Nyamira County residents are turning to pawpaw farming to top up earnings from bananas to shield themselves against coffee losses resulting from poor markets and theft of the beans from factories.
Farmers in Nyamira North Sub-county, who previously predominantly grew coffee as the main cash crop, are taking advantage of the expanding hospitality industry in the Kisii region to increase revenue bases.
Mose Nyambane of Geturi Village, Magwagwa, has more than 200 bananas and about 50 pawpaw trees, which are now suppressing the neglected cotton bushes in his farm.
From the scattered pawpaws, the farmer said he makes more than Sh2,500 every month from the continuous harvest of the fruits.
“I little knew about the pawpaws until World Vision introduced them to me like other farmers here. I did not want to risk cutting a section of the shamba for a crop that I was not sure of its performance. That is why they are scattered among other crops. For the two years I have had them, I have seen a higher earning potential than coffee,” he said.
Nyambane picks between 50 and 100 fruits every month, and he sells them at prices ranging from Sh50 to Sh100- depending on the size.
Pawpaws cannot pollinate themselves. He has two male pawpawas against the about 100 females.
Apart from the flowers, Farmbiz Africa counted up to 60 fruits in some trees, with a potential of weighing more than one kilo each after harvesting.
Cutting down coffee
Nyangaresi Nyamira is another farmer, who has 14 trees standing beside his 10-beehive house in Borioba.
His story is the same as that of Nyambane.
“Apart from weeding the tree does not require much attention. The only caution one should take is to avoid wounding the tree because it will start rotting, creating a hollow tunnel at the centre up to the head,” Nyamira said.
Coffee bushes in his farm also stand unattended, as he contemplates cutting them down.
Pawpaws consumed in Kisii town, Nyamira, Keroka and other urban areas in the region are ‘imported’ from other counties.
That is what is giving these farmers a competitive edge as retailers come round in search of the fruit, which they buy on wholesale. Besides selling them at local open markets, the fruit are also sold to high-end and middle class hotels.
World Vision opening eyes
In early August, thieves stole an unknown number of kilos of coffee beans from Magwagwa coffee factory. Farmers nationally are also at the mercy of market cartels, who decide the price and when to pay the farmers.
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World Vision, the international organisation that gave the farmers the seeds, is supporting more than 50 agribusiness initiatives in conjunction with Nyamira County Government.
Other projects supported by the organisation cover apiculture, aquaculture, greenhouse farming, among others.
Riambocho, Geturi and Nyabwaroro groups, which have more than 50 members, have benefited from the pawpaw seedling and other agribusiness projects under this collaboration.
PHOTO: Livestock officier David Atuya with farmer Mose Nyambane inspecting one of the pawpaw trees in the farm at Magwagwa, Nyamira County on August 14, 2015. Farmers are turning to pawpas revenue to cushion themselves against unreliable coffee cash crop. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.