A Makueni farmer who ventured into pawpaw farming four years ago but lost half of his crops due to drought is not losing hope yet and has ventured into simple drip irrigation using bottles to avoid potential losses arising due to water deficiency.
Alex Kituku harvested just five tonnes from one acre of the crop under cultivation out of a potential expected yield of 15 tonnes after one season. However, he is now expanding the land under cultivation to two acres after leasing one acre of land in 2016 at a cost of Sh30,000 for the next five years.
The initial capital investment at Sh120,000 for his first planting season were drawn from his savings as an untrained teacher at Gatunguri secondary school in Kerugoya, a job he engaged in as from June 2014 fresh from Egerton University where he undertook a degree in Biochemistry and molecular biology. He however incurred losses of approximately Sh80,000.
“From that first trial, I knew that failure is not an option, even though the crop did not do well due to insufficient rains, I realized the need for adopting irrigation as a way of improving production,” said Kituku.
On 21st Nov 2017, Alex Kituku invested Sh150,000, cash he obtained from a sacco at his current workplace at an EPZ firm in Kitengela in purchasing papaya seeds, fertilizers and land preparation.
He bought 1000 red royale F1 Papaya seeds at a cost of Sh70,000 from an agro vet in Nyeri which he then established on a nursery bed for a period of three weeks. Before planting, the seeds were soaked in an optimizer for 24 hours to accelerate the germination percentage.
“While in the nursery, I applied pyramid fungicide, loyalty insecticide and optimizer folia fertilizers at the rate of 50g for every 20 liters, the three were mixed thoroughly in the same knapsack sprayer,” said Kituku.
After three weeks he transplanted the plants to the main seed bed near the source of water where he put 1000 plants under drip irrigation and another 1000 under furrow irrigation.
“For the drip, I used 10 liter bottles to water the plants which I achieved by piercing just single hole at the base of the bottle,” he said.
“The number of holes will depend with the water available. Secondly, cut the upper part of the bottles. Put the bottles with an open top adjacent to the seedling in an upright position with the pierced hole facing the seedling. Putting the bottle in an upright position gives it stability. With the open side being on the top makes refilling of water very easy. Bigger bottles need small holes too because pressure for the water inside is high too,”
One papaya plant uses five liters of water every week; this translates to 20 liters for each plant in one month.
Kituku purchases 5,000 liters per week at Sh2500 from county water bowsers every week.
With the irrigation under control, the farmer has no worries over the plants and expects to harvest at least 1.5 tonnes weekly as from August 2018 for a period of four consecutive years as papaya is a perennial plant can yield fruits for up to four years.
He hopes to sell the fruits in Kitengela, Nairobi Retail market and Kongowea market in Mombasa.
Alex can be reached on +254 710 819 070