KIWI farming gains attraction in Kenya

By Malachi Motano

According to farmers in Nyeri who are members of Mt. Kenya Kiwi farmers association under Kiwi farming programme (KFP), while Kiwi farming is viewed by a section of farmers as an expensive and long-time venture, the return on investment is worth, hence attracting many farmers not only in the region but also in the rest of the country. KFP is a project by Kengreen, an organization that trains and recruit farmers, offering them seedlings as well as providing market.

“Kiwi plant can take upto 2 to 3 years to start fruiting but can bear fruits for upto 25 years. It is a high yielding crop that can be embraced by small-scale farmers who have no large tracts of land and is not labour intensive. It allows room for inter-cropping with other plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, onions ginger, asparagus, maize and chillies,” says Ken Mwangi the coordinator of Kiwi farming program involving 200 farmers in Nyeri County and also in other parts of the country.

According to Mwangi from just an eighth of an acre, a farmer can grow 50 Kiwi plants which when harvested, one plant can yield more than 200 fruits. With one Kiwi fruit retailing at Ksh100 in most of the high end retails and supermarkets, one can earn up to 1million. In one acre, one can plant 340 vines.
Mwangi says there is plenty of market for the fruit locally and even abroad. Currently in Kenya it is not easy to find Kiwi fruits in ordinary grocery, a full packed shelf of the fruits can only be found in the high end supermarkets.

“What makes Kiwi fruit prices to remain high is because the fruits are usually imported. It means there is a big opportunity for locals to venture and challenge the high market demand by producing the desired quality.
Despite being a relatively a new idea in Kenya, there are a number of farmers who have gotten the wind of its valued benefits and are now taking advantage of the loophole to make a timely investment.

Seeing an opportunity

Charity Mumbi, the chairlady of Mt. Kenya Kiwi farmers association in Sagana Lodge area regrets that while Kenya has an ideal tropical climate for Kiwi fruit farming, many people for long have not had the information necessary for the successful growing of the fruit.
“Imagine the few kiwi we have been lucky to get in the market are mostly imported from Italy, India and China. Don’t you think it would be great to produce our own kiwi fruits? Well we are glad that a good number of farmers are developing interests and are putting efforts towards growing this fruit. We have for long been growing different fruits in this region, we have not achieved much from the many trainings we have been attending but on Kiwi fruit growing we see a renewed hope,” says Mumbi.
Another Kiwi fruit farmer is Isaac Nguno, a village elder in the neighbouring Gathambia village, “My Kiwi plants are just one year old now. Being a pilot project, I am doing only ten plants but if I get my calculations right, I expect at least Ksh 60,000 from my first harvest,” he says.

Kiwi fruit also called Chinese goose berry, is a good source of important vitamins such as vitamin C, K and E that are deficient in many other fruits. The fruit can be consumed raw by those who buy for self or family consumptions, juice processing companies also buy in bulk, and in baking plants for food baking.
Kiwi fruits have longer shelf life of over six months after harvesting when stored in a cool place. It can stay for weeks out of refrigeration before sent to the market; therefore a farmer does not need a refrigerator to keep the fruits fresh after harvesting.
Good quality fruits which weigh above 70g can go for KeS105 per fruit while those weighing between 40-70g can be sold for KSh100.
In Rang’ala, Siaya County Joseph Agoko practice Kiwi farming on half an acre piece of land where he has 250 vines. He planted them about six months ago but is not worried of waiting because he is assured of good returns.

“I don’t mind waiting for long. This is a goldmine, imagine if one tree can give me 250 fruits and I have 250 of them. Do the calculation, 250 times 250 will give me 62 500 fruits, if I sell each at 100 shillings then it means I will have Ksh 6.2 million; imagine just in one harvest and once it starts fruiting it will continue for over 20 years. What else will I need! Nothing,” says Agoko

Kiwi thrives in cool or cold climates of the Kenyan highlands where temperatures sometime fall below 10o celsius. “So if you are in the central highlands (Kiambu, Nyandarua, Meru and Nyeri), Rift Valley highlands (Eldoret, Kericho, Bomet and Nandi hills) or the western highlands (Kisii and areas near Kakamega forest) you are in the ideal zone. The plants also need a lot of water to thrive so the high amount of rainfall in these regions is a blessing,” says Mwangi.

It also needs a well drained soil with a high amount of organic matter. Like most fruit trees, kiwi plants do not tolerate too much water in the soil. If the soil is compact and water takes a time to drain off, you must plant the vines on raised beds to direct excess water away from the roots of the plant. Draining the soil can also be improved by digging a large hole (about 3 by 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep), mixing the top soil with a bit of sand and well composted farmyard manure then fill the hole with the mixture and plant your vine in it.
Kiwi being a high value crop makes its farming in Kenya such a potential high income business opportunity. With the necessary structures, you are good to go.

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