Samuel Mutegi Njeru in black shirt of Grate Lakes Breeders Ltd (GLBL) training pawpaws farmers in Migori County on farm management. Photo courtesy.
A missionary who ventured into pawpaw farming in Migori County, Kenya is looking forward for a brighter future after ignoring the normal maize and beans that many farmers in the area are growing and which have faced marketing challenges in the country.
Current intake price of maize, for example, by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stands at Sh3,200 a 90-kilo bag while just 50 kilos of pawpaw fruits can fetch up to Sh7,500 in Nairobi.
Peter Owino is one such farmer who while peers are struggling with the cereals’ prices has venture into the fruit production for a better and long term income after learning the art of farming pawpaw from Grate Lakes Breeders Ltd (GLBL), a company which sensitize, recruit and coordinate the pawpaw production process as well as harvesting in Western Kenya.
“Apart from getting the knowledge from GLBL experts, I also lived in Kericho County for about 10 years. During the time I could see farmers and traders from Kisii and Molo come with different farm produce to sell. Most of them were short term crops with good returns and that is how I developed the interest in fruits and vegetables,” said the 2015 theology graduate from Christian Life International Bible College.
Owino then sold his two cows and realized Sh43,000 when he relocated to his rural home at Bware in Uriri Sub-County, Migori. This money became his capital which he used to purchase his first 350 seedlings at Sh50 each spending a total of Sh17,500.
He bought three varieties of pawpaw which include Solo, Sunrise, Red royale F1 and Malkia F1 varieties which have different qualities and characteristics complementing each other.
“Red royale F1, for example, is an improved breed that gives good quality fruits weighing 1.7-2.3kgs which have red attractive colour and are very sweet while Solo is hermaphroditic producing small round sweet fruits with uniform sizes and shape,” said Owino.
The rest of the money he used drugs, fertiliser and labour which are continuous farm inputs which are needed at various stages of production.
Owino has three acres of family land but pawpaw fruit occupies a 50m by 80m piece of plot while the rest of the land is occupied by a homestead and other crops and farm animals such as rabbits.
He uses human, animal and farm wastes as manure which he deposits in a 2.5×2.5ft dug holes at a spacing of 6x6ft.
He advises that when planting a farmer should ensure that the number of male plants is fewer as compared to those of females.
“I lost some plants at flowering which I uprooted because there were many males than females and this could mean more investment but less produce. The number of females to males should be at the ratio of 25:1,” he said.
Owino who planted the fruits last year March-April long rain period in the country has started enjoying the fruits of his labour after nine months wait pawpaw maturity period.
“I started harvesting last month and I have harvested three times. The first time I harvested 12kg then 15 and the latest is 40kg with production increasing by every harvest due to different flowering time,” said Owino.
Harvesting happens continuously at an interval of every 7-10 days for five years which is the lifespan of the fruit.
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He sells the fruits to Kenya Papaya Products Ltd which buys the produce at Sh40 per kilo and with the increase in production, Owino hopes that in the near future he will be harvesting more for better income.
Apart from just harvesting the fruit, there is wet latex harvesting which the company buy the produce at Sh200 a kilo. He says that ten well-managed trees can give a farmer a kilo of latex after every 14 days.
“Another good thing with pawpaws is that it can be intercropped with other low growing crops such as kales, onions, cabbages, chillis and beans among others.
His main challenges include attaching of the crop by diseases such as blight and limited water, especially during dry seasons. The crop needs a steady supply of water especially during flowering and fruiting stages.
Peter Owino can be reached on +254 721 142 864 while Kenya Papaya Products Ltd on +254 773 052 704