With good earnings from horticultural farming, youths in Nandi County are diversifying agricultural production.
Passion fruit production is thriving in several regions as self-help groups and farmers adopt alternative crops besides the traditional maize, tea and dairy farming.
The fruits fetch good money as they mature within a short period of time and utilise a small portion of land. The region is endowed with favourable climatic conditions throughout the year and has fertile soils.
The youths also said the good earnings have led some parents to allow them cultivate portions of land which they were initially denied.
“Passion fruit production has good returns and has enabled us be self-reliant. Some parents who have initially been strict on land have started allowing youths to cultivate passion fruits and generate income,” says Cleophas Keter, a member of a self-help group in Kisarich village in Aldai constituency, Nandi County.
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Apart from being a member of the group, Keter who is also a passion fruit nursery operator, says he has also embarked on expansion of passion fruit production.
“Initially, we used to plant maize, cabbage and beans among other crops. But after we were sensitised the potential of passion fruits, we started planting it in 2012 after forming a self-help group of 50 members,” says Keter.
He says they were trained by Equatorial Hortfresh on passion fruit farming which also provided the seeds. Equatorial Hortfresh works in partnership with USAID and Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project in supporting groups and farmers in production of passion fruits.
“We have ready market for the crop because Equatorial hortfresh buys the fruits every Friday. An average of 12 fruits of passion weighs one kilo and retails at an average of Sh70. Our group sells about 600kgs of passion fruits every week,” says Keter.
Emmanuel Tarbei, an Agronomist in Nandi County says the region produces seven tones of passion fruits per week. With an average of Sh70 per kilogramme, seven tones of the crop would translate to about Sh25 million earned by passion fruit farmers in Nandi per year.
“Nandi County produces seven tonnes of passion fruits every week,” says Tarbei, adding that the local market is in Nairobi and Mombasa while regional markets are in Kampala and Rwanda.
Tarbei says there has been a cultural notion that land is a preserve for the old. “When we introduced the initiative in Nandi, land was a preserve for the old. Several people have however realised the need and have allowed the younger generation to expand passion fruit production with good will,” he adds.
Tarbei says the sub-sector is expanding adding that seeds are sourced from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and distributed to farmers through Horticultural Crop Development Authority (HCDA), a government agency to farmers.
Until his retirement in 2005 as a primary school teacher, Mr Gideon Bett, a passion fruit producer from Kesogon in Nandi South district had not seen better pay than what he has achieved from the crop.
“I started planting passion fruits in October last year and currently, I have 350 mature plants in my half acre piece of land. This generates 200 kgs of fruits every week earning me Sh 14,000,” he says. Bett who spoke in his farm recently says the new venture is well paying compared to maize and tea production.
He urged more youths to take advantage of the prevailing good market of passion fruit and venture into its production to better their livelihoods.