Papaya is a common fruit in most parts of the country, yet Kenya is not a leading exporter of this fruit. This is due to the fact that the export market concentrates on processed paw paw products that include dried papaya, marmalade, canned papaya and pulp. Value addition, lack of it, is our greatest undoing as a nation. Papayas fruits are delicious and grow throughout the year. These fruits are eaten alone or in salad without the skin. They are high in potassium, vitamin A and C. Papaya leaves can be used as animal feed and some people cook the leaves as vegetables. The seeds are used by both human and animals to fight worms and parasites.
Pawpaw performs well in most parts of the country; rift valley, eastern, coast, nyanza, western and central. By the end of the first year the papaya trees begin to bear fruit, during the second year it produces substantially. Production then decreases as the tree ages, for commercial purpose its proper to keep the trees for a period of 3-5 years, but they can have a life span of more than 10 years. In a year a tree can give you 30-100 fruits. Prices range from Ksh 20-100 depending on size and variety. In tropical climates , fruit are produced throughout the year.
The tree requires well drained soil of between 6-7 ph. It is very water sensitive and susceptible to stagnant water. It flourishes in the tropics and sub tropics and needs rainfall between 1500-2000mm spread throughout the year. Papaya is fast growing and needs plenty of nutrients to be realized by use of manure and mulch. In dry months they will need irrigation, let them not go for more than a month without water. Proper pest control is required to ensure good quality produce. Papaya trees are very susceptible to wind break thanks to their flat root system and soft woodiness. They are ideal in agro-forestry systems where they are planted with other trees that serve as wind breakers. It can be planted as an intercrop with low growing annual crops such as beans and onion.
There are different varieties of papaya found in Kenya. The major ones are solo, mountain, sunrise and sweet varieties. There are also some improved breeds such as the red royale that give good quality yields produced by JKUAT. Papaya is mostly propagated by seed which produce fruits of different size and shapes. Vegetative propagation of papaya using tissue culture give rise to superior plants that are disease resistant, produce high yields and are easy to maintain and harvest because they trees are short(dwarf).
Home gardeners should embrace papaya for home consumption, it requires less space and maintaining it is easy. One can prepare fresh salad, juice and marmalade for the family using papaya, this can in turn generate into a business that can earn an extra dime. Local farmers can intercrop papaya with various plants ranging from other fruit trees such as mango, banana and low growing annuals that include spinach, capsicum, onions, strawberry among others. Papaya plays a major role in establishing other crops sharing similar requirements in agro forestry systems.