Strawberry Growing Project

Strawberry is one of the fruits that has great potential both nutritionally and economically but remains unexploited. 96% of strawberry produced in Kenya is grown in three counties namely; Nyeri, kiambu and Kirinyaga. Out of the 47 counties, only 3 are major producers of strawberry, these leaves a lot to be desired. Strawberry growing is fun, takes a shorter period to mature (3-6 months) and can be grown by both small scale and large scale farmers. Even those who have no adequate land can enjoy eating fresh strawberry grown in containers, sacks and pots. As per the Horticulture Validated Report 2012 by HCDA, USAID and the Ministry of Agriculture, the potential for increased production of strawberry is immense due to ready market in the food processing industry. It is noted that the major constraints to increased production of strawberry are lack of suitable day-neutral varieties, inadequate quality planting materials, pests especially birds and limited knowledge on appropriate agronomic practices among growers.

Heavily mulched strawberry grown below fruit trees

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Our mission is to empower communities to enable them diversify into fruit farming by providing quality growing material and the necessary knowledge, skills and extension services needed. We believe that the best way to learn more on strawberry production is by practically engaging in strawberry growing. There is a growing demand for strawberry, more people especially the youth should be encouraged to engage in the production of strawberry and value addition. We initiated strawberry container gardens project to sensitize schools and community members in urban areas on the importance and benefits of strawberry farming. We have taught learners on how to grow, manage and propagate strawberries so as to produce quality fruits and seedlings that can be sold for income. We do hope learners will use the knowledge and skills gained to engage in strawberry farming as an economic activity.

ImageKids sampling strawberries after a lesson on strawberry container gardens

Strawberry farming doesn’t demand a lot especially if one is growing them organically. Adequate water is needed for adequate nutrient uptake, mulching plays an important role by suppressing weeds , helps soil retain water and keeps fruit from contacting soil. To provide adequate weed control, organic mulches must be at least 4 inches thick. Strawberry can be planted along with other companion plants such as onion, garlic and spinach that repel insects and pests. We have tried planting strawberries in sacks and they have flourished, their roots are fibrous and don’t go deep making them perform well in pots or recycled buckets. This is more practical in urban areas where there is limited space. Strawberries planted in pots serve both as an ornamental and edible plant

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Strawberry grown in sacks

Below are a few tips on strawberry growing:-
-Select sites with good water drainage and air circulation.
-Plant only disease and insect free seedlings.
-Apply thick mulch under and around plants.
-Practice weed management.
-Harvest fruit promptly and cool it to protect from fruit rot.
Our demo farm is open to the public, feel free to pay us a visit or refer a friend. We do have a variety of fruit seedlings, vegetables and herbs that will offer a good learning experience. We can be reached on +254714118794 or admin@plantafruit.org

FOOD FOR LIFE PROJECT

This season we joined forces with Immaculate primary school in Mihango and contributed several fruit seedlings to kick start the food for life project and make it more practical for the benefit of the students and the larger community. This project is spearheaded by the scouts’ movement headed by Mr. Jeremy Odhiambo who is a teacher at the school and doubles as the scout’s sub-county commissioner. Below is what he had to say about this initiative.
Food for life project by Jeremy Odhiambo

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Jeremy showing students how to plant tree tomato

As we embark on this exciting journey on learning how to grow food for one’s family sustainability and the community at large, many thanks goes to PLANT A FRUIT who have come in handy to provide certified fruit seedlings and the technical assistance needed in this project. Our aim is to make our institution a resource centre- to be well informed and transformed in modern and traditional methods of producing, marketing, packing and preserving vegetables, fruits and herbs.

When a resource centre is created closer to the community, then the learners both parents and students can make their education practical. The skills learnt can be used to transform other parts of the country. By this we don’t produce theoretical half-baked students, but a well informed one on matters that affect the country such as food security, nutrition & health and environment conservation. Learners will also be taught on project evaluation and monitoring for accountability and continuity.

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Our mission therefore, is to contribute to the practical education of the wider community especially young people in matters agribusiness. Through a value system based on our programme we can help in building a better world where people are self-reliant and self-fulfilled as individuals who play a sensitive and vital role in the society at large. All these will develop strength of character, leadership, tolerance and thorough contact with nature, a strong factor of the environment.

So far we have planted papaya, tree tomato, white sapote, pitango and strawberries. Vegetables such as spinach, kales and onions have also been planted. We want to demonstrate how small pieces of land can be used efficiently to maximize production. Urban areas have minimal space for food growing but with good planning such places can produce enough vegetables, fruits and herbs for family consumption.

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Teacher Lilian and Girl guides planting white sapote

You can reach Jeremy via mail odhiambojerry@gmail.com

Companion Planting-Tomato Growing 101

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Companion plants complement each other and play a major role in integrated pest management and nitrogen fixing to improve soil fertility. Critical factors in companion planting are; proper planning and thoughtful design which gives birth to a system that maximizes output and minimizes labour and input. Companion planting is one of the many horticultural practices and undoubtedly one of the best tomato growing tips in Kenya, and pretty much the world over, today. It involves growing more than one plant species in the same field in an effort to create a jointly beneficial situation for all plants. Companion planting is also used to foster better growing conditions in the case of a cash crop. Several goals can be achieved through companion planting.

For one, you might use companion planting in an effort to introduce a trap crop that will attract slugs, insects, and other harmful pests from your tomatoes. When it comes to growing tomatoes, one of the widely known and advocated ways of organically controlling pests is through companion planting or using chemical sprays. Many advocators or organic gardening will of course opt for companion planting.

You see, tomatoes are affected by several pests such as hornworms, white fly, aphids, insects, mosquitoes and flies, and red spider mite. Even though the pests absolutely love tomato plants, you can rest assured through companion planting the pests will find a brand new love in form of the trap plant. The following are some of the best tomato growing tips that will make companion planting a success.

The best thing about companion planting in tomato gardening is that you get to accomplish two thing at the same time. If not for anything else because your tomatoes will get a conducive environment to be healthy and enjoy some duration of being pest-free, thus producing sweet, juicy, and lovely tomato fruits; and at the same time you will be able to grow herbs among other plants that you can find very useful inside the kitchen.

With that being said, here is a list of the best and most used companion plants that you can team up with your tomatoes.

1.      Garlic has proven very effective in repelling red spider mites. Alternatively, you can crush fresh garlic and create a concentration spray that you can spray directly on the leaves of your tomato plants so you can repel whitefly and aphids, and at the same time discourage the growth of fungus.

2.      The other type of plant is marigold, which has proven effective in repelling the white fly, a very stubborn pest in the tomato garden.

3.      Basil has also been used as a tomato companion plant for the longest time now. The best thing about basil is that it can be used in the house for cooking and preparing delectable salad dishes and in the garden it can be used to repel flies and mosquitoes

Just as an additional tip, you can also control pest by rotating crops in your tomato garden. You should however ensure you don’t grow plants of the same family such as eggplant, peppers, and potatoes as they too will attract similar pests as those of the tomato plant, introduce something different you will be able to have tomato plates under control. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants for a comprehensive list of companion plants. For more information on companion plants to be planted with fruits and for certified fruit seedlings and plants contact us  admin@plantafruit.org.

TO A FRUITFUL 2014

Happy New Year! Let’s start off by wishing each and everyone a prosperous 2014 and a year full of positive actions and results.  Despite the many challenges and disruptions, 2013 was a great year and without it we wouldn’t be in 2014. We thank all our clients, supporters, volunteers, partners and staff for the progress and miles we have attained so far. In partnership with schools and local communities, we have been actively involved in creating demo farms that will be producing certified fruit seedlings and serve as centres of learning where community members will purchase their seedlings and learn more about horticulture especially orchard development and management. So far, our pilot project at Kariobangi primary school is on track and will be offering training in the near future. Plans are underway for us to partner with institutions that will ensure relevant and high quality practical training is offered.

 We are still very much focused in our push to encourage guys to plant fruit trees either by investing in fruit farming or planting fruits in their home gardens and landscapes for personal consumption. Our role is to ensure farmers and home gardeners get quality seedlings from certified sources and all the necessary information on how to plant and take care of their plants to ensure quality yields that meet health and market standards. High quality grafted seedlings leads to increased production that improves the health of families not only by providing a higher nutrition diet, but also by generating profits from surplus. Fruit production and consumption is low in East Africa and Africa at large. We want to empower farmers’ especially small-scale farmers who are the majority by encouraging them to embrace sustainable farming practices and diversify into fruit farming as they adopt agro forestry.

One of our main objectives is to deepen awareness on the importance and adoption of agribusiness among the youth. We are focusing on primary and secondary schools to initiate orchard development and management. There is need for mental migration among the youth who regard agriculture as a poor man’s activity. The youth should be encouraged to venture into agriculture not as something that is cool but as an economic activity that has potential to create wealth and as an obligation to feed the world. From our practical experiences, agriculture isn’t cool; it requires self-drive, hard work and dedication for one to realize its coolness. There are platforms and initiatives that assist the youth who are willing to venture in agribusiness and it’s up to the youths to rise to the occasion and take advantage of these platforms that include ;  Mkulima Young, Young Professionals in Agricultural Research for Development Youth Agro-Environment Initiative, Agri-Hub Kenya  just to mention a few.

The impact of our work will be greater if we partner and collaborate with organizations and individuals who participate in activities that are similar or relate to what we are doing. This will create synergy among the different players and stakeholders and avoid duplicating efforts leading to greater impacts using little resources. Most of our projects are designed as open-ended strategies that call for the refinement of the strategy as we proceed with implementation. This makes us open to suggestions, advice and any technical assistance that may come our way. The demo farm at kariobangi North primary School is almost one year old, we have planted different varieties of fruits mixed with cassava, sugarcane and indigenous vegetables. We promote organic farming, agro forestry, permaculture and conservation agriculture. In case you are in Nairobi feel free to pay a visit to the demo farm and purchase fruit seedlings as you learn more on fruit farming. Feel free to give us a call on +254714118794 or drop us a mail at admin@plantafruit.org for more info. Once again we wish you all a prosperous year, let’s keep it real in 2014 and pray the Almighty will bless us with strength and wisdom and crown our efforts with success.

 

 

 

Home gardens and fruit trees crucial for nutrition- By Dr. Oliver Moore

Home gardens and fruit trees crucial for nutrition

Fruit and other tree products in home gardens can contribute positively to family nutrition and health, in places where improved nutrition is most needed. According to Katja Kehlenbeck of ICRAF, who presented her research at the FAO’s Forests for Food Security and Nutrition Conference on 13th may.

While Latin America, Asia and other regions have their own nutritional challenges, in Sub-Saharan Africa malnutrition is still widespread and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables (FFVs) is just 1/3 the WHO’s recommended 146 KG per year and person. Deficiencies in Iron and vitamins A and C is especially problematic in this region.

There are solutions, however. Some indigenous fruit trees, such as Adansonia digitata (Baobab) can provide, through its fruit pulp, far higher levels of vitamin C and iron than commonly fruits such as mango and orange. There is a large variability in levels of vitamin C in fruits of different individual baobab trees – from 150-500 mg per 100g edible portion – but even the lowest figure here is far higher than other fruits Typically, mango and orange only have levels of 28 and 51 mg Vitamin C per 100 g edible portion, respectively.

Cultivating a diversity of fruit trees in farms and Home Gardens can also help cope with the ‘hunger gap’, a period of food insecurity typically occurring before the harvest season of the staple crop. In places such as western Kenya, where the hunger gap occurs from March to May, indigenous fruit trees such as Rhus vulgaris as well as exotic fruits such as jackfruit could provide for nutritional and health needs in this difficult period.

Households benefit from the numerous products and services trees, including fruit trees, can provide. These include products such as nutritious fruits, leaves for vegetables, fuelwood and timber, fodder and medicine. Service functions include shade, improved microclimate, control of soil erosion, diversification and also broader beneficial services such as carbon sequestration.

Homegardens, manifest as complex, mixed agroforestry system around the homestead, are often women managed.

These systems too provide many useful products and services, in subsistence, commerce, sociocultural and ecological terms. Fruit trees are an important part of homegarden systems as confirmed by the high number of fruit tree species found in homegardens. In Sulawesi, for example almost 9 fruit tree species were cultivated on average in a homegarden.

  1. Subsistence: Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, Medicine, Staple foods, Stimulants, Timber and Fodder.
  2. Commerce: Cash
  3. Socio-Cultural: Gifts, Sacrifices, Pride, Pleasure, Aesthetics, Employment, Socialising
  4. Ecological. Habitat for wild Flora + Fauna, Pest + Disease control, Nutrient Cycling, Microclimate, Soil erosion.

Despite these multiple benefits, there is underutilization of fruit trees, particularly indigenous fruits, in many regions. In the Nuba Mountains, Sudan, for example, gardeners cultivate the fruit tree Ziziphus spina-christi rather for providing fencing material then for the fruits. In homegardens of Sulawesi, Indonesia, some fruits from homegardens such as pawpaw were fed to pigs rather than consumed by the family.

There are threats to homegardens too. The transformation of traditional mixed home gardens into commercial vegetable gardens, for example in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan, has been problematic. In a policy sometimes promoted by NGOS, donated exotic vegetable seeds have been planted. However, this has led to the cutting down fruit trees to meet the light requirements of the vegetables, as the trees blocked sunlight. This short-sighted policy also can have gender implications: power shifts over to the man of the household, who then sells the vegetables in the market and controls the money the vegetables generate. This can then be spent in a way that isn’t beneficial to the women and children left behind on the homestead, as Katja explains:

Similar problems may occur when commercial cacao/coffee gardens replace the traditional mixed home gardens in Sulawesi.

These is much done, but more research needs to be done to improve the performance of homegardens.

Kehlenbeck pointed out that we need to document production and utilization data for food trees in homegardens to answer key questions:

  1. How do they these food trees contribute to family nutrition, and does this change through the seasons?
  2. How do they contribute to family income, and how is that income spent?
  3. What is the nutrient content of products from lesser known and lesser used tree species?
  4. What are the cultural, socio-economic and environmental factors influencing cultivation of food trees and consumption of their products?

She also recommended that year round production of fruit should be targeted by developing fruit tree portfolios which is a combination of species and cultivars with different harvest seasons, and prioritising the domestication of important indigenous species could also prove beneficial. Then, the best, hardiest, most nutritious species and cultivars can be selected and cultivated in a home garden setting.

To take one example: the variability of vitamin levels between different individual Baobab trees suggests research into extensive sampling of baobab trees, characterisation of the fruits’ vitamin content, selection of superior mother trees, propagation of these trees and dissemination of the seedlings to farmers for cultivation – which is the process of domestication.

Kehlenbeck was keen to emphasise that research programmes need to be multi-faceted. For example, cultural factors are an important, sometimes missing link in helping agroforestry initiatives take root. A better understanding of local beliefs and customs can help improve understanding of what works and what doesn’t ,on the ground in the real world outside of the research institutes.

Katja Kehlenbeck’s take home messages are that tree products are important for nutrition that trees in homegardens contribute to family nutrition (directly and indirectly) and that the potential for home gardens is not fully exploited yet.

Dr. Oliver Moore

 

 

 

Youth have to claim their seat at the table

PLANT A FRUIT:

There is great need to cultivate a new breed of practitioners for sustainable progress and innovative career patterns for young people in agribusiness and we at PLANT A FRUIT are working towards that.

Originally posted on The FARA - AASW Blog:

Young maize farmer in Ethiopia

A young maize farmer in Ethiopia. Youth can’t wait for legislaters to include them in negotiations–they need to start speaking up for themselves instead.

When it comes to youth and agriculture, most of us think we know what needs to be done: governments and other stakeholders need to develop innovative approaches and policies to get more youth involved in this critical sector. It goes without saying that the stakeholders are expected to involve the youth in innovation and policy formulation. Not much is said about what the youth can do themselves to facilitate their involvement in these processes.

Africa is currently the most youthful continent in the world. It is estimated that by 2015, youth will make up 60 percent of the population on the continent. These young people, who will soon be the drivers of the continent’s economy, need to know that they have a right to be involved…

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PLANT A FRUIT

PLANT A FRUIT.

Fruit orchards in schools Project

Fruit orchards in schools Project.

Plant a fruit for peace campaign

“When we plant trees we plant seeds of peace and hope”

Wangari Maathai

Our plant a fruit for peace initiative kicked off in Jan and ended on 28th feb 2013.We planted a total of 108 fruit seedlings of different varieties in various institutions. We encountered a lot of challenges but it was all fun. One major thing we noted as an organization is that Kenyan youths are willing to engage themselves in initiatives that can create social change but they lack platforms where they can fully express themselves. We have tasked our management committee to come up with innovative ways that we can use as an organization to engage these young ones on a long-term basis

We partnered with 2 churches, 2 schools,1 community based organization and 2 youth groups to plant 108 fruit  trees for peace.This proved that there is a lot that can be done if we work together in coming up with local solutions that address our problems.We are upbeat and bullish of the fact that we will have peaceful elections come Monday 4th March 2013. Our sincere thanks go to all our stakeholders, clients, volunteers, members and staff for their contribution towards this initiative. The fruit trees planted will be monitored to ensure that they grow well without disturbance or neglect.

@ Kariobangi primary-We planted 30 fruit seedling

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@ Karen-Planted 25 fruit seedlings

mOKOYETI kAREN

@ Kariobangi-Planted 7 fruit seedlings

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@ Kariobangi

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@ AIC Church-Planted 14 fruit seedlings

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@ Anglican Church-Planted 12 fruit seedlings

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@ Taf Initiative-planted 20 fruit seedlings

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PLANT A FRUIT:

This blog is a must share,its a good start for 2013.

Originally posted on Blog.Mavuno:

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If you knew you would NOT fail this year, what is the one thing you would do differently? What’s the one thing you’d do if you knew you were guaranteed to succeed? Invest everything? Go back to school? Start that dream business? Stop paying rent? Propose to the girl of your dreams?

2013 is a new year, and a new beginning, a time to leave the past behind and press on to what’s ahead. In the bible, every 50th year was the Jubilee and during that year, all that had been lost or taken away was restored. (Lev.25:10) As we listen to and apply God’s word, 2013 – our 50th year as a nation – will be a Jubilee year for the people of Mavuno Church.

It will be a year of freedom and celebration, a year of debt cancellation and release from bondage in…

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