Asango Village, Kenya – Victor Otieno, a retired teacher from Asango village in Ugunja sub-county, Siaya, is enjoying the fruits of his labor in an innovative agricultural venture. Otieno has successfully pioneered the cultivation of palm oil trees in his county, a venture he turned to after experimenting with various other crops.
According to Kenya News Agency, Otieno, recognizing a gap in the local market for affordable, locally produced edible oils, decided to venture into palm oil production on his half-acre farm, which also houses his modest residence. With initial research and understanding of the local climate, soil type, and drainage, he determined that these conditions were ideal for growing palm oil trees. In 2016, he began with just 20 seedlings from KALRO Busia, marking the start of his journey into edible oil production.
The retired teacher has since dedicated himself to the care of these trees, which have now become his primary source of livelihood. He diligently manages everything from watering and pest control to nurturing the trees for maximum yield. The palm oil tree, which matures in three and a half years and can produce for up to 35 years, presents challenges like birds and cows that are attracted to its fruits and leaves.
Each palm oil tree produces about seven bunches of fruits, from which Otieno extracts approximately 21 liters of oil per tree, with harvesting occurring every three months. He notes that palm oil is among the healthiest edible oils, credited with benefits such as preventing vitamin A deficiency, cancer, brain disease, and aiding in the treatment of various health conditions.
Otieno’s venture has proven more profitable than traditional local crops like maize and millet. He sells a liter of palm oil for Sh270-315 and believes that the low uptake of such profitable ventures among local farmers is due to a lack of awareness. He encourages other farmers to embrace palm oil cultivation, seeing its potential to transform lives.
His success has attracted buyers from Nairobi, Kisumu, and within Siaya. However, he observes that while the demand for palm oil is high, many potential buyers are unaware of where to source it. With the capacity to cultivate up to 75 trees per acre, yielding 1,575 liters per harvest, Otieno is keen to expand his farm and start teaching other local farmers about palm oil cultivation.
Otieno’s story highlights the potential for innovative agricultural practices to create sustainable livelihoods and meet market demands, even in small-scale farming scenarios.