A youth farming passion fruits and doing it passionately

A youth farming passion fruits and doing it passionately

Passion fruit farming has risen to popularity in Kenya as a result of the changing consumer tastes and preferences. Most Kenyans are embracing fresh juices, slowly moving away from carbonated soft drinks and thus the passion fruits demand upsurge.

The rise has seen many farmers venture into passion fruit cultivation to fulfil the insatiable demand both for export and domestic markets. One such farmer who is cultivating this versatile climbing vine crop is young Elphas Muriuki Gatobu. His zeal for the crop is drawn from the fruit short span maturity as well as the high returns the crop has.

Gatobu, is a graduate working with an insurance company. He is cultivating the yellow variety on 8-acre piece of land at his home village of Kariene, Meru County. He also has another 4acre farm in Juja, where he is farming tomatoes, chilies, paw paws and onions.

He chose the yellow variety over the purple, due to fact that the yellow variety tends to yield higher and is more resistant to diseases. “I carried out research on passion cultivation as well as attended a farming workshop organized by Amiran Kenya so as to be abreast with passion fruits and avoid making mistakes which in the end could lead to me incurring loses,” he said.

The farmer has teamed up with other young farmers and works together with like minded farmers as they keep on motivating each other.

In his farm, there are over 2,000 vines which are well tended by 3 workers whom he has trained. His parents oversee the daily supervision enabling him to be only making road trips to the farm on weekends. “Being far from my workers has been a challenge but I have found trustworthy employees. This was not possible at first as I had to part ways with many rogue employees,” he explained. Besides the workers, he has contracted an agronomist who visits the farm frequently and advises him on the dos and don’t as far as passion fruit farming is concerned.

Gatobu propagates seedlings for his farm. He gets scions from a farm which is disease free. He propagates yellow variety scion with the rootstock of purple variety which he says the roots of purple don’t easily dry up and they penetrate much deeper into the soil for search of water. Though propagation of the fruit takes a longer time, he says that it’s the best way as planting the convectional way of extracting seeds compromises on quality and quantity of the fruits.

The young farmer has developed a timetable which he follows to the later. According to him, good timings and well planning is key to successful farming.“A farmer should know when to plant and be aware of the period when there is glut of the commodity in the market”, he elucidated.

Passion fruits grow well in a well aerated soil with good drainage. He sets up wires between the posts that act as trellising host for the crops

“The posts need to be strong enough to support the crop as the plant yield many fruits per stem and their sizes are bigger  compared to the other varieties,” he said. Luckily for him he had planted trees which he used as posts hence saving on high prices of poles.

He does pruning when he notices the over shooting stems. This is one of the management practices he does which prevents the crop from being bushy. The crop takes 4 months to be ready for harvesting and he harvests 120-150 kilograms per week which translates to 1-2 tons per month. For Gatobu, market is not a challenge as he sells to exporters. At the moment, they are retailing at 80 shilling per kilo gram.

“Am targeting to venture into export market soon. The prices in global market are lucrative as 2 fruits retail at 1dollar. I have begun GlobalGap trainings and will be seeking KEPHIS certification soon,” he said.

When in the export market, Gatobu plans to introduce other farmers from the area to cultivate passion fruit cultivation. By motivating, them he  hopes this will influence other people to passion fruits hence this will expand Kariene Village as far as passion fruits are concerned.


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