A group of 10 farmers in Ishiara, Embu County who were into subsistence maize farming are currently earning a gross income of up to Sh300,000 a season from pawpaw fruits and seedlings production thanks to funds from micro-financier.
The farmers who came together in February 2018 as Vineyard Kilimo farmers are small scale farmers who have been facing challenges with erratic rains in the area which is semi-arid dwindling their harvests.
In addition, some of the group members never went to school and because of the lack of enough funds for farm inputs life has been unbearable for them.
“It has been challenging to provide basic needs for our families including school fees for our children who are at school since maize farming is not promising and the climatic condition of this region is not favorable,” Jactone Mwaniki, the group chairman.
They then decided to venture into a commercial pawpaw and seedling production by approaching Juhudi Kilimo Sacco, a microfinance institution in Kenya that provides financial support to rural smallholder farmers after learning about the institution from other farmers in the neighbouring areas.
They then applied for a loan to start their journey of pawpaw fruits and seedlings farming.
“We were given Sh100,000 loan for the start of the project by the Sacco. This, we decided to channel to farm inputs that include seeds, fertiliser, and irrigation system setups among others,” said Mwaniki.
They were then trained by two Non- Government Organizations called Solidaridad and Heifer International. These organization trained the group on how they can make a profit out farming and the skills and knowledge required pawpaw farming.
Pawpaw farmers attending to their crops. The crop thrives in warm areas with adequate rainfall and a temperature range of 21-33°C. Photo courtesy.
They have a three acres farm located 2km from Ishiara Centre which is known for goat trading and goat meat roasting (nyama choma).
So far, they have a total of three nurseries and each has 2000 seedlings. They also have a total of 500 pawpaw trees on the farm.
They are selling their products to the local people and some of the products are supplied to Nairobi for traders.
“From seedlings, we are getting Sh100,000 per season since one seedling goes for Sh50 and from pawpaw, we get Sh10,000 per week as one kilo is Sh50,” noted Mwaniki.
They sell 300kg of pawpaw fruits in a week and by the end of the month, they get Sh60,000.
The group is motivated by the profit they are constantly making and cheaper production cost which amounts to only Sh50,000.
“Our future plans are to have a five-acre farm of best pawpaw orchard grown organically and to include yellow sweet passion in our farming business,” said Mwaniki.
They are also happy that the crop can be intercropped with coconut, mango or citrus. Low growing annual crops such as capsicums, beans, onions and cabbages are also suitable good intercrops.
During dry season, the farm needs about 40,000 litres to sustain the crop.