Originally referred to as the Chinese gooseberry, kiwi is one of the most nutritious fruit yet so expensive; a single fruit goes at Ksh 100 which is equivalent to approximately 1.15 Dollars. The price is high because the fruit is imported meaning that no local farmer can meet the market demand or the quality desired by the market. Kiwi is a climbing crop that grows similarly as the grape fruit. In fact kiwi performs well in areas where grapes grow well and follow almost the same crop management strategies as the grapevine. The most common species locally is the fuzzy kiwi fruit scientifically referred to as A.deliciosa that produces an egg shaped fruit with a brown hairy skin.
Kiwi is a temperate fruit that can perform well in temperate zones in Kenya that include Central, Western highlands and central Rift valley among others. It can be propagated either from seed or stem cuttings. Cuttings are the most preferred method because they mature faster. Kiwi can be grown in a wide range of soils, as long as the soil is properly drained. It is a climbing plant and will need support until they are properly established, a trellis system serves better. A suitable site is one that is protected from strong winds and is exposed to enough sunlight. Because of its shallow roots and fast growth, kiwi should be irrigated regularly.
The fruit tree can bear fruit for 12-15 years and some take less than 2 years to start fruiting. For the plant to produce fruit one needs a male and female plant. Kiwi is dioecious; it has male and female reproductive organs on separate plants of the same species. Male plants don’t produce fruits but they pollinate female plants. One male vine is planted for every 8 female vines. It is hard to identify if a plant is either male or female until they start flowering, so one has to grow several plants to increase the probability of having both. For proper fruit set, light pruning and thinning should be done once the fruit tree matures.
Kiwi seedlings are hard to come by in Kenya, the few nurseries that have, sell them from between Ksh 250-1000 per seedling. Farmers should start with a few plants, like 8 and then increase the number gradually from their own saplings. Kiwi farming is viable and is an additional income generation option for farmers. It is a high yielding crop that can be embraced by small-scale farmers who have no large tracts of land. It is not labour intensive and allows room for inter-cropping with plants such as potato, ginger, asparagus, maize and chili.
Seedlings from cuttings are delicate and need proper care for the plant to grow successfully. Exposure to a lot of fertilizer may burn the roots; this is the reason why we prefer using compost manure and less fertilizer. We are monitoring a few kiwi crops planted in containers on trial basis to see how they will perform before we start distributing the seedling to farmers and home gardeners. Despite the challenges associated with fruit farming, we are optimistic about the prospects of returns from kiwi farming. The future is not for us to tell but the few farmers who will strike it right with kiwi will have a different story to tell.
Mulberry is one of the fruits that is greatly overlooked and has not gained much attention in Kenya. Mulberry has the potential of lifting small scale farmers if it is exploited for various commercial valuable products. Mulberry is a deciduous woody perennial that grows fast and has a deep root system. The most predominant species in Kenya is Morus Alba of different varieties that include ex-limuru, ex-embu, s36, kanva 2, ex-thika among others. There is no statistical data on the total area of coverage occupied by mulberry or on any predominant areas that grow mulberry in Kenya. So far we have not come across any farmers who have grown mulberry commercially on large tracts of land; most farmers have grown mulberry as forage in less than an acre piece of land.
Mulberry can be grown under different climatic conditions but prefers tropical zones with temperatures ranging from 24-28 degree Celsius. They need adequate water supply, especially when used for sericulture purposes. Rainfall ranging from 800-2000mm is ideal; irrigation is encouraged areas with less rainfall. Mulberry should be in well ventilated areas with enough sunlight for better growth and leaf quality. Mulberry does well in a wide range of soils but prefers fertile well drained soils with a soil PH of between 6.2-6.8. Farmyard manure evenly spread and properly mixed with the soil can be used when planting. A quarter an acre can accommodate 3556 plants with a spacing of 5 X 2ft. A mulberry plant takes 6-12 months to be well established and pruning is required as the plant grows.
For a very longtime mulberry has been used for sericulture in most parts of the world. In Kenya only a handful of farmers have embraced sericulture. Efforts are being made by the National sericulture station to reverse this trend; on December 10th 2014 they will be hosting farmers free of charge to be enlightened more on sericulture. Silk worm feed only on mulberry leaves making this crop a requirement if sericulture is to be practiced. Silk worm rearing requires a steady source of good quality mulberry leaves for the period they are active. If you are interested in sericulture do attend the open day on December 10th 2014 at the National Sericulture station in Thika (KARI) to learn more. Topics to be addressed include; mulberry seed propagation, care and leaf harvesting, silk worm rearing requirements and silk extraction from the cocoons. Feel free to contact us for more details and directions to the venue; firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many products with medicinal value that can be derived from mulberry leaves and fruits. The leaves are used by some farmers as animal feed especially for cattle and rabbits. The fruits are used for making jam, jelly, fruit sauce, cake, food color, yoghurt, wine and juice. Both the fruit and leaves are dried and packaged for sale. Dried leaves are used to make mulberry green tea and dried fruits are crushed into powder. The fresh fruit has medicinal value and has for a long time been used to prepare syrup and treat sore throat, high fever and depression.
Some of the products that can be made from mulberry
The mulberry fruit tree has tremendous potential due to its many uses; everything from the leaves to the roots can be added value if industrially exploited. The tree can be inter-cropped with other plants and serve as a good companion to grapes or passion fruit, its hard stalks supports climbers. It is also used widely for landscaping, they provide a good view if properly pruned. This single plant, if exploited can give rise to different income generating micro enterprises that will lift living standards and create jobs for the many youths who are unemployed.
The first phase of our project at Karen can be deemed a success. Together with the kids at Mokoyeti Brook centre- a CBO in Karen and various stakeholders, we planted 30 fruit trees. There are many joys and rewards received while working with kids. The major score of this project was guiding these young ones into becoming responsible citizens of Kenya and the planet as a whole.
The kids themselves planted the fruit trees and up to now still take care of the planted fruits. Each and every kid has his/her week to look after the fruit trees and ensure they get enough water. As the kids grow they have to take it upon themselves to ensure the culture of planting fruits is extended to the rest of the neighboring communities through various strategies adopted amongst themselves.
Our prayer is that the rest of Kenyans should join us in our mission to ensure each and every Kenyan has a fruit tree in their yard. Kenyan kids and youths should encouraged to embrace agriculture. As big governments are reluctant to combat climate change, we believe its up to individuals and the private sector to lead the way in conserving the environment. We have to lobby for homegrown policies that ensures the environment is conserved, and don’t have to wait for some big foreign government to come to our rescue.