Pomegranate, a fruit with immense potential; financially and health- wise

Pomegranate, a fruit with immense potential; financially and health- wise

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. This saying is what turned Agnes Wanjiru into a magnificent fruit farmer after having been diagnosed with cancer. She is carrying out her farming activities in Ruai, outskirts of Nairobi.

Her journey to fruit farming began while researching in the internet on which fruits she could consume to rejuvenate back her body in fighting cancer. She stumbled upon pomegranate, and while consuming the fruit she thought of cultivating it to cut on the cost of purchasing.Her interest grew more when she discovered the retail prices of the fruit were increasing tremendously with a single fruit going for Ksh 500 and a kilo selling at Ksh 2,000. A kilo has only six fruits but can be lower depending on the size of the fruits.

Pomegranate known locally as ‘kukumanga’ has become popular in the world because it is believed to contain ingredients that are good for detoxifying the body. The fruit is packed with antioxidants adequate to those in tea. It is loaded with vitamin C and minerals like Zinc. It has been tested to cut back symptoms and reduces heart blockages (atherosclerosis). Pomegranate has punicalagins compound which reduces cancer occurrences.

“I began farming pomegranates 5 years ago and the journey has been marvelous. To my healthy, the fruit have been of great help and it also turned out to be a good business venture because I receive numerous calls from people who are curious to know more about it. As things unfolded, I also added dragon fruit and mulberry which are good in building human immune system,” she stated.

Besides cultivating pomegranate, she has specialized in grafting various fruits seedlings which she sells and also offers trainings to prospective farmers on good crop husbandry at a fee.Pomegranate seedling retails at Ksh 1,000 at her farm.

She grows her fruits organically. The main advantages of organic farming is soil composition where Wanjiru narrates she had to continually improve the soil for a period of 2 consecutive years to achieve the desired results while cultivating the fruits. First, she builds the soil by doing a lot of composting and adding a lot of compost to the soil. By covering the soil with mulch it helps in ensuring that all the micro-organism in the soil are preserved; once they are exposed to the open they are easily scorched by the sun. Besides mulching and composting she does green manuring and cover cropping. She works to ensure all the land is covered and it’s not bare, normally by planting legumes and putting them back into the soil as green manure.

“The good thing with Pomegranate is that it is an all-round crop meaning we can be able to harvest throughout the year. We normally not water them when the season ends which induces stress to the plant, after two weeks, we water which leads to them starting to flower again”, Wanjru expounded. A well tended Pomegranate plant starts flowering at the age of one year.

The production of good quality Pomegranate fit for the market is dependent on various factors. First, Agnes Wanjiru has sort the assistance of an agronomist who guides them on chemical application and control of pests and diseases. For instance, Ruai being relatively dry area, insurgence of thrips is high and they can wipe out the entire production in a single day when not controlled. Secondly as the plant requires watering, having a reliable source of water is very important. Pomegranate trees grow fast and their branches spread wide. For this reason, it is best to plant the trees with a spacing of 6m to 6m from one tree to the other while 5m is the spacing in between rows; The rows should be uniform. This allows for the penetration of maximum amount of sunshine especially during flowering and fruiting stages.

The payoff of farming is to be consistently getting equipped with more knowledge. According to her, farming may look simple but it’s an art and science where a lot of knowledge is needed. For her case she has constantly visited other farmers excelling in farming like King of Dragon and joining farming groups.
One of the biggest challenges she encountered at the beginning was marketing, convincing groceries that what she was selling was of good quality though eventually after persuasions she has managed to overcome that. Her parting shot is; farming is amazing and a joyful venture to engage in.

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