[Kenya] Passion fruit farming boosts trader's earnings
Elisha Langat never catches a break in his in farm in Bomet County.He has six dairy cows, tea bushes and is multiplying potato seed.
At the Teganda collection centre boda bodas were busy dropping farmers to sell fruits while seedlings were also on sale to those wishing to expand production as well as new farmers venturing into growing.
Women sold ripe bananas to feed the riders, marketers and hangers on who idled around watching the activities an area where a market is developing owing to the money farmers earn on weekly basis from the passion fruits. It was a buzz of activity, an indication of how commercial farming is changing lives.
Langat confessed earnings from passion has enabled him to pay dowry, build a nice house, keep dairy cows, bought a car and a motorbike. From the proceeds he has planted tea and is planning to set up a zero-grazing unit to create more space to plant more passion fruits since the current orchard is aging and he doesn’t want to suffer a reduction in earnings. He has set aside blocks for rotation.
He has been growing passion for two years. He is a member of the 200-member Tetanyon community based organization that was approached by USAID through the Kenya Agricultural Value Chains (Kaves) to pilot commercial farming of passion fruits.
Out of about 30 who attended the initial training, he was among the first to establish an orchard as others adopted a wait-and see approach.
They attended a field day at the chief’s farm in Boito Village and he was attracted to reports of how much a farmer can earn from a .03 of an acre. The chief told them no other crop can give that kind of earnings from such a small parcel of land.
A Kaves study conducted by Dr Agwalla indicates that passion fruit is the most profitable crop on the smallest land unit and can give smallholder farmers a living income. The study emphasizes on the crop as a smallholder investment since it’s difficult to manage larger plantations due to the nature of the crop that requires attention to the minutest detail by hand labour as well management of the plant that flowers, fruits and matures simultaneously.
“ You will find a flower, a developing fruit as well as a mature one on the same branch of a passion plant requiring careful attention not do damage any of the stages. Spraying is also difficult because of the balance between the flower, the developing fruit and the mature one which requires to be free of pesticides limits, diseases and pests in the market.
Armed with excitement and expectation he was determined to find out for himself. He took all the details ranging from farm preparation to hole and row measurements and got down to work.
An agriculture extension officer who was part of the training helped him to sample the soil for testing at Mea where it was given a clean bill of health. He was advised to use manure. He dug two foot round square holes, put the top soil aside mixed with a debe of manure and returned the mixture to the hole and planted his seedlings after a month.
The reason for this was to give time for decomposition and aeration, mixing and moisture formation to create a conducive environment for the plant to thrive. Decomposition kills harmful organisms. The holes are dug at 3 metres and x 2ft apart between rows and pants respectively.
He booked seedlings from the Boito chief at Ksh 40 each, 160 plants and took good care of them through regular weeding, foliar feed application and spraying against pests and diseases.
He trellised the plants as per instructions from the agronomist. His neighbours started trooping to his farm to watch the plants grow. A few followed in his footsteps and established own orchards. Six months later he made his maiden harvest. He sold at ksh 80 a kilo. Excited with the earnings he added another 80 plants immediately. On the 8th month the harvest had increased to 150ks with a corresponding rise in earnings. He added another set of seedlings and currently the orchard has 595 plants earning him between Ksh 20,000 - 30,000 weekly.
Whitefly is the most common pest and is controlled through a spray programme that indicates what products to use.