I liked how my uncle grew his passion fruit. In between the terraces separating on type of crop from one platform from the other, were wooden hangers that passion fruit clang on. Say, you were taking a stroll downhill to the might river Thika/Chania, you would casually walk over to a particular terrace, reach out to a passion fruit hanger and peruse through the leaves for a purple ripe passion fruit.
Without washing, for it needed not to be washed( he never sprayed his shamba with any pesticide) you would the burst the fruit into your mouth and…oh..it would sting! It would sting because it was seconds fresh! and you would like it and relish it!
A farmer in Siaya County has broken the norm to start growing passion fruit. Farmers in the region have predominantly planted maize as the main crop. Mr Clement Odongo has seen his income triple compared to the time he used to plant maize.
“I adopted farming tactics from Lessos, Rift Valley. After my retirement, I visited the area in 2011 and admired what passion fruit farmers in the region were doing. I vowed to borrow the idea,” said the retired ink maker.
Mr Odongo cannot hide his joy as he surveys his four-acre farm that has 425 vines, all promising to give good returns.
“This earns me my daily bread. I harvest the fruits every week. About 275 vines fetch me at least Sh30,000 a week,” he said.
Out of the 425 vines on his farm, about 150 were planted recently and are yet to mature.
“I started with 150 vines only and increase them every year,” he revealed. Mr Odongo encourages other farmers in the county to join the business as passion fruit farming does not entail a lot of work save for weeding, pruning, and harvesting.
Once one starts harvesting, he says, each vine produces at least two kilogrammes of fruits every week. A kilogramme fetches between Sh100 and Sh120. Compared to maize, he says, passion fruit farming is better because it earns good money and also requires less labour.
“An acre of maize produces 20 to 30 bags of grain while an acre of 670 vines gives two kilogrammes of passion fruits each vine on a weekly basis,” he says.
Mr Odongo has joined hands with other passion fruit farmers in the area in the Siaya Passion Growers Association. Through the group, he has benefited from several tours to other farming regions in Kenya to gain more skills. A Dutch firm, Simon Navy Veronica (SNV), and Millennium Management Consultant (MMC) have also been helpful in boosting his skills.
The group has more than 150 members who plant the fruits on large-scale spreads all over the county.
The 65-year-old farmer says he has never regretted his decision two years down the line as the business has brought him greater fortune than he expected.
The harvesting of the fruits starts six months after planting and goes on every week for five years with two-week intervals in between for pruning.