In 2016 Azeh Jerome Ndonwi, a farmer at Awae outskirt of Yaoundé in Cameroon lost all his 2,100 chicken and 52 pigs to birds’ flu and African swine respectively, further leading to him closing up his animal production unit to start pawpaw farming, a venture which is currently earning him over Sh26,000 ($254) per week.
“I had 1,100 layers and 1,000 table birds which I lost due to attack by birds’ flu also called avian influenza. The same year my 52 pigs were also attacked by African swine fever virus forcing me to even shutdown my animal feeds processing unit,” said Azeh adding that it was a big lose and had to use the little he salvaged to start fruits farming.
Beginning 2017 January Azeh started pawpaw farming after buying calina ibp9, a pawpaw variety that takes eight months from seed to harvest which he bought from an Indonesian whom he met on social media and imported the seeds.
“I decided to grow pawpaw because besides its short maturity period as compared to other fruits such as guava, avocado and citrus, its demand is high in our local markets considering its health benefits which include improving digestion, protection against arthritis, boost immunity, good for the eyes, weight loss, and fight diabetics,” said Azeh.
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Currently the farmer has seven hectares of land under the fruit cultivation from which he harvests a minimum of 600 kilos of fruits per week which he sells at $0.423 (Sh42) per kilo translating to $254 (Sh26,000) a week.
His intension is to seek for partners and together increase production with time to enable him enter into export markets and enhance the value chain of the fruit by producing other products such as pawpaw juice and jam.
However, his journey has not been that without challenges, “The first problem I encountered in papaya production was the problem of variety. The local variety we have has low productivity and take a longer period to enter fruiting,” said Azeh.
The solo sun rise variety that was also available is not highly appreciated in our local markets.
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According to Azeh, calina papaya ibp9 variety has many advantages such as high productivity, thickness, bigger in size, excellent taste and long shelf life making it sellable for a long time.
He also lost his first 2,500 plants to pests and destructive animals but thanks to Low External Input and Sustainable Development (ILEID) farmers group I am a member which advised me to regularly apply insect repellants, keep my farm always clean and create buffer zones around my farm to distract animals.
He started again with 300 plants applying the advice of the fellow farmers and now he reaping from them with his target being over 2,500 plants in the near future.
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To enhance his earnings Azeh also grows guava, avocado, citrus, African plumbs, plantains/banana, soursop, mango, colanut, spice, melon, cocoyam/taro, corn, yams, pepper, huckleberry, capsicum, bitter leaf, eggplant and sweet potato.
Through ILEID which they registered as a cooperative in 2007 the government of Cameroon has supported Azeh with 2400 improved plantain suckers for 2 hectares of land and other farmers with cocoa seedlings, maize seeds, cassava cuttings and plantain seeds.
Caption: Azeh at his pawpaw farm Awae near Yaoundé in Cameroon. He grows different types of fruits with kee focus on pawpaws. Photo courtesy.
Jerome Azeh can be reached on +237 695130899.