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Technoserve initiative in sponsoring sweet yellow passions


Advocacy for the adoption of sweet yellow passion fruit for commercial purposes by farmers’ was started by TechnoServe, an NGO that fights poverty by offering business solutions in 2010.

Through Project Nurture -three and half year pilot project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Coca-Cola. TechnoServe targets at doubling fruits incomes of over 50,000 small-scale mango and passion fruit farmers in Kenya and Uganda.

Working from the specific demand expressed by the market, Project Nurture facilitates an integrated value chain development approach that engages farmers, farmer based organizations, processors, retailers, and other actors. The ultimate aim of the Project is develop robust value chain for enabling local sourcing of fruits by partners, increasing marketable volumes by farmers and increasing productivity.

Isaiah Kirema, Senior Business Advisor, Project Nurture under the auspices of TechnoServe says since inception of the project remarkable revenues increase for the farmers has been realized. “we have internal robust M&E system that we have captured baseline of the farmers and every season we have been carrying scientific based survey to capture incremental project value to the farmer”, aver the Advisor.

Sweet Yellow Passion was to be grown in ASALs Embu ( lower latitude) areas of Mbeere and Karurumo; Tharaka Nithi, Chuka areas Ng’amba Ng’ombe; Imenti South, North and Central; Tigania, Kirinyaga and Murang’a around Kambiti. The chief areas were Kirinyaga, Mbeere, Meru South and some parts of Tigania.

The start was not easy. Many farmers TechnoServe targeted were a bit sluggish in adopting the fruit as they had no idea what the fruit was and how they could benefit from it. Nevertheless, the early adaptors have made so much money out of this venture and set a precedent for other farmers.

Prior to the start of this Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit, TechnoServe identified that Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) had spent 20 years developing Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit varieties. Thus, this NGO joined hands with KARI and Equity Bank, to facilitate planting of this high value passion by farmers.

“TechnoServe enabled KARI establish mother blocks which would produce enough seed for farmers in Kenya. Our organization also ensured farmers set up farmer owned nurseries at the village level tobring closer clean, quality and certified vines to the farmers”, states Isaiah.
This, in addition to their demo sites has attracted many farmers who have taken up Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit farming. Exchange visits between farmers’ themselves are also conducted. The idea behind the demos is to let farmers see, feel, see and taste the realities of the Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit.

Isaiah says that farmers can sell their fruits in the fresh market in the local supermarkets as well as oversees chain stores and adds the fresh market is not saturated. Farmers can also trade with the micro-processors who are contracted by hotels and other people who sell juices within Nairobi. This market segment takes up to 3-5 tons of the fruits per week.
Nonetheless, farmers need to be keen as the fruits for processing are sold much cheaper than those destined for fresh markets because processors prefer low grade fruit which may be not appealing for the fresh market.

“Wilmar for one and half years has been implementing with Techno Serve export trials for UK which has been very exciting and results have been encouraging. He further says that Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit is in demand in over 360 UK stores. Currently, we are servicing only 50 stores with a supply of 2 metric tons per week.

Work to increase the production is under way. The reason for this slight low production is that farmers’ vines are at different growth stages. By next year when all the 3000 farmers will be in full production, the output capacity is expected to increase.

The increase, besides catering for the export market is also geared towards boosting of Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit Processing in Central Kenya. At the moment with a production of 2 MT per week, only a small portion of the fruit from this part of the country is crashed by processor such as Kevian and Sunny Processors. The production is quite lower than the 10 MT per week these companies can absorb.

Isaiah Kirema told Hortfresh Journal that 400 out of 6000 active farmers have been certified for Global Gap. Hopefully, agro-companies are anticipated to develop more inputs targeting the fruit. Although the Project Nurture tenure is coming to an end, TechnoServe is negotiating with donors to increase its life span as there is a feeling that the project needs more time for sustainability especially farmers who have not participated in the market and farmer groups at nascent levels Virtually all farmers prefer planting during the rainy season. This means that the fruit will be supplied to the market at the same time, therefore lowering prices. Farmers are therefore urged to go against the grain to rip lucrative benefits when the markets are lowly supplied.

Agronomic practices are a main challenge. The issues of MRLs and traceability are very critical to food crops trading. Thus, Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit farmers should use the allowed agro chemicals

Farmers should also be efficient in their ventures. They should produce highest quality at the lowest cost as markets will not cushion farmers from their inefficiencies and imprudence.

When pruning, farmers must stop clearing everything. Heavy pruning makes Sweet Yellow Passion vines susceptible to diseases such as Die back. Die back is a viral disease and is enhanced by wrong methods of pruning. Pruning tools must also be disinfected to eliminate the risk of spreading some diseases.

Isaiah Kirema encouraged farmers to venture into Sweet Yellow Passion production as the fruit is disease resistant, does well and yields highly in semi-arid areas. With a reliable source of water, a farmer can be assured of yields throughout the year. Over and above this, he assured farmers that all structures for them to benefit from this venture are already in place.

There is need to demystify what value addition of horticultural crops such as Sweet Yellow Passion Fruit among others entails. “Many people construe it to be denoting only heavy processing that involves machine conversions. However, simple things such as observing good agricultural practices such as using the allowed chemicals, harvesting at the right time and prudent postharvest handling such as cleaning, sorting, grading and efficient packaging is sufficient value addition that can fetch farmers higher incomes from their horticultural produce”, says Isaiah Kirema.

Through strengthening initiatives such as the above captured basic value addition methods, TechnoServe has strengthened output for the Sweet Yellow Passion in the local as well as export markets.

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