples which start fruiting two years after planting, this variety matures after just nine months.

“Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (Karlo) and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) approved it after a thorough analysis. In fact, it’s Karlo that named it Wambugu Apple,” she said.

Wambugu Apple seedlings take two months in a nursery bed and cost Ksh1,000 each. The seedlings are sold to local farmers as well as international clients. Before exporting the seedlings, Wambugu washes the roots thoroughly to remove soils.

According to the farmer, each should be two feet wide all around, with a spacing of eight feet from one plant to the other and an inter-row space of eight feet. He uses well-decomposed organic manure, which is mixed with topsoil, then put in the hole up to a height of one foot. The remaining space is for maintaining the plants with manure and water.

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