By Fredrique Achieng’
A visit to Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Mombasa inspired Luke Kimweli to try a new crop on his one acre farm in January 2016: a crop that is now earning him Sh840,000 per season from his farm in Emali, Kibwezi. But, within five years, that same crop should be earning him Sh5m a year for the next 40 to 50 years.
“I had heard of the tree being grown in Kibwezi, but I had not put much interest in it, but after my visit I saw its potential as a crop, since it has varied use ranging from Juice extraction, jam making, raw consumption, among others I decided to give it a try,” said Luke.
Starting out, Luke bought 80 seedlings at a cost of Sh50 per seedling from KEPHIS.
Related News: Bud-grafting cuts tamarind (mkwaju) maturity period by eight years
“I was advised to plant the seedlings at a distance of 7m by 7m: this way all my 80 seedlings would be accommodated on my one acre farm,” he said.
Although he is yet to see the full benefits of his trees, since it has only been four years of farming, Luke has been able to harvest from the young trees at least 30 kilos of fruit per tree per year.
His gains will rise much further, since while a young tree yields 20kg to 30kg of fruit, a full-grown tree yields about 150kg to 200kg of fruit per tree per year, according to KEPHIS.
“A tamarind tree takes 8 to 12 years to fully mature, but it starts producing pods from as early as three years and that is what I am leveraging on. Out of all my 80 trees, I am already getting 2,400 kilos a year, where I sell a kilo of the pods at Sh300 per kilo for bulk buyers and Sh400 for individuals who come to buy directly from me,” said Luke.
Tamarind is a robust tree that is well adapted to semi-arid tropics and creates a long-term farming asset. The initial waiting time for it to move into productivity is longer than for many other crops, but once productive, the tree will produce pods for between 50 and 60 years, making it a life-long earner.
Related News: Retired army general harvests millions from trees
“Since I am no longer a practicing engineer, the growing of a tamarind tree has served as a form of pension fund for me, since I will constantly get income from it now,” said Luke.
The tree is not very demanding in its nutritional requirements. Experts recommend young trees are fertilised every two to three months with a 6-6-3 NPK or similar fertiliser, while adult trees should be fertilized with 8-3-9 NPK or similar fertiliser.
Harvesting of the mature pods in done in the months of May and June by pulling or cutting the pod away from the stalk.
Tamarind seedlings can be bought from Peter Kimweli KEPHIS extension officer on 0701573373 or Millicent Manesa on 0721652943