Farmers in Vihiga County in Western Kenya are gradually adapting pawpaw farming thanks to its cheparoning by Kenya Papaya Products Ltd a company that manufactures papaya jam blended Ganoderma mushrooms which is sourcing for the fruits from farmers in the locality.
Martin Kidaha Ndoli is one of the farmers in the area who has ventured into the business. He quitted employment after being a security guard. He decided to try his hands in farming cultivating maize and beans with the hope of reaping good harvest but as fate would have it; he lost his entire crop when hailstorms pounded his farm. It’s a story he wishes could be easily erased from his mind as he had invested all the savings he had accumulated while employed.
Determined to succeed, he made up his mind and ventured in fruit farming. It’s an activity he states has been a blessing as it has opened more doors which maize farming could not have done. “I decided to venture into pawpaw farming specializing in Malkia F1 variety, after is covering it matures within a short period and produces big fruits. This I discovered while perusing through the internet,” Kidaha says.
The Malkia F1 variety has the ability to yield up to 50-100 fruits when the trees reach peak production in two years. Considering that an acre farm can grow up to 1000 trees, a farmer
Is likely to harvest close to 50,000 fruits in a season.The variety has a reddish orange colour and weighs 400-650g. The variety produces flowers which have both male and female parts and are capable of self- pollination. Other features according to Mr.Kidaha include, high resistance to ring spot virus, a long production span of up to 10 years, very sweet fruits with uniform size and shape.
Kidaha has also, specialized in seedling propagation. Pawpaw fruit tree nursery management is labor and knowledge-intensive. “Breaking pawpaw seed dormancy before sowing and regular watering is important. Water pH should range between 6 to 7; else the seedlings get stunted growth.’’ Kidaha says
Since the seedlings are still weak, they ought to be protected from direct sunlight hence he uses a greenhouse or shade net structure. “It takes about 3 months to get the seedling ready for transplanting. Two to three weeks before they are transplanted, we move them from greenhouse to the open air for hardening. The potting soil has to be very carefully mixed. I mix soil, well decomposed manure, sand and biochar in the sand ensures easy percolation of water while biochar helps in retention of the water within the plant pot,’’ says Martin, adding that he prefers using organic manure instead of synthetic fertilizers.
The farmer reveals that sales depend on season, many farmers prefer planting their fruit trees at the onset of the rainy season March and September. “During this period, I can sell as many as 5,000 seedlings a season. Other farmers use irrigation and are therefore able to plant at any time of the year. The off-season sales are about 500 in a month,’’ he adds.
He sells his seedlings for Ksh100 each and uses social media for marketing. His seedling are branded as ‘Kidaha PawPaws’. Apart from propagating Malkia F1 variety he aslo improves Solo sunrise varieties. Pests such as mealybugs, red spider mites and diseases like papaya ringspot virus and anthracnose usually attack his seedlings.
However, in a bid to curb such challenges, farm hygiene and proper feeding of pawpaw is very important. “A healthy plant is a resistant plant against pests and diseases,” he says.
Other challenges that the farmer, has ever come across include poor seed germination due to increased seed dormancy and lack of freshwater for raising the seedlings. The farmer, who says that the venture is profitable, is adding tangerine pixie seedlings, and apple seedlings which he hopes to sell at Sh250 per seedling.
Martin Kidaha Ndoli
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