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Water project fuels passion for farming fruit in Tharaka.

A few years ago, Genesio Miriti was a casual labourer doing odd jobs in Tharaka Nithi to make a living. But his tidings changed last year, when he started passion fruits farming.

'I always have some money in my pocket, as long as I have passion fruits to harvest," he says.

The 38-year-old farmer from Iruma location, Mara subcounty, said it is now one year since he started growing passion fruits, and he is enjoying the fruits of his hard work.

Miriti has started harvesting the fruits, and this will continue for two months. In a good season, Miriti gets two crates in two days.

"During off-peak season, a kilo of passion fruits sells at Sh150. From one crate, I get about Sh3,000, and in a month, I can harvest 15 crates, which totals Sh45,000,' he said.

This is not bad for a man who used to get less than Sh10,000 from his casual jobs.

Miriti also grows tomatoes and onions to supplement income, but he says they are labour-intensive and require more work, unlike passion fruits.

"Growing tomatoes and onions is risky. Anything can go wrong at any time. But with passion fruits, you only need to spray once to prevent milt," Miriti said.

Market for passion fruits is readily available, but with tomatoes and onions, he said, you can harvest when there is a glut in the market. This means a farmer has to sell at a throwaway price because these are perishable produce.

The price of a kilo of tomatoes is also low compared to that of passion fruits. A kilo is currently retailing at as low as Sh20, unlike passion fruits, which are selling at Sh150.

'If I go to the market and I'm not satisfied with the prices of passion fruits, I can always come back home with them to sell later, when the prices are better,' Miriti said.

He has fewer expenses as he uses manure because it is easily available from his two dairy cows.

APPEAL TO YOUTHS

Miriti is a beneficiary of the Muringa Banana irrigation project, which was started four years ago by the National Irrigation Board and draws water from Maara and Mutonga rivers. Each farm pays Sh150 a month as maintenance fee.

Through the sprinkle method of irrigation, the father of two daughters is able to have a crop throughout the year.

'Without the water, the crop will dry and I will only harvest once, unlike now when I have continuous harvest. I have money in my pocket every day and I cannot go hungry with passion fruits, and I'm no longer stressed about getting school fees or food for my two children," he said.

Miriti urged young people to venture into farming when they are still energetic.

"You cannot do much when you are old, so take advantage of your youth. You can do so much with irrigation, but farming needs commitment for one to make money,' he advises.

He looks forward to recruiting more farmers, especially young people, to passion fruit farming. He has a nursery with 10,000 seedlings, which he will distribute to farmers at the onset of the rains.

"By April, the seedlings will be ready for transplanting, and come December, farmers will start harvesting," he said.

'I will then be able to look for market or even a contract to supply to the local supermarket because I will be confident that I can meet the demand.'

Miriti also hopes to start a company for value addition and buy from other farmers.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Feb 7, 2019
Words:679
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