It is a sunny mid-morning when we arrive at Lillian Kimanthi’s fruit farm in Muthyoi Village, Makueni County, located 135 km southeast of Nairobi, Kenya.
However, she is not at home and we are told she is busy pumping water from a borehole 500 meters away in the middle of her vast orchard.
Heading toward the thumping sound of the pump generator, we are welcomed by the breathtaking view and fragrance of blossoming oranges. Beneath the gravel covered path, the red soil looks dry and dusty.
In the distance, seven young farm workers load sacks full of oranges onto three trucks, which will be transported for sale to the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa, and other municipalities across the country.
Kimanthi, a 38-year-old mother of three, said when she ventured into the agribusiness 15 years ago, she did not foresee a future where she would one day be a wealthy woman.
“I was just a common farmer, growing maize and beans on infertile soil. But from an agriculture seminar I attended, I realized that the topography was optimal for the growth of oranges. So I tried planting a few seedlings,” she told ChinAfrica.
Through trial and error, Kimanthi kept learning as much as she could about growing oranges. She says by 2011, she only had a few mature orange trees on her farm.
“I had only planted 1 acre (0.4 hectare), but when my husband saw the [potential] benefits, he helped me plant orange seedlings on the whole 5 acres (2 hectares),” she recalls.
Within five years, she was known as the local “guru” in orange farming and began educating other women about the opportunities of growing the fruit, taking them through the farming process from planting to maturity, harvesting and marketing.
Kimanthi now grows a variety of citrus fruits, but one variety has brought her much fame and adoration from farmers from as far as Arusha, Tanzania.
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