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Your guide into pawpaw farming

MONEY & MARKET
By Jennifer Anyango | July 3rd 2021

Roda Ogake, a pawpaw farmer, checks some of her fruits at her Riosiri home in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Pawpaw lowers cholesterol levels, boosts immunity, has anti-cancer properties plus more health benefits. As people are looking at ways to boost immunity, this is an excellent plant to invest in.

For Paul Mwanza, a farmer in Makueni County, pawpaw is a god-sent fruit. Mwanza explains what it takes to start a pawpaw farm and its money-making potential.

Ideal growth conditions

Pawpaw thrive in warm areas (tropical or subtropical area) with adequate rainfall and a temperature range of 21 to 33 degrees Celsius.

“The quality and yield are low at higher altitudes. Frost can kill the plant and cool and overcast weather delays fruit ripening and depresses fruit quality. Fruit tastes much better when grown during a warm sunny season,” says Mwanza.

Pawpaw grows best in light, well-drained soils rich in organic matter with soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. It can tolerate any kind of soil provided it is well-drained. The roots are sensitive to water-logging and even short periods of flooding can kill the plants.

Planting

Pawpaw yields per acre vary slightly with variety. The popular varieties in Kenya are solo sunrise, Calina IPB9 and Malkia (classified as F1 pawpaw) which have an average production of 30 tonnes per acre annually. Indigenous pawpaw takes longer to produce fruits but require less water. Mwanza grows F1 and indigenous varieties. On an acre, he grows up to 250 fruit trees. An indigenous tree seedling costs Sh40 while F1 goes for Sh80.

“One plant will give three to four pawpaws per week. If planting the F1 pawpaw, you need a constant supply of water. The local ones are drought resistant and can survive with minimal water, but cannot survive in water-logged areas,” says Mwanza.

During transplanting, do not disturb the roots. Older seedlings recover poorly after planting out. Pawpaw needs adequate drainage and is often planted on mounds or ridges.

“Some farmers use fertilisers but for pawpaw it is not a good idea. We use organic manure to maintain quality,” he says.

Farmer can do intercropping as “pawpaw is ‘good friends’ with beans.” He does not recommend maize crop because its pollen is not suitable for pawpaw.

FI takes three to four months to start producing fruits while the indigenous take up to eight months. F1 produce double compared to the indigenous ones.

Harvesting and returns

The appearance of traces of yellow on the fruit indicates that it is ready for harvesting. Since they are perishable, the fruits need to get to the market immediately. One pawpaw weighs between one to 1.2 kg and a kilo costs between Sh50 and Sh60.

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