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Orphaned passion fruit farmers in Machakos find strength by coming together

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Part of a passion fruit farm of one of the farmers in Mwingi, Machakos County. Photo courtesy.

Some five yellow passion fruit farmers from Mwingi in Machakos County who were left as orphans in 2018 by a non-government organization which entice them into the venture opted out have found strength by coming together enabling them to source agronomical services and better market for their produce.

The organization had given the farmers funds to buy farm inputs, for labour and other expenses in 2017 March but after the whole process, it left without notice leaving the farmers stranded with their crops which were almost maturing.

“These farmers were left on their own some few weeks to harvesting the fruits for the market without any information on where to sell their produce and more painfully about the market price which could expose them to unscrupulous middlemen,” said Margaret Mutheu, an agribusiness entrepreneur who chipped in for help.

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Mutheu who is also a pawpaw and passion fruits farmer at Kaewa few kilometres from Mwingi where the farmers operate from, first heard about them when one of the farmers reached out to her for help in sourcing market for his produce.

Given her good market connection with some companies and juice blenders in Nairobi, Mutheu accepted to help the farmer only to realise that the area where the farmer comes, were some other farmers who were also in passion fruit production.

“To me, this was good news as I could find enough fruits for my ever demanding market and better in terms of economy of scale. I have many markets to supply and sometimes I am forced to reject or put forward some orders as I cannot satisfy them at ago,” said Mutheu.

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She therefore decided to organize the farmers in a group where they would produce and gather their fruits together at one point for ease of collection. In this group, she also offers them agronomical support by sourcing an agronomist who visits the farmers occasionally.

The farmers who have been harvesting their fruits for a month now are producing up to one tonne in a week with each farmer producing between 50 and 100 kilos of passion fruits.

The fruits are then ferried to Nairobi via public means at a cost of Sh1,000 a trip and this has been cost effective for the growers.

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A kilo of the yellow passion fruit goes at Sh150 translating to between Sh7,500 and Sh15,000 per farmer per week.

“We expect to earn about Sh3m at the end of this season and this I believe will motivate the farmers into even increasing the acreage under production for more income as there is now no worries about market,” said Mutheu.

The agri-entrepreneur is now thinking of putting up fruits processing plant in the area to help farmers find a ready market for their produce.

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