Farmers at the Coast have started reaping from a fast-maturing variety of coconut palms that were planted about three years ago.
Farmers in Kilifi are this season harvesting the first crop from the hybrid coconut trees whose seeds were imported from India.
The dwarf variety was planted in 2019 and the yield is ready for consumption. Usually, the African tall coconut tree variety takes six years to produce coconuts.
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The new variety matures between two-and-a-half to three years and Coast farmers regard it as a game changer.
And unlike the common variety, the hybrid coconut trees produce more than 300 nuts at a time compared to about 100 yielded by the traditional coconut trees.
The new variety yields when it is two-and-a-half feet tall compared to the tall one that matures when it is six-and-a-half feet high.
A Kilifi farmer, Salim Kalu planted 35 hybrid coconut trees in 2019 and is among farmers who started harvesting nuts two and a half years later.
The coconut project was introduced by the Danish International Development Agency (Danida) in Kilifi and Kwale to promote the cash crop whose farming had declined.
“We are harvesting the hybrid coconuts after two-and-a-half years of planting. We also enjoy a bumper harvest from the new variety,” Kalu who is a farmer at Miwani in Ganda Location said.
He said 30 out of 35 trees that were given for free are healthy and yielding big nuts.
Kalu also urged farmers to embrace the new form of coconut farming and asked the Kilifi County government to continue supporting the farmers.
The major challenge, he said, was the pests and drought.
“The common coconut tree grows up to six-and-a-half feet before harvesting begins but these ones grow up to two-and-a-half feet and are ready for harvesting,” he said.
Danida officials led by Charles Wasike and Kilifi Agriculture executive Luciana Sanzua visited Kalu’s Miwani farm to inspect the coconut produce.
Danida in partnership with the Kilifi County government initially imported 6,000 seedlings from India to boost farmers’ yields and incomes.
Sanzua termed the project a game changer for farmers.
“Farmers have started reaping more from the crop,” she said.
Wasike who is a programme officer at the Denmark embassy in Nairobi said they were happy to participate in the first ever harvest of hybrid coconut.
“We now have a fast-maturing coconut variety in Kenya. Our focus is on the smallholder farmers who have bright future as they will have more money in their pockets,” he said.
Wasike said Danida invested over Sh50 million in the project and attached technical team to make it a success adding that more farmers will access the new variety.
He said the private sector will help provide market.
Micro Enterprises Support Programme Trust (MESPT) CEO Rebecca Amuhoye said they facilitated the organisation and coordination of various players to import the hybrid seeds in 2019. She said 100 farmers benefited from the first batch of hybrid coconuts in Kilifi but more trees will be planted to increase the numbers.
“We are happy with the harvest. We are expecting very high yields from the hybrid coconut,” she said.
Amuhoye said they are looking forward to harvesting over 300 coconuts per tree up from 100 to 140 coconuts that the common coconut trees yield. Green Employment in Agriculture programme manager Doreen Kinoti said they were happy to witness the launch the first harvest from the hybrid variety.
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