Pears keep family cash tap flowing for years
Hundreds of branches bend under the weight of pears fruits. Some are mature ready for harvesting while others just young fruits.
Most of the trees have support, to prevent them from breaking and falling to the ground. Underneath each tree, several pears lie on the ground, some rotting. That is the situation at Onesmus Njoroge's 10-acre farm in Limuru when The Smart Harvest visits.
“We are in a pears season and that is why you see them all over the ground,” begins Njoroge. Njoroge who is being assisted by several farmhands, says harvesting started late December and still ongoing.
“The farm has been a hive of activity since then. We have not had time to rest,” he says.
Pears, the deciduous tree that grows up to 60ft tall and produces brownish fruit with sweet fleshy white inside with small hard seeds, was first introduced in Kenya from the United Kingdom in the cool climatic area of Limuru by Christian missionaries in the 1920s.
He explains that pears season begins late December or early January and ends sometimes in April. The young Njoroge started managing the farm in 2012 having taken over the farm from his father. According to his records, the farm used to produce over ten tonnes of pears in a season but that has dropped.
“When my grandfather and later my father managed the farm, the harvests were always bumper. Today, l harvest less than five tonnes.”
He attributes this to changing weather patterns linked to climate change that has seen floods and drought becoming a common occurrence.
"When it fails to rain, it interferes with flowering of the plants. We are experiencing long dry spell more than before."
For consistent harvests, he has plans to start irrigation. Meanwhile, Njoroge grows three varieties of pears - Bosc, Comice and Parkham. Njoroge integrates the pears with maize and traditional vegetables.
“Since pears is a seasonal crop, l also plant maize and vegetables which continue to provide me with some income during pears off-season,” he explains.
He says his love for pears started long time ago when he was a child. “l grew up eating pears, and would go to the farm to help with harvesting,” he recalls.
Since he took over the farm, he plans to introduce new plants and value addition. So far, the farm has 2,000 pears trees.
To keep the numbers up, he has established a nursery to replace trees that have died.
What you need to grow pears
To appeal to a wider market, Njoroge grows his fruit with no chemicals. He uses manure from the farm.
He explains that pears are prone to diseases and pests when young. But mature trees are less prone to diseases and pests attacks.
Lucky for him, he has never lacked a market for pears save for when corona pandemic hit early 2020 and there were lockdowns.
“Because of the many health benefits, I have never lacked customers. Other than regular customers, I also get hundreds of referrals.”
Pears contain high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and copper.
In a season, he explains one tree gives him at least 50kg of pears. He sells a kilo for Sh150 and Sh500 per bucket. He harvests weekly.
The venture is so successful, he says going back to employment is not an option. One time he wanted to balance between employment and pears farming and started looking for a job.
With a Bachelor's degree in International Business Administration from Limkokwing University, Malasya Njoroge hoped to get a good job.
He got an offer with a gross salary of Sh40,000 and the job was based in Nairobi, yet he lived in Limuru.
“After my calculations, it did not make economic sense. I declined the offer,” he says. He went back to farming and has never looked back.
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