KARI develops fast maturing horticultural produce

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute KARI has raised income prospects for horticultural farmers with high yielding and fast maturing varieties at a time when demand for Kenyan produce in the international markets has hit unprecedented highs.

Breakthrough technology has improved the horticultural crops of many Kenyan farmers, but there is still not enough supply to meet demand for new seed.

The institute has produced many innovative seeds that are not yet available to farmers, for products such as table grapes, macadamia nuts, avocadoes, pawpaw, apples and mangoes that mature in less than four years rather than 10 years, the story reported.

KARI Thika centre director Dr Charles Waturu said the developments have the potential to change farmers’ lives significantly.

“If I was to talk about just one crop we have dealt with, I would talk about the disease-resistant, early maturing, higher yielding banana which has come about as a result of breeding,” he was quoted as saying.

“Once we sell the seed to our farmers, they are able to reap numerous benefits from their crop in comparison to the ordinary banana.”

Seed unit manager Grace Watani said that the sweet yellow passion fruit was another highlight, growing around three times larger than purple passion fruit, with a higher yield and sweeter juice.

“Upon maturation, this fruit can be harvested after every three months. It is also very profitable to the farmer because out of a hectare, one can expect to reap 30 to 40 tonnes of fruit with a Kilo retailing at Sh100,” she said.

In a media symposium held by KARI Thika, Dr Joe Devries from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said Africa could be an agricultural powerhouse capable of feeding itself and the world, the story reported.

“It’s all about the seed – The reality is that we can never have enough high breed seeds made available to our farmers; we actually need to have new varieties of seed released each year,” he was quoted as saying.

“In Kenya today, there is an unmet demand for improved seed by our ‘poor’ farmers who are willing to pay for it.”