Renowned Prof Wangari Maathai became an environmental global icon for daring into places where other people were running away from.
A few hundreds of metres from the home of this global environmental ‘humming bird’ at Tetu in Nyeri County, is a couple that is harvesting more than Sh60,000 monthly from pepino melons fruits, which other farmers have shied away from.
Jesse Kioria and his wife Keziah delved into this seldom grown fruit after realizing the demand was rising and the supply was, and is still “very low”.
Besides selling the fruits, the couple also distributes seedling to farmers ordering from various parts of the country. In fact, when Farmbiz Africa visited, he was talking to an excited Migori County farmer who had received and planted the seedlings a few days earlier.
His greenhouse has about 10,000 seedlings in his greenhouse, ready for trans-planting; he sells each at Sh200.
From his 500 or more bushes of pepino melon, he gets at least four mature fruit monthly, totaling to about 2000 pieces. To the local people, he sells each at between Sh30 and Sh50, but when he brings them to Nairobi, he gets up to Sh100 a piece.
With much of the market being urban, he easily hits Sh100,00 in a month.
“I have not met the demand for this ‘wonder fruit’. I have been forced to turning down orders from supermarkets and other large-scale distributors because they need quantities I cannot offer. I do not want to disappoint them,” Kioria said.
Pepino melon has large deposits of vitamin A, C, K and B. It is also rich in minerals such as copper and iron which are essential in blood formation and boosting immunity. Potassium in the fruit helps in lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow and central nervous system coordination.
Pepino is also diuretic- it accelerates passage of urine, therefore, appropriate for diabetic patients.
“Most of those who buy from me locally have been asked by doctors to eat the melon to boost recovery from a host of chronic infections such as diabetes, cancer, among others,” he said.
How to grow
Pepino melon does well drained and fertile soils. Given that the plant is herbaceous, it may require support to keep fruits above the ground.
In an acre, one can grow about 4900 sticks at a spacing of 3 feet by 3 feet. With proper crop management and rains or irrigation when it is a bit dry, every plant can yield six to eight mature fruits per month at a time.
Kiorio enjoys high harvests during rainy seasons, although the season-less crop does not disappoint him completely.
He regularly applies mulch, manure and fertilizer to retain water moisture, and soils fertility.
He can be reached on +254722535987.