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Sustainable Fruit Cultivation Enterprise

The agricultural pursuit of fruit growing comprises the science and art of raising and handling fruits and fruit plants for personal consumption or/and for commercial purposes. Fruits can be classified as; tree-fruits, nut-fruits, herb-like fruits, vine-fruits and small fruits. There are two main categories of fruit growers; those producing for own consumption and those producing for the market. There is a third hybrid category of growers who produce for own and sell surplus. Agriculture especially fruit tree cultivation, when at its best has great potential. A fruit tree will naturally produce fruit as long as it is grown in favorable conditions. There are certain hindrances that must be overcome such as pest & disease infestation, poor soils among others. There is no venture that is risk free therefore our main role as farmers is to mitigate/minimize those risks so as to realize profit. This post is addressed to those who want to successfully develop a fruit enterprise for commercial purposes. A later post will be dedicated to those who grow for own consumption and personal satisfaction.

When we mention the term ‘’commercial fruit cultivation’’ thoughts of millions runs in many a mind which is not the case. This is understandable due to the many blogs or prints on how to make millions of cash from certain fruit farm ventures. Don’t have too much fun in the fantasy to face reality; as a fruit grower you should not set before yourself the single standard of money-getting. As much as there is money to be made in agriculture one should also be aware of the non-commercial rewards in fruit growing. The blessing of agriculture to an individual and the nation at large is that it can make its workers happy and comfortable without making them wealthy. Satisfaction can secured just as well on a moderate income as on a large one. It is worrying when the Kenyan farmer is no longer happy or comfortable due to low prices or lack of market, but on a brighter perspective, this helps in getting us farmers’ out of our comfort zones giving us reason to try something else. From a farmer’s perspective, true wealth is health. Going by what is happening on the ground, we can foresee Rift valley and Western Kenya become the biggest producers of hass avocado in the near future. We are also longing for the day when one can purchase locally grown apples from your favorite supermarket/outlet. What of figs, grapes, dragon fruit and pomegranate from North Eastern. Fruit farming has the potential of raising the living standards of farmers but it is not a walk in the park.

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Hass Avocado Orchard

Fruit growing thrives best in certain geographical areas, the business is not capable of equal development in all parts of the country. Different fruit trees do well in different parts of the country. There are various determinants in fruit growing that a farmer must keep in mind before investing in a venture of her/his choice. They include; soil determinant, moisture determinant, temperature determinant, parasite determinant, market determinant among others. The location and site where the orchard is to be established should be determined. The choice of location should be with reference to weather and market. It is also beneficial for the farmer to locate her/himself among fruit growers so as to interact with fellow farmers as they share ideas and develop the fruit mind. Such a location has a potential of attracting buyers and sellers, and also encourages many forms of cooperation among farmers. When it comes to sourcing of market, volume matters hence the need to position oneself in an area that is regarded as a fruit region. For instance we are starting a 2 acre hass avocado project in Kitale. It will make no economic sense for a buyer to come all over from Nairobi to buy our produce due to volume. So it is up to us to create a “hass fruit region” in Kitale by encouraging our neighbors and other local farmers to plant hass avocado. We will go to the extent of giving interested farmers hass avocado seedlings on debt to be paid using part of their harvest.

After all fruit growing determinants have been considered and a farmer has settled on the fruit type/s she/he wants to cultivate, SEEDLING PROCUREMENT is the next step. There are different fruit seedlings vendors where one can purchase seedlings from; an online search can give you a few clues. There are also different government agencies that stock fruit seedlings, they include: JKUAT, KARLO and some prisons too raise fruit seedlings for sale. When purchasing from any chosen vendor ensure you get a good deal in terms of; the right variety,certified. disease free, right price and replacement in case of initial failure.Our major role is to ensure aspiring fruit farmers get technical support and have a strong foundation when starting out their perspective ventures. We do have 4 different strategies depending on the farmer’s budget, where one can get quality and true to type seedling varieties.

 

  1. 18 months old seedlings – These are seedlings that are more than a year old and are meant for farmers whose aim is to get the first harvest within 2 years. Such farmers also don’t have much time to tend to small seedlings or replacing the ones which failed. As for the farmers we have dealt with, the success rate is 99%. A seedling goes from kshs 300-500 depending on fruit type.
  2.  6-9 months old seedling – Most farmers with a moderate budget have gone this  route. These are seedlings that have fully healed, grafting paper removed and ready for planting. A seedling goes at Kshs 120-300 depending on fruit type.
  3. On-site grafting – we supply rootstocks to farmers to plant, and then we will come to graft them later once they are well established. Our grafters are certified and experienced attaining a success rate of 90%. This approach suits farmers who have a limited budget because they end up saving up to 40% on seedling cost.
  4. On-site raising of seedlings – There are certain advantages of raising seedlings in the same area where they are going to be planted. Farmers who have large tracts of land and want to implement a large scale project but don’t have enough cash can consider this option. We assist farmers in setting up fruit tree nurseries on-site to produce seedlings to be planted once they are ready.

 

N/B – When it comes to seedling production, we produce quality over quantity because we try as much as possible to have a wide variety of fruit trees. Therefore we do offer discounted rates to those who pre-order large quantities for commercial purposes.

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Mango Orchard

It is best if LAND PREPARATION is done prior to purchasing your seedlings. This entails clearing the land, ploughing if necessary and digging holes. Keep in mind is the spacing of your trees; different fruit crops have different spacing requirements. Fruit trees are wide feeders therefore advisable to give them sufficient space when planting. There are cases where farmers go for high density plantations but this requires experience and high maintenance. In general, it’s safer to plant trees widely to have open spaces for sunlight penetration and for easier management. The hole should be broad, as a general rule, the harder the soil the larger the hole. In loose and deep soils, just dig a hole that fits the seedling well. Plant your trees when the soil is dry; don’t plant in wet and sticky soil. We encourage top dressing using manure rather than planting with a mixture of manure and soil. Roots should spread out looking for food, when you top dress using manure and the tree is watered, nutrients will sink in the soil and the roots will do the searching making them stronger. Any subsequent fertilization that is to be done should be informed by a soil and/or leaf analysis. If possible mulch your trees after planting. It is also advisable to plant annual cover crops that improve soil fertility when your fruit trees are still young. Avoid planting grain and hay in your orchard. There are cases where one wants to maximize land use and also desires quicker returns. This can be achieved by planting 2-3 different fruit crops in the same piece of land. Here the differentiating factor is the duration for maturity. One can plant avocados with a spacing of 8m (long term), then plant tree tomato or pawpaw in between (medium-term), and finish by planting strawberries or gooseberries beneath (short-term). This is done in the initial years once the avocados gain room these other crops should be removed.

A SYSTEM must be put in place to ensure maximum production, without systems you have a limited chance of keeping track of your fruit plantation. It is important to keep track of each individual tree/variety and make a record of the performance of each tree. This ensures each tree is given the necessary conditions for optimum production. Keep simple cost-accounting records and daily work reports. Tree care practices such as irrigation, fertilization, spraying, pruning and fruit thinning should be taken into account and done at the appropriate time. Your records should reflect all these activities. Irrigation and fertilization is done on a need basis. We recommend being proactive and spray your trees as a preventative measure rather than waiting for a disease and/or pest attack. Pruning determines tree shape and should be done from the onset as the tree grows. With the current fruit grading system, especially for those targeting the export market, fruit thinning is an important practice that should not be overlooked. This is done by removing redundant fruits resulting in an end product that is superior in size, colour and general quality. Fruit bagging is necessary if one desires extra-fine fruits. When it comes to harvesting it is important to do it at the right time depending on the fruit variety; there those that ripen on the tree and those that ripen off the tree.

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Apple Orchard in Voi

              MARKETING of your fruit produce begins early even before planting the fruit trees, for instance someone planting hass avocado or macadamia already knows there is export market. Know your market, we normally tell our customers’ that you are your own market and thanks to technology one can brand and market her/his  venture at much lower cost. As personal as it is, Success will be determined by the ability of the grower and market conditions. Truth be told, 2 persons placed in the same geographical and environmental conditions and given an equal chance will attain different business results. It all boils down to high quality production and careful marketing. If you grow what people want or present it in a manner that makes them think they want it, success will follow suit. When it comes to market target, there are two kinds of commercial fruit farmers; those who grow fruit for a special or personal market and those who grow for the general or open market. It is prudent for one to know where she/he falls so as to produce the desired quality. Generally in the case of special market, the operation is small scale and high quality fruit is produced to be sold at much higher prices. Here farmer looks for his own customers and is independent of general trade. Those targeting the general market have no personal customers; they grow what the market demands and are subjected to prevailing market prices.

Message to the world market is that Kenyan fruit produce meets high environmental threshold.  Kenya has plenty of land lying idle and there are no forests that need to be cleared for commercial fruit cultivation. Most of forests that are cleared are as a result of human settlement. Young people have started embracing agriculture and are taking over what their parents and ancestors established. The profile of a Kenyan farmer is changing, farmers are now seeking knowledge and embracing technologies that will help them produce high quality, disease free fruits, herbs & nuts destined for the world market. As much as more farmers are targeting export market, dependence on the export market for our fresh fruits is not healthy in the long-term; this should be complemented by value addition. Availability of fresh fruits should lead to the development of fruit processing industries in different counties. Both county and local governments should play a major role to attract investors in such areas.

Anyone going into fruit farming should know that there is stiff competition in this business and it is survival for the skilled. Seek knowledge and train for your work. Ten people can grow quality fruit but only one out of the ten can sell it to advantage. The effort at excellence must be continuous, let no achievement slow you down. As Ray kroc says “When you green you grow, but when you ripe you rot”. Master your local problem, from fellow farmers, books, blogs & forums learn principles and truths but at the end of the day you must solve your problems by yourself. Kindly let us know if we can be of any assistance in your fruit ventures, we can be reached via mail admin@plantafruit.org or +254714118794. To a fruitful 2020!!!!

Loquat cultivation

Loquat is an evergreen tree that mostly grows in tropical & sub-tropical areas. It is moderate in size that may reach 20-30 ft tall and produces yellow plum-like fruits when ripe; in fact it is referred to as the Japanese plum. The tree has a rounded crown, short trunk and new wooly twigs. Generally loquat fruit trees are east to grow and low maintenance.  In Kenya loquat growing is carried out in isolated home gardens for local consumption and mostly consumed as fresh fruit. There are countries that grow loquats commercially, china and japan being the major producers.  The fruit is a good source for minerals and vitamins. The fruit has health benefits and is highly considered in traditional medicine. Even though they are largely consumed as fresh fruit, some are processed into syrup, jam and jellies.

The tree can tolerate temp of up to 35 degrees and requires approximately 1000-1200mm of rainfall annually. In instances of extreme cold or warm climate the trees normally fail to fruit or fruit poorly. They prefer deep and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They thrive in soils with a PH of 6, but can tolerate soils with a PH of 5-8.Young loquat trees should be well watered until they are fully established. Once established the trees are drought resistance but with regular watering, they will produce high quality fruits. Loquats can easily be grown from seed, grafting is necessary for consistent fruit quality. Most plants grown locally are from seed however we have spotted several hybrid varieties. We are in the process of propagating a few improved varieties that will later on be planted in different parts of the country. We hope to find a variety that is desirable to the market; hence the potential to be grown commercially. World over, there are more than 800 varieties that have been recorded.

Dwarf loquat

Dwarf Loquat

Loquats and a matter of fact all fruit trees should be pruned to the desired shape. The objective is to open up the tree to allow sunlight to penetrate the plant canopy and to lower the bearing surface for easy harvesting and maintenance. It is advisable top rune fruit trees after harvest, remove overgrown branches and sprouts.one must fertilize fruit trees to attain quality fruits, high yields and healthy tree development. Leaf and soil analysis should inform the farmer on the fertilization regime to implement. Generally well composed farmyard manure does well accompanied by foliar sprays. Over fertilization increases sensitivity to fire blight disease therefore ensure the right dose is applied.

There are two major diseases that affect loquat; fire blight and loquat scab. As usual, prevention is better than cure, spray copper fungicides as a preventative measure. Aphids are the most common pests and can be controlled using bio-pesticides. General farm hygiene is key to achieving pest and disease free orchards. Prune off any dead or diseased branches and burn them. A well maintained tree will be more disease resistant than one which is not well taken care of. Ensure trees are well fertilized, irrigated and monitored regularly for any early signs of pest and diseases. In case of any attacks, seek help from your local agriculture officer or agronomist.

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Loquat seedlins

Harvesting takes place when the fruits are fully ripe. It takes 3 months from flowering for fruits to reach maturity. The fruits are round or oval shaped borne in clusters and usually yellow or orange when ripe. With proper fruit thinning one can achieve big fruit size; this is done on fruit set by reducing the number of fruits per cluster. Loquat fruits should ripen on the tree for better taste and quality. Fruits that are harvested before they are ripe tend to be bitter and acidic. They are tastier when they are eaten straight off the tree or within a day or two of picking. Seeds are toxic and should not be eaten.

Loquat trees play an important role in the environment; they provide shade, act as windbreakers, its large leaves are a good source of nutrients used as mulch and the tree has a well-developed root system that holds soil countering erosion. It is mostly planted in parks and gardens because of its ornamental appearance. It is also grown on borders of homesteads used as a barrier or boundary. we do have both grafted and non-grafted loquat seedlings for those who are interested to plant a few.

 

 

 

PERSIMMON KAKI CULTIVATION

 

Persimmon is a rare fruit tree in Kenya only known to a few; ironically its popularity worldwide closely ranks next to avocadoes. Nutritionally the persimmon fruit is a good source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants important for optimum health. The trees can grow to a height of 20 feet and takes 3-5 years to start fruiting. Grafted varieties may take 2-3 years to fruit. Same as pomegranate, persimmon fruit trees are either single-stemmed or multi-trunked. Persimmons are classified into 2 major groups as either astringent or non-astringent. The astringent variety loses astringency as the fruit ripens.

The persimmon fruit tree is a hardy plant that is highly adaptable to different climatic conditions with minimal care and intervention. They grow and produce well in both subtropical and temperate areas but prefer slightly warmer areas. Most persimmon cultivars have no chilling requirement like most deciduous fruit trees do. Persimmons prefer deep, fertile and well drained soils with a PH of between 6.0-6.5. All in all they grow well in a wide range of soil and can tolerate heavy clay soil with good drainage. Therefore persimmon can grow well in most parts of the country and farmers should try it out by first planting a few seedlings to gauge how the plants will perform in different localities.

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2 Year Old Persimmon Tree

Seedlings used for propagation is grown from seed that can later be grafted. Trees are planted at a spacing of between 4m-6m depending on cultivar and land size. For better fruit production, Plant persimmons in areas with plenty of sunlight. Persimmons are fragile, therefore avoid windy areas or plant windbreakers.  Even though persimmons are hardy regular irrigation is recommended during initial stages and during fruit set. Persimmons are heavy producers therefore fruit thinning is essential to ensure good quality and size. Training and pruning maintains well-balanced plant vegetation that eventually leads to quality production. It is advisable to prune persimmons when they are dormant. Soil and leaf analysis will always give insights on the fertilization regime to be applied. Generally farm yard manure and foliar sprays are sufficient.

Persimmons are generally free from most pest and diseases but as a general rule prevention is better than cure. Plant and crop protection is important to guard against any pests or bacteria and fungi disease attacks. Some of the common pests include; fruit flies, mealy bugs and fruit spotting bug.  The few important diseases are leaf spot, mildew, wood decay, blights and crown gull. There is no much literature on control strategies for pests and diseases on persimmon kaki. Generally orchard hygiene is crucial and ensure to source disease free seedlings. Spray copper fungicide, horticultural oil or neem oil as a preventative measure before any attacks occur.

persimmon kaki

Persimmon kaki Seeedling

Our main objective is to promote fruit cultivation either for subsistence or commercial purposes our main target being small scale farmers. We collaborate with enlighten gardeners and farmers who have a passion for homegrown produce and can go an extra mile to try something new. There are several fruit trees like the persimmons that are grown in Kenya but there is no documentation on best practices and how the fruits perform in different parts of the country. We believe it’s up to us as farmers to try and experiment with the different varieties to gauge their performance in different parts of the Country. We have a catalogue of around 20 different fruit types that we do stock from time to time and have been planted in different parts of the country to monitor how they perform. Feel free to reach us on admin@plantafruit.org or call +254715963005. Fruitful 2019!

 

 

 

Edible Fig Fruit

Fig fruit is one of the ancient fruits known to mankind, mostly grown in tropical and subtropical areas of the world especially in the Mediterranean. It is a nutritious fruit that is richer in iron and copper contents than other fruits. Figs contain high sugar and low acid, and also rich in carbohydrates, vitamin A and C. Fig consumption and commercial cultivation has not taken root in Kenya, only few farmers and home gardeners have embraced this crop and in most cases only a few fig trees have been planted. Kamiti prisons have played a major role in the propagation of fig fruit seedlings and they are among the few fruit tree nurseries that do figs. In the marketplace figs can be spotted at Village market, a few traders deal with them at Gigiri and they don’t come cheap.  We are in the process of partnering with a farmer in the outskirts of Nairobi to set up a demo farm of around 100 plants targeting a specific market giving room for expansion and full commercialization if the market responds well.

Figs are low maintenance fruit crops that need less care and can grow in most parts of the country. Fig trees do well in a wide range of soil type the important factor being soil drainage.  Avoid areas that have poor drainage for this may lead to nematode infestation, stunted growth and eventual demise of the plant. Generally they should be planted in well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter that will enable them grow into drought tolerant crops once the plant has developed. Soil PH of about 6.0-7.0 is desired.  Farmers from arid and semi-arid areas should try out figs; they are among the fruit trees that can thrive in these areas. For maximum fruit production, Plant fig trees in areas where they will get plenty of sunlight and free from competing trees. Good water management, including regular irrigation during initial stages and mulching helps maintain tree health. Fig plants can be trained to tree or shrub form, it all depends with the farmers needs and which form does well in a given area.

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A young fig fruit

If figs are planted in the ground, fertilization is less necessary and should only be done after doing a soil test. Compost manure is sufficient to create an enabling environment for the fig plants to thrive. In case there is need to use fertilizers, it should not be applied at planting time. Generally, figs do not require regular fertilizing; excessive fertilizer application can have negative effects on fruit quality.  All in all, sufficient nutrients must be supplied to ensure the tree is healthy. Leaf analysis and soil test will come in handy when tailoring fertilizer needs.

With good preventative maintenance figs can be relatively pest and disease-free. Most common pests include; nematodes, mealy bugs, fig beetles, borers and scales. The most important disease is the fig rust, which is a fungus disease that attacks the leaves and anthracnose. This can be controlled by spraying copper fungicides from time to time as a preventative measure. Another important disease is fig mosaic virus, so far there is no cure, and affected plants should be removed so that the virus does not spread. Infected plants should not be used for propagation. Source disease free seedlings for planting and maintain proper sanitation during the lifetime of the fig plant to prevent any disease or pest attacks. Orchard hygiene is important and prevention is better than cure, prune to remove all weak, diseased or dead limbs each dormant season.

Fig Seedlings

Fig fruit seedlings

Figs take 3-4 years to start producing a viable crop. Sufficient irrigation will increase fruit size and production. Fruit thinning will also increase fruit size. Figs can bear two crops a year, the first crop produces substantially compared to the second crop.  Figs are Picked from the tree as they ripen, ripe fruits do not exude a milky sap when picked. One should be careful not to get in contact with the milky latex which can cause slight skin irritation.  Fig fruits are normally eaten fresh but they may be dried. So far we have seen two varieties doing well in Kenya, we don’t know their names but they can be differentiated by the fruit color. There is a variety that produces yellow figs when ripe and one that produces dark purple-brown figs. For those willing to plant a few fig plants can contact us and make an order.

Figs are among the underutilized fruits in Kenya.  At this moment we are not sure if it is commercially viable unless one has a special market. The fact that a fruit commands a high market price doesn’t guarantee commercial viability. Fruits like kiwi, litchi, pomegranate, raspberry, blue berry, goose berry and fig are retailing at more than 1000/= a kilo but the market is limited. Not many Kenyans are aware of the mentioned fruits, we are optimistic that as the masses get informed they will embrace some of these under-utilized fruits. It takes time and expertise to build an industry around a certain fruit crop especially if it is not a mainstream fruit crop. For starters plant a few fig plants for own consumption and sell or donate surplus. Fruitful season!

 

Pomegranate cultivation in Kenya

Pomegranate cultivation dates back in time, it is among ancient fruits mentioned in holy books. The plants are long lived, same as grapes, and can bear fruit for many years. Pomegranate is also referred to as the “seeded apple” or “apple of grain” in reference to the many seeds in the fruit. Scientifically classified as belonging to the family punicaceae and referred to as punica granatum. There are different varieties of pomegranate cultivated world over especially in the tropics and sub-tropics. It is a drought enduring plant that can sustain with small amounts of water but during tree establishment supplemental irrigation is necessary. The plant flowers almost throughout the year and the fruit has good keeping quality due to its thick rind. It can be grown into a shrub or single stemmed tree, the latter is mostly embraced. It grows to a height of 10-12 feet and bears fruit containing multiple juicy seeds.

There is no serious commercial production of pomegranate in Kenya due to the fact that there is a wide range of preferred alternative fruits. The other challenge is the objective difficulty of eating pomegranate; edible grains have to be separated from the hard cover and from the bitter yellow diaphragms. It is majorly grown as a backyard crop but there are a few farmers who have started to cultivate pomegranate for the local market. There is rising demand internationally, locally the demand does not guarantee a business case unless one is cultivating the fruit for a special and personal market. But as Kenyans get informed of the fruit’s medicinal value, demand will rise gradually as Kenyans embrace this wonderful fruit.  The Asian community has played a major role in popularizing this fruit by planting a few pomegranate trees in their homesteads and they are the first target market for fruit sellers. Most of the pomegranate found in supermarkets is imported. We encourage farmers to plant for own consumption and sell or donate surplus.

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Dwarf Pomegranate @ Maungu, Voi

Pomegranate can tolerate a wide range of soil types and is a salt-hardy fruit tree that thrives well on comparatively poor soils. They prefer well drained soil; deep black soil with its high moisture holding capacity and poor drainage is not recommended for it encourages only vegetative growth rather than fruiting. The plant has a versatile adaptability to a wide range of climatic conditions too but grows well in hot areas. Pomegranate trees require hot and a dry climate during the period of fruit development in order for good ripening and developing of fruit to its optimal size. It can thrive under desert conditions but bears well under irrigation. Site selection should take into consideration sun exposure and air circulation. For optimal growth and production, pomegranate requires six hours of direct sunlight in a day. The trees should be pruned and  trained to grow as an open vase, in such a way that light penetrates the trees from between the rows as well as from the inside of the trees.

As with all other fruit trees, crop protection is important if one is to realize quality yields. Most important diseases of pomegranate include; crown rot, bacterial blight among others. Common pests include aphids, mealy bugs, false codling moth, scales, thrips, root-knot nematode and whiteflies among others. In areas of high temperatures the fruits should be bagged as a protection measure against sun burn. Some of the physiological disorders are; fruit cracking, sun scald, sun burn and internal breakdown. Our advice as usual is to implement an integrated pest management programme and only use chemical as a last resort. Prevention is better than cure; spray your trees at least 3 times a year as a preventative measure.

Pomegranate-syokimau

Pomegranate is propagated from cuttings; plants should not be established from seeds if a true to type variety is desired. Plant produced from a cutting will be identical with the parent plant. Get your seedlings from certified nurseries or from farmers who are knowledgeable in pomegranate cultivation. The government, through Karlo, Thika imported several plants which are still on trial at the institute. This crop needs early adopters and skeptical followers especially in arid and semi-arid areas where the right variety of pomegranate can be grown for export.  This is a drought hardy crop that is capable of providing income security along with nutritional and food security. County governments from these areas can try out this crop and support the locals to adopt it as they come up with strategies of how to add value and market their produce internationally.

Pomegranates are self-fruitful and will start to fruit in 3-5 yrs time. The fruit can ripen on or off the tree. Harvest maturity is mostly determined by the colour development of the fruit.  Thinning is important if one to get a good sized fruit. The general rule is to leave one fruit per cluster; fruits that touch each other create an ideal environment for pests and diseases to thrive. Remove fruits which are deformed, damaged or borne on weak spurs. Fruit size and appearance matters when it comes to marketing the fruit. Early thinning of fruits, probably 4 weeks after flowering is useful. Perfectly ripe fruits are picked in installments, since all are not ready at once. Farmers and home gardeners should try out this fruit for both its beauty and fruit. Feel free to drop us a call or mail in case of any inquiries admin@plantafruit.org |0715963005..

 

FOOD FORESTS AS A LEARNING RESOURCE

Our flagship ‘education for sustainable development project’ at Kariobangi North primary in Nairobi was kick-started in 2012; 4 years down the line we have seen tremendous results. In between the years, great work has been done thanks to the more than 1000 people that took part in the project. There are those who contributed financially and those who offered their time to work in the project. We can’t mention everyone but we have shared photos of a good number of persons who took part. Our gratitude goes to the staff and leadership of Kariobangi north primary for their support despite the many challenges. Many thanks go to Eco Schools who saw the potential of the project and offered to boost and push it to another level.

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Eco Day Celebration

The children of kariobangi north now have the opportunity to see first-hand best horticultural farming activities being implemented in their school. Those with a passion for farming will have a platform to transform that passion into an enterprise or career. The school’s food forest has different fruit trees that include: apples, grape, sapote, loquat, breadfruit, mangoes, pears, guava, peach, Jabotica, brazillian cherry among others. The school has also planted sweet potato, banana and vegetables which they sell to the local community. This project offers a great learning experience, there is so much practical knowledge on different fruit types one can acquire when she/he visits the project.

This project plays an important role of connecting students with nature at an early age converting them into better stewards of our environment. We need to resurrect the tree planting culture that was emphasized by our former president His excellency Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, and we believe the best way to do that is to target school going children. Of great importance is the acquisition of food growing/production skills that will go a long way in helping the students later in life. Students gain hands on experience in a hands off environment where they are allowed to experiment and make their own decisions. Students acquire practical knowledge in areas like; Composting, group dynamics, food safety, how to market their produce, pest management, fertilization, seed propagation, record keeping among others. The project also offers great benefit to the entire surrounding community who are free to visit the school orchard and learn one or two things from the different fruit species. Soon they will be able to purchase seedlings from the school’s tree nursery.

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Students taking notes at their food forest.

As an organization, we have no share in the projects we implement; anything we plant belongs to the school and all proceeds thereafter are reverted back to the project. Our purpose is to ensure the fruit trees planted are well taken care of and to develop a training and business model that will generate income and make the project sustainable. We take a maximum of 3 years in a school project and then we hand it over to the school after we have trained project beneficiaries to take part in the day to day running of the project. There after we only act as consultants in areas of: seedling production, crop protection, production planning, spray techniques & Schedule, irrigation & fertilization, adult learning, market strategy and sustainable farming.

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Members of the community visiting the school project.

We are seeking partnerships to ensure such a project is replicated in at least 2 schools in each county to enable students to plant, manage and harvest their own produce as they learn important life skills. Developing an orchard as a learning resource creates an opportunity for the students to be aware of environmental issues and come up with simple solutions to address them. Food security at a local level is tremendously important, especially when crisis hits. Farming is the foundation, as humans we need energy to function and the only source of energy is food. It’s high time we support farming and conservation initiatives both at a personal and institutional level; teach your kids to grow food, support tree/food growing programs in local schools, make donations to credible organizations such as the Green Belt movement among others. We all can be part of the solution by simply planting and taking care of a single tree.  And to our dear leaders who ride on any food crisis to gain economically and politically, we only have this to quote; “If you can’t feed them, you can’t lead them”- Anonymous. Plenty be found within our boarders.

 

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.

 

Soursop fruit farming

Soursop is a tropical evergreen tree that produces fruit with a prickly yellow-green skin. Also referred to as graviola, all its parts from the root to leaves are edible or has medicinal value. It is a fast growing tree that starts producing fruit in the third year. The soursop fruit is sold in some of the major markets in Nairobi that include; Ngara, city and wakulima. There is no documentation on any commercial soursop plantations in Kenya but a few plants have been spotted in coast, Nyanza and central regions. Soursop (annona muricata) is often mistaken for or referred to as custard apple (annona reticulata) , they belong to the same family- annona, but they are two different fruits. We will explore Custard apple in our next article.

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Soursop fruit tree

Soursop grows in a wide array of soils as long as the soil is well drained. A soil PH of between 5 and 6.5 is ideal. The soursop tree is small in size and may serve as an intercrop between large fruit trees. Soursop can be propagated from seed or cuttings. Plant well developed seedlings and ensure they are mulched to suppress weeds and to improve moisture retention in the soil. Soursop trees prefer warm and humid conditions to thrive, they are very susceptible to low temperatures. On maturity fruit may emerge anywhere on the tree ; trunk, branches or twigs. The tree will require adequate fertilizing of which we recommend organic compost and mulching using organic material. Young trees can be supported using bamboo sticks.

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Flowering Stage

The tree starts to flower and eventually fruit in the third year, fruits are harvested when they are fully developed but still green. Thereafter it takes 2-4 days to ripen. A single tree can produce 60-70 fruits in a year. The fruit should be handled with care when harvesting to avoid bruising it. After harvest prune slightly as you eliminate dead wood. Soursop may be directly consumed when ripe or processed into ice cream, syrup, smoothies, juice, pulp etc. The fruit has a white fleshy and fibrous pulp with a sweet sour flavor and is rich in vitamin B and C.

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Mature soursop tree

There are various pest and diseases that attack the soursop tree. Locally it is more vulnerable to the fruit fly and aphids. Plant disease free seedlings and monitor your plants for any pests and diseases. In case of any attacks consult your extension officer; we do also assist farmers by offering them professional advice concerning the same. We have stocked a few soursop plants that are ready for planting, feel free to visit our demonstration project at kariobangi north primary or our main nursery at Thome, Kasarani. Happy gardening and make sure you plant a fruit tree.

Working with kids

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.

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