By Prudence Minayo
Paul Munyaga, a farmer from Gathaga in Gatundu South, discovered a gold mine in pumpkins. He worked as a farmhand before venturing out on his own. He uprooted his coffee plants in favour of pumpkins and this proved a masterstroke. Apart from selling the pumpkins, he roasts and packages the seeds for the market. This venture has seen him earn good money.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
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Munyaga secured employment at a friend’s coffee farm. The job did not however last for long as his employer passed on. Fortunately he got another job where he went to gain a lot of knowledge on the intricacies of farming pumpkins.
“Former Ng’enda MCA Michael Kuria allowed me to work at his farm. This is where I learnt about pumpkins farming and how it was lucrative,” Munyaga told the Star.
Venturing into pumpkins farming
It was Kuria who gave him organic pumpkin seeds which he had brought from Israel after an agricultural tour. This marked the beginning of Munyaga journey as a pumpkin farmer.
He uprooted the coffee plants he had in his own farm as he felt they weren’t profitable enough. The farmer had already gained knowledge of what he needed in order to grow pumpkins hence it was not difficult to start.
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He planted the first batch of pumpkins on his two acre farm in 2017. From his initial harvest, he made Sh200,000 which to him was a huge blessing. Paul Munyaga sold his produce in Ngara when a broker spotted him and bought all of them. The broker went on to sell the pumpkins to a Chinese company at Sh50 per kilogram. This made him realise how lucrative this venture was.
“My first harvest fetched me more than Sh200,000. I couldn’t believe it. A broker who saw some of the pumpkins I was selling at Ngara market in Nairobi, bought them all and sold to some Chinese at Sh50 per kg. This is when I realised my venture was a cash cow,” he told the Star.
By 2021, he was planting 600 pumpkin plants on his farm, which would in turn produce 15 to 20 tonnes of the vegetable. One kg pumpkin goes for Sh15 to Sh50 while a 15kg pumpkin fetches him between Sh300 to Sh700. Just by selling 15 tonnes to a trader contracted by the United Nations in 2021, he made Sh300,000 after selling for Sh20 per kilogram.
The pumpkin farmer told The Star that the vegetable was very profitable and one didn’t even need much to grow them. He only needs water and two lorries of manure, which were at the time was going for Sh70,000.
He does not worry about the market since apart from selling them to businesses, he can sell to locals. There is also the added advantage that harvested pumpkins can stay up to five months without going bad.
According to him, as long as the correct methods are followed while planting the crops, the yields would be good. One needs to ensure correct spacing, the use of organic farming and adequate water supply, inter-cropping should also be avoided.
“The recommended spacing of the holes should be 15ft apart in all directions. This is because pumpkins have males and females. The males sprout first so that they can fertilise the female that gives us pumpkins. Failing to observe spacing will result to very low yields,” Paul Munyaga told the star in an interview published on 13th May 2021.
Since the pumpkins require adequate water, he pumps from a river and has also installed ponds in his farm to store water. Apart from the organic giant Israel seeds, he also gets some from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and produces some of his own.
With the success he enjoys, Munyaga also encounters one or two challenges. The major one is the melon fly pest which pierces pumpkins in their early stages causing a lot of damage. They are a nuisance that if not properly controlled with organic pesticides, lead to a reduction in yields.