William Githinji, a pumpkin farmer from Nyeri County who was faced with constant market and storage challenges has turned to extraction of oil from the crop’s seeds, a venture which is currently earning him more than double the income he earned from selling the produce when fresh.
Githinji who owns one and a half acres piece of land in Tetu Sub-county started growing pumpkins in 2016 after abandoning tree nursery business upon learning the new venture from a fellow farmer in the area.
“I borrowed pumpkin production idea from a farmer who used to produce the crop while the demand of the fruits was high as many farmers had not picked it up. However, with time, many farmers have adopted the crop and there is market competition causing price and storage challenges,” he said.
In 2017 January he produced eight tonnes and sold all at Sh160,000 after facing many problems looking for market as he had no proper store to keep the produce until prices could get better.
Githinji then thought of an alternative way to make other products from the fruit, sell and avoid much pressure coming from market competitions.
“I was forced to think out of the box after learning from some of my customers I used to sell the produce to and who were making oil and flour from it and selling at a much higher price,” he said.
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Therefore, in the wake of 2018, he resorted to hiring a special machine that is used to crush dried pieces of pumpkin after the manual home-made machine proved to be inefficient, time and energy-consuming.
Before drying under shade to protect the nutrients from the effects of direct sunlight, Githinji cuts his pumpkins and remove the seeds then further reduce the flesh into smaller pieces to make it easier for the machine to crush both into powder form.
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From six tonnes of pumpkin, the farmer can get up to 1000 kilos of pumpkin powder while from five kilos of the fruit, he can get 250ml of pumpkin oil.
“Just in one day I can produce 10-20 bottles of 250ml and 1000 kilos of flour which I pack and sell under my brand name ‘Green Patch Farm’,” said Githinji.
He sells a 250ml bottle of the oil at Sh15,000. He also sells roasted pumpkin seeds at Sh400 per 100g.
This has become one of his income-generating business and most of the time he runs out of the raw material. In such cases, he sources from farmers at Sh500 per kilo of pumpkin seeds while the whole pumpkin he buys depending on the variety and market trend at the time.
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Githinji deals in about five varieties of giant pumpkins namely; Israel giant, Egyptian giant, Equatorial giant and dollar.
“These giant pumpkin varieties are very good because they produce seeds which unlike the indigenous varieties do not have the harder outer shell making it easy to crush and extract oil. From one pumpkin of the giant varieties, I can get 0.5kg of seeds,” he said.
Photo 1 caption: William Githinji holding one of his giant pumpkins at his stand during the just concluded Nairobi International Trade Fair. Photo by Zablon Oyugi.
Photo 2 caption: Green Patch Farm extracted and packed pumpkin oil. Photo by Zablon Oyugi.
Githinji can be reached on +254 719 504 157