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Fruit Trends in Kenya

For the better part of the last six months we’ve been on the ground making a follow up and conducting farm visits to the farmers we have partnered with. This post will highlight what fruit crops home gardeners and farmers are embracing and the commercial viability of the different fruit types. We encourage sustainable diverse cropping systems where farmers plant more than one crop. This spreads economic risk and offers the opportunity of reducing production costs and increasing profits. The more farmers’ successfully produce more of one type of crop, the more they are whipped by low prices making them a victim of their own success. That’s the greatest irony of farming as dictated by the laws of supply and demand, hence the need for diversified farm systems.

Such diversified systems require thorough planning and close monitoring to cater for the different components. For easy management we recommend 2-3 main crops and a set of rotational crops, for example, we have a farmer initiating a mixed fruit orchard in Murang’a doing hass avocado, tree tomato and apples. A serious fruit farmer should also embrace an integrated pest management strategy and maintain the farm in ways that make them attractive to beneficial insects and pollinators such as bees, and implement interventions to protect them. No pollination, no fruit.

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Pomegranate tree in Nairobi

 

Start with what you can manage as you progress. Farming is a journey, more of a marathon than a short sprint. It requires more resilience and focus on a desired farming venture. There those who get it right in their first attempt and there those who fail initially or severally but later on get it right because they chose not to give up. Grow that which has market potential, whether it is for home or commercial purposes. Copying what your neighbor or other farmers are doing is not a sin; but don’t just copy for the sake of copying. If you can read this post, then you are intelligent enough to do your own research before investing in a given venture. What you settle for has to be a crop that performs well in your locality and thrives in your soil. Test and analyze your soil and optimize it accordingly, the health of the soil determines the health of the plant.

Failure is inevitable, the love and passion of your venture will play an important role in such times. One of our clients insisted on planting apples, grapes and other fruits at the coast just for the love of apples, she even went for high chill varieties against our advice. She failed severally, many apple seedlings she purchased from different nurseries died within the first year. But she understood that there was a price to pay to conduct her own research and know what works for her. Despite of the many failures she now has the privilege of harvesting a few apples of different varieties from her 2 year old plants after 4 years of trial and error. She is now planning to do grapes and apples commercially. Consult widely, do your own research and search yourself too. Identify fruit crop(s) that you will love cultivating, works well for you and can generate good income.

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2 year old Apple tree @ the Kenyan coast

 

 

Our country is blessed; plenty of different fruit trees and food crops thrive in different parts of the country. Local farmers are spoilt for choice on what to venture in. A typical Kenyan farmer faces a lot of challenges and hurdles from farm to market. The successful ones will be those who will emerge as problem solvers and solution providers despite of the many challenges; those who focus on providing practical solutions to problems experienced by the population rather than sit on a problem or write a thesis/research paper to be archived on the shelves. Globally, our country is a horticultural giant, there is a huge demand for our horticultural products that include; flowers, herbs, veges, fruits and nuts. For Kenyan farmers to meet this demand, best farming practices should be embraced to ensure quality and food safety. Locally, there is a rising demand of healthy farm produce that is free from harmful chemicals. Produce crops that comply with GAP standards from the on-set no matter the target market. Below are some of the fruit varieties that are commercially viable and worth giving a try.

Avocado– The hass variety is the most preferred for those targeting the export market due to its high oil content, appearance and low perishability. There is a niche market for Fuerte and Pinkerton variety locally; there high perishability does not make them good candidates for the export market.

Passion Fruit – The two common varieties are; sweet yellow and purple passion. Both varieties do well locally and there is demand for both in the local market. The export market prefers purple passion; Europe is one of the main markets. In the past few years farmers from Rift valley have shifted to passion fruit cultivation without regret and we are seeing a lot of activities in Uasin gishu, Bomet, and Kericho.

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Passion fruit orchard @ the Rift Valley

Mango – There are different mango varieties that thrive in different parts of our country, but so far there is high demand for the Apple mango variety that thrives in hot areas. Other popular varieties include; Kent, Tommy and Haden. There is an emerging export market for Kenyan mangoes in China, hope this holds up.

Citrus– New citrus orchards are being developed in the coast, eastern and rift valley by farmers who are targeting to meet the local demand. Most of the citrus consumed locally are imported because the local supply does not meet the demand. There is need for improving production and quality of local citrus. The different varieties cultivated are: Pixie, Minneola, Clementine tangerine, lemon, Washington navel, Valencia among others.

Strawberry – So far chandler variety is the most successful varieties to cultivate. Most farmers are producing for the local market. We are trying out Quinault variety and some other giant strawberry varieties to see their viability.

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Strawberry harvest in Nyahururu

Tree tomato – A good number of farmers have ventured in tree tomato cultivation to meet local demand. Red oratia is the most grown variety. One can choose to cultivate grafted tree tomato or the non-grafted ones.

Grapes– This is one of the fruits whose potential remains unexploited by the Kenyan farmer despite it doing well in various parts of the country. Most commercial grape ventures are established by wineries and geared towards wine production. Grape plants grown in the country are mostly grown by home gardeners for personal consumption. The local demand for table grapes and raisins heavily relies on imports.

Apples– In the near future high quality locally grown apples will be at the shelves in your grocery store. New apple orchards are cropping up in different parts of the country targeting the local market. Different varieties have been tried and tested in different parts of the country and the results are promising. These varieties include; Cripps pink, Anna, Golden Dorset, Fuji, Gala, Red delicious and Braeburn.

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Young Apple Orchard @ the Kenyan Coast

Bananas – This is the most important fruit crop in Kenya. Banana farming has been gaining momentum thanks to attractive market prices and availability of quality propagation material through tissue culture. There are different varieties that perform well in Kenya, study what the market wants and go bananas.

Pears and plums– A good number of farmers in Molo, Limuru and some parts of Kiambu  have cultivated pears and plums that they supply to the local market. There are low chill pear varieties that do thrive in warm areas. The hood variety is a low chill variety that has been proven to do well in Kenya. We have distributed a few seedlings to various farmers in western Kenya and Nyanza to gauge their performance.

Kiwi– So far we have no success story on kiwi cultivation, we are still in the infant stages. We can’t confidently say that the kiwi plant thrives in Kenya. The oldest plant we are monitoring is almost 3 years old and we are seeing no sign of fruiting. The greatest challenge in kiwi production is the propagation material. Most kiwi seedlings in the market are propagated from seed; this takes long to fruit or might fail to produce fruit.

There also other fruits which are mostly grown for personal consumption or on a smaller scale. They include Persimmon kaki, Sour sop, Pomegranate, custard apple, star fruit, lychee, guava, loquats, peach, fig fruit, rasp berry, white sapote, jack fruit, apricot and dragon fruit among others. In case of any queries feel free to reach us via mail at admin@plantafruit.org. Fruitful season ahead and remember to consume atleast one fruit a day before any meal.

 

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Purple passion fruit cultivation

 

That passion fruit is among the fruits that have great economic importance in Kenya cannot be gainsaid. The demand for passion in both local and export market is huge. Kenyan farmers have not fully exploited this opportunity due to various challenges that we are trying to address. For the past 6 months we have been on the ground working hand in hand with farmers in Nyahururu, Uasin gishu, kitale, and Migori to develop purple passion fruit orchards that meets the export market threshold. This article will highlight the various processes we applied to ensure effective cultivation, harvesting and marketing of passion fruits.

There are 2 types of commercially grown passion fruit in Kenya; purple passion fruit and the yellow passion fruit. At the moment, we are concentrating more on the purple passion fruit due to its potential for fresh market and juice extraction both in the local and export market. Purple passion is most suited to upper midlands and highlands with an altitude of 1100m-2500m above sea level with temperatures ranging from 18-28 degree Celsius. They can be grown in a wide range of soils provided there is adequate drainage with a soil PH of between 6.0 – 6.5. The cultivation site should be exposed to enough sunlight with an annual rainfall of 900mm – 2000mm per year. Irrigation systems can be designed and developed in areas that don’t experience enough rainfall. A single plant can consume 20 litres of water per week.

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organically grown grafted purple passion seedlings

 

Passion fruit is propagated through seed, grafting and tissue culture. We raise our seedlings organically using beneficial fungi and bacteria that come from the soil to control pest and diseases from the initial stage of propagation. We solarize the soil and use Trichoderma that prevents nematodes and soil diseases and also promotes root growth and yields. Our rootstocks are raised from the bitter yellow passion variety called Zimbabwe and we graft using the purple passion scions. We do assist our clients in setting up a passion fruit seedling nursery once they have grown the plants. This comes in handy when one wants to replace diseased plants or plants that have reduced productivity. The seedlings can also be sold to other farmers offering an alternative source of income. If one is purchasing seedlings elsewhere ensure to get certified planting material from reputable seedling suppliers.

The passion fruit plant should be trained to grow on trellises for optimum growth and yield. The spacing of the poles is directly related to the spacing of the passion fruit plants. The poles are to be placed between 2 or 3 passion fruit plants, spaced 3 metres a part. Intermediary poles can be introduced to prop up the wire in case of heavy fruiting. The distance between rows is usually 3 metres and the rows should be parallel to the direction of the wind. During planting one should dig 2 by 2 feet holes and mix the top soil with organic manure before planting. Minimum investment for one acre passion orchard ranges between Kshs 80,000 to Kshs 100,000.

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For optimum production, passion fruit plants need training, pruning, weeding, fertilising and crop protection. Start training the passion fruit vines at an early stage, allow 1-2 vines of each plant to run along the trellis as main vines, this allows laterals from the main vines to grow downwards bearing fruit. Prune to eliminate unwanted shoots and vines to permit systematic growth. The nutrient status of the soil will determine which fertilizer program to be embraced, for this reason a soil analysis and test is of great importance. Weed frequently to reduce competition for nutrients and unwanted pests and diseases. Ensure phytosanitary standards are highly observed, this will help reduce cases of diseases and pests that include fusarium wilt, woodiness virus complex, brown spot etc. We do have an integrated pest management strategy that we are implementing with the farmers we are working with to ensure that the fruits harvested can be accepted in different markets both locally and internationally.

The initial harvest can be expected from the 7th month. The fruit matures in 2 months after flowering and will naturally fall in the ground when mature. Export market destined should be harvested before they fall off naturally to increase the fruit’s shelf life. A mature vine can produce one main harvest and two smaller harvests annually. With proper planning and timing one can harvest all year round. We do organise capacity building training sessions that imparts practical and functional skills on IPM for passion fruit, proper harvesting, packaging methods and accessing markets both locally and internationally. For more info do reach us on admin@plantafruit.org

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