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    High Yield

    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.








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     Kenya Value Chains Enterprises team.jpg

    Commissioning of the Sweet N Dried automated air dryer. L-R Second from Left, Tharaka Nithi CEC Agriculture Engineer Japhet Nkanya,  KAVES Chief of party Dr. Steve New,  Sweet n Dried project chief engineer Migwi Mageria and Sweet N Dried founder Mercy Mwende with other guests.

    Over 500 smallholder farmers in Tharaka Nithi, Meru and Embu counties have found ready market for their horticultural produce, thanks to an automated air drier that is also shielding them from market glut and post-harvest related losses that account for up to 40 per cent of all fresh produce losses.

    Operated by Sweet ‘N Dried Enterprises, a company in Tharaka Nithi County, the venture has also rubberstamped the benefits accrued from value addition, with the produce enjoying extended shelf life, allowing the farmers to earn more while creating over 50 jobs that have gone to the local community.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Drying mangoes saves farmers post-harvest loses

    The ultra-modern drier that has been funded by the USAID through the Kenya Value Chains Enterprises (KAVES) project has a capacity of drying 300kgs of fresh produce daily and complements the company’s solar driers that cumulatively handle 1200kgs.

    Speaking during the commissioning of the processing facility, Mercy Mwende the founder of Sweet ‘N Dried Enterprises hailed the facility as landmark in diversifying markets and increasing earnings of fresh produce farmers.

     “We have been on a seven year journey that has been marked by numerous trials and errors. Ultimately the markets have warmed up to our dried mangoes, bananas and vegetables. The new facility has also boosted production and we have now been able to source 100,000kgs of fresh produce from farmers, up from 40,000kgs last year. This means more market opportunities for our farmers, majority who have traditionally been forced to throw their produce due to post harvest losses or sell them cheaply as they battle market glut,” Ms. Mwende said.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Kenyan mangoes have a ripe market in Japan

    Her flagship mango varieties, Kent, Tommy and Apple have received thumbs up from Thailand, Dubai, China and Germany where she has showcased them. And as the demand for dried mangoes burgeons in these markets, she is looking to upscale production at the farms, storage and processing for continuous shipping of the processed products.  This, as statistics indicate the export markets are increasingly preferring dried mangoes due to their extended shelf life and low cost.

    Dr. Steve New, KAVES Chief of Party said that with smallholders being the most efficient producers of fresh produce per unit area, it was necessary to streamline the value chain to ensure they reap maximum benefits from their venture from production to markets. Research, he said, had shown that there was need to embrace innovation to boost production. “The global market for tropical fruits especially mango, passion and pineapple has been ballooning over the years. But there is a growing trend where these markets prefer dried produce due to logistical factors. This has informed our interest at Kaves in investing in this and other projects, because we believe they have great potential to open up new and profitable frontiers for millions of farmers and growing their household income,” he said.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Middle East market craves for more Kenyan mangoes

    But Sweet and Dried Enterprise has had to battle with quality of the produce supplied by farmers who are not conversant with international standards. While the enterprise itself has undergone the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, HACCP, assessment and expects to be certified by early next year, it is struggling to ensure all the produce received from farmers meet the growing conditions of the export markets. “We have over 500 farmers who supply to us and while majority of their produce is export quality, we still have cases where we reject produce either because we detect too much fertilizer usage in some of the produce like bananas or pests in mangoes. We would wish to reach a point where all our farmers are able to supply to us without any rejections,” she said.

     Sweet n Dried founder Mercy Mwende.jpg

    Sweet n Dried founder Mercy Mwende at the processing factory with dried mangoes.

    Leonard Pollara, a consultant on global certification working at the facility agrees. “While Sweet ‘N Dried are doing everything possible to ensure every process in the chain meets the requisite international standards, there are of course factors beyond their control like supplies or poor road network that might interfere with the quality of the end product. This new facility will go a long way in ensuring faster adherence to the highest safety standards. The certification process itself is quite capital intensive,” Mr. Pollara said.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Drying vegetables increases shelf life to over eight months

    The county government of Tharaka Nithi has therefore committed to partner with the company to train all the farmers supplying their produce on international best practices while connecting the facility, that currently operate on solar energy, to the grid. “In the spirit and the vision of the county government of Tharaka Nithi, and the national government’s resolve to embrace value addition to improve lives of our farmers, the county government will train all the farmers on growing food for export including the requirements by international markets. This together with connecting this facility to the national grid to bolster production will ensure that we attract more of our people, especially the youth into new age and mechanized agriculture as a meaningful way of earning income,” Tharaka Nithi Agriculture CEC Engineer Japhet Nkanya said. The announcement has come as relief to the company that has been operating on diesel generator becoming prohibitively expensive to run daily operations. 

    RELATED ARTICLE: USAID funds automated air drier to boost factory’s processing capacity

    And as the new facility roars to life, representing the resilience of a Kenyan entrepreneur, it has also demonstrated the promise of value addition to diversify income and opportunities for small holder farmers while helping the country attain the middle income status by 2030. “With post harvest losses accounting for about 40 per cent of all losses, the focus should be on how to tame these losses rather than on having new produce varieties. Reducing these losses through value addition has proven that we can improve the productivity of our farmers while developing competitive value chains,” said Dr. New






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    Strawberry plant with mature fruits. The fruits are very important components in food processing companies.

    A strawberry farmer from Sigona, Kimabu County is targeting to earn Sh40, 000 a week during this festive season from selling the Chandler variety from his half an acre farm.

    Amos Ndung’u who planted the Chandler variety of strawberries end of September this year is expecting to start harvesting them this month as they mature within 60 to 75 days after planting.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Farmer tapping money from the flourishing strawberry market

    “I am expecting to harvest over 480kg of strawberry fruits starting mid this month. I am targeting food processing companies with the fruits and decorating companies with the leaves,” said Ndung’u.

    “Last December I harvested between 30kg and 50kg per week selling a kilo of the fruits at Sh200 each. This could earn me approximately Sh40, 000 a week.”

    He started growing the crops in an eighth of an acre last year but when the first crops did well in both the farm and in the market, he decided to increase the acreage for more production and income.

     “I planted over 12,000 seedlings this time up from 3,000 seedlings from last year, which I hope will give me more yields.”

    RELATED ARTICLE: Farmer earning handsomely from strawberry leaves

    Ndung’u sells a single branch of strawberry plant at Sh1.50 each and bundles of tied 100 such branches at Sh150 each. In a week, flower and decoration companies can order about 40,000 bundles which is equivalent to Sh600, 000.

    “With so many party events such as weddings, birthdays, Christmas and Happy New Year celebrations coming along this festive season, I hope there will be enough market where I can make sales,” said Ndung’u.

    Sigona, which is approximately 25km from Nairobi, allows him to also seek markets in high end hotels, hospitals, supermarket chains, green grocers and food processors in the city. Currently, 250gms of strawberry fruits cost between Sh50 to Sh120 while a kilo goes for between Sh200 to Sh480.

    RELATED ARTICLE:Central Kenya farmers find fortunes in strawberry leaves

    “Strawberry leaves are important components of parties and bouquets due to their shape and smell they can sell well even to the hospitals,” said Ndung’u.

    Strawberry farming, does not require a large farm in order to flourish and does well in most parts of the country such as Machakos, Kiambu, Nakuru, Naivasha and Kilifi among others where there are potential markets.



     strawberry leaves.jpg

     Strawberry leaves. They can be used in decorations.




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