A group of Chinese farmers in Naivasha, Nakuru County are taking advantage of the good soils in the area to reap benefits from dragon fruit farming.
The group of farmers who are in the Rift Valley region for a mission have grown the fruits on a 260-acre farm.
Here is their story as told by WoK.
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The Chinese nationalities noted that they considered several factors before getting into dragon fruit farming.
This include the type of soil in the region, availability of water and the fact not most people grew the fruit in Kenya.
“We discovered that the Kenyan soil is suitable for farming and we had to look for the best fruit that is suitable for the Kenyan soil
“In Kenya, there are no dragon fruits and we took that risk to see how people will respond. So far they’re responding well,” one of the farmers said.
Once harvested, the nutritious fruits are sold locally and international markets such as Dubai, Italy and Spain.
“So far the markets are responding well, especially the exports one. The local markets are also responding well with some local supermarkets and people coming in to inquire,” he added.
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According to the farm overseer, Alice Wanjiku, the dragon fruits are grown using pure organic fertilisers; chicken waste and cow dung.
“Before growing any crops, the soil is well-tilled, then mixed with chicken manure and cow dung. We use organic manure because we would like to conserve the ecosystem,” she said.
The manager of the farm, Zhang Wensheng, noted that they established the farm dubbed, Kairview Ecological Farm in 2019.
“We started the farm in 2019, at the beginning it was not so easy but with time it got easier, when we came here, the fruit was not in the market and it was difficult but with people tasting the fruit, it got best,” Wensheng explained.
Other than growing dragon fruits, they also have kiwi, grapes, gooseberries, muskmelon, sweet melon, pawpaws, tomatoes, guavas, lemons, oranges, mangoes, purple sweet potatoes, and avocados.
Besides creating employment for over 200 people, the company, in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, also organizes training targeting those in the sector to attend the sessions in China.
Dragon fruit farming
A dragon fruit bud takes 13 days to develop into a flower from a node after which it will open up for pollination on the night of the 13th day.
It is important to note that tis the only chance that the flower has to get pollinated, if pollination doesn’t happen then, the flower will not grow into a fruit.
Otherwise, it will develop into a fruit that will be ripe and ready for harvesting after 38 days since pollination.
Overall, it only takes 52 days from the day a fruit bud emerges to have a fruit ready.
Dragon fruits do well in arid and semi-arid areas with a temperature rate of between 20°c- 30°c and annual rainfall of about 40-60mm.
Pests that attack dragon fruits include mites, thrips, ants, scale insects, mealy bugs, beetles, slugs, borers, nematodes, fruit flies and rodents.
Diseases include stem rot, anthracnose and fungal pathogens such as Fusarium spp. and Aspergillus spp.
The fruit is good for digestion as it contains high fiber content that reduce constipation as well as boosting immunity due to high levels of Vitamic C.
It also improves skin health, helps to manage diabetes and provides cardiovascular support due to antioxidants that help lower blood pressure.
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