Nyeri farmer, Wilson Ndung’u, earns approximately Sh50, 000 in a week from the sale of pepino melons seedlings, Sh20, 000 more than he what he earns from selling the plant’s fruits.
Ndung’u sells over 500 seedlings of pepino melon per week to prospective farmers within the central region and beyond, selling each seedling at Sh70 to Sh100.
A report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in March this year revealed that horticultural farming in Kenya is currently ranked as the fastest growing agricultural sub sector. Horticultural exports earned Sh101.51b in 2016, a 12 per cent increase compared to 2015. The sector employs about two million people with 80 per cent of the producers being smallholder farmers.
“Due to the growing demand of seedlings by farmers I intend to shift from selling fruits to propagating seedlings for sale” said Ndung’u.
“Last week I sold over 1,000 seedlings to a children’s home earning me about Sh90, 000 which I will used to buy sachets for planting seeds for sale”
Wilson Ndung'u at his farm in Nyeri
He began pepino melon farming in 2009 after a friend introduced him to it and the perennial plant has yielded 200 fruits every year.
The plant matures in three and half months after planting and one plant can yield thirty fruits per season. When preparing land, it is cultivated until the soils contain no lumps, which can cost roughly Sh5000 for one acre but may vary depending on regions.
Holes should be dug three feet by three feet and manure applied at the rate of five bags per acre.
“Generally pepino melons are affected by tomato diseases such as blight and bacterial wilt, at one time in 2015 I lost a quarter an acre of my fruits as I planted them on a farm previously occupied by tomatoes,” said Ndung’u.
“Farmers should therefore avoid transplanting the plants to farms that recently had tomatoes”
The plants require adequate water and incase of dry seasons they should be irrigated to ensure maximum production throughout the year. A single plant can produce 200 fruits in a year and these can earn farmers Sh20, 000 per plant. When ripe, the fruit is entirely edible, the skin, flesh, pulp and seeds can also be consumed.
Pepino melons contain numerous health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, maintaining healthy oral gums and acting as an excellent source of fiber among others.
Ndung’u can be reached on +254 714 080 532.