Alexander Kituku is the founder of Papaya Empire, a local company that has specialized in pawpaw seeds and seedlings.
He is among a host of daring farmers who decided to quit formal employment and ventured into agri-business.
Here is Kituku’s story as narrated by WoK.
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Kituku was working as a laboratory technician in the microbiology department doing analysis of medicinal drugs before venturing into farming.
In an interview with Utmost Precision, he explained that he developed an interest in pawpaw farming immediately after clearing high school.
“I have been having that passion to do pawpaw farming because I had seen farmers making money from pawpaw itself,” he said.
Kituku who said he was interested in the business aspect of pawpaw farming planted 700 plant but most of them turned out to be male.
“Unfortunately, only 70 plants were female and the rest were male. That was a challenge because I was expecting to harvest from 700 plants but I have only 70,” he said.
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He joined college and while the 70 female plants were producing fruits, he did research on identifying female plants.
“I researched and four years later is when I came across a company which was supplying some pawpaw seeds,” he said.
Kituku saved enough money, and bought more pawpaw plants that he planted in his farm.
“I was working for a school in Kirinyaga and I managed to save Ksh 150,000 which I used to buy the seedlings and took them to some place in Kiserian for propagation,” he said.
Even after getting the right plants, Kituku made another blunder that cost him all the plants.
He planted the pawpaw seedlings yet he did not have enough water for irrigation, and he also used a lot of manure on the plants.
It took an year for all the plants to rot and die.
“I didn’t give up because I had passion in farming this fruit. I planted again; I leased land where I did 1,000 plants and I also did another 1,000 plants on the family land,” he said.
While everything seemed to be going on well, heavy rains started and again, Kituku lost the 2,000 plants that he had planted.
“After flowering, we had a lot of rains and while were happy that we will get adequate water for the plants, however, pawpaw doesn’t need a lot of water in the root medium
“Again, the second time, we lost the 2,000 plants due to a lot of water,” Kituku added.
After suffering the losses, Kituku decided to start selling seedlings to farmers instead of doing the fruit.
“It was then when I felt it was right to start the seedlings business because people were enquiring about seedlings varieties,” he said.
Kituku noted that getting quality seeds is one of the many challenges that pawpaw farmers have had to deal with.
He also highlighted new diseases as another major challenge.
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