All along we have been highlighting fruit trees that we perceive have great potential to uplift the living standards of small scale farmers and home gardeners in the hope that many will embrace fruit farming. Our focus as an organization is on micro and small scale farmers especially those who are innovative and willing to embrace different farming techniques and crops. As much as most policy issues in the horticultural sector lean towards large scale farmers, micro and small scale farmers play a crucial role in the economy of a country. Food security is greatly boosted and hidden hunger reduced if many individuals engage in farming activities rather than a few large scale farmers whose main objective is high yields.
A well tended grafted apple mango tree
We all are farmers by default and agriculture is a way of life that can also double as a business. The goal is to create a simple farming system that can be easily implemented and gives room for continual optimization of the ecological, economic and social benefits. You are your own teacher. Don’t rely entirely on our posts or what we say, get information from different sources that will enable you make an informed decision. Do your own research that will enable you decide on what you want to do and why you are doing it? Know thyself.
Fruit farming has its share of challenges along the value chain, from the farm to the market as fresh fruits or processed end products. Even if your farm is meant for personal consumption, the farm should be designed with the end market in mind. In other words, the farm’s potential to generate income and other environmental and social benefits should be exploited and put into consideration. You never know, later you or your inheritors might want to generate some income from your farm. There are many income generating opportunities that integrate well with an orchard; from offering demos, training, seedlings among others.
Hass Avocado orchard
Fruit cultivation is a long term activity; a grafted tree starts producing viable fruits in the third year, and starts producing optimally after the next 2 to 4 years then continually beyond generations. Hence there is need for good planning to realize short, medium and long-term goals. For this to be realized different crops and trees should be integrated in the farm system. A background check should be done to know the characteristics of the different kind of crops and fruit tree species that combine well and have a degree of symbiotic relationship. For proper results combine the right fruit tree and the right medium term (Papaya, cassava, sweet potato, tree tomato etc) and short term (vegetables, strawberry, herbs etc) crops and trees/shrubs.
Consider location with reference to weather and market. The site should have plenty sunshine and excellent air flow. It is proper to do soil test and analysis so as to know the status of your soil. The soil should have good drainage and adequate PH. Soil testing facilities do exist that one can do testing at pocket friendly rates but we still feel that the prices should be reduced to enable an ordinary farmer access the service.
Planting and irrigation
Consider the correct spacing as per your needs. The pruning system to be used will determine the distance between trees. Source certified and disease free planting material and inputs. We advocate the use of more organic manure/fertilizer and less synthetic fertilizers. Settle for your preferred irrigation system, there are drip irrigation systems designed and meant for small scale farmers.
Tree training and management
Right management practices should be embraced. A well trained tree is much easier to manage and maintain and this calls for constant care from when the tree is young. Trees should be trained to facilitate cultivation, light penetration, spraying and harvesting. Consider the following too; Mulching, weed management, pruning, thinning and pollination requirements.
Pest and disease control
The best way to tackle pest and diseases is prevention. Plant disease free seedlings and ensure they are well taken care of. We favor integrated pest management (IPM) that combines different pest control techniques and strategies keeping the use of pesticides at low levels. IPM is a complex pest control process but cost effective with many benefits to the ecosystem and our personal health.
Start looking for market for your produce before you harvest. Horticultural crops, because of their high perishability require an efficient marketing strategy. Come up with a marketing strategy that will identify potential buyers, how they will access the farm products and at what price. Small scale farmers can form groups that will enable them produce in bulk and access the export market as a single unit. Local fruit processing firms do exist in different counties that are in need of raw material, approach them and know the thresholds and the prices they offer.
Harvesting and storage
Harvest your produce at the right time for better quality. Fruits are harvested when they are mature or ripen. Use easy to handle harvest containers and ensure the harvesting tools are sterilized. Harvested fruits should be washed and treated to avoid propagation of diseases. Fruits are stored in a dry and cool place in flexible sacks, crates, cartons or baskets as they await consumption or value addition.
Farming on a small or moderate scale has prospects of generating competent income. There is need for Policy measures that improve the performance of small scale horticultural farmers. There are a variety of fruit tree species that perform exceptionally well in Kenya, hence need for more research and development to realize their potential. The setting up of fruit processing firms in different counties offers the Kenyan small scale farmer an opportunity to diversify into fruit farming. Thoroughly master your local problem, come up with solutions as you impact the lives of others while making a profit. Sustainable fruit farming offers a simple solution that combats climate change and food insecurity making it a worthy cause.