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Kenya: Busia Farmers Adopt Pawpaw Farming to Boost Food Security

 

A group that came together to manage a community health centre is now

making money from pawpaw farming.

When residents of nine villages in Esikulu Sub location in Busia County chose

representatives in the committee of their dispensary, focus was on financial,

human, material and resource management of the facility; little did they

envisage that they could venture into a separate income generating activity.

The Esikulu Self-Help Group has ventured outside the management of the

health facility and initiated a robust pawpaw farming enterprise that has

played a crucial role in galvanising their socio-economic fortunes.

Formed in 2010 to represent Bukesa, Mundulusia, Khung’ungu A and B,

Emaseno, Nakhomake, Buriang’I, Naskina and Esikulu villages, the group took

off with nine members. They were chosen to represent their respective villages

but six members were later recruited to widen the group and subsequently

allow for its registration.

The chairlady, Margaret Okunga, says: “After being chosen our first mandate

was to oversee construction of the dispensary in conjunction with doctors

from the Rotary club,” she said, adding that after the building was over,

the group found it necessary to look for ways of raising a regular income so

that they could financially cater for the dispensary and empower the local

community.

She says they decided to approach the Busia agricultural officers who

facilitated capacity building workshops where they were sensitised on various

crops suitable for the region.

“The group first undertook the planting of soya beans which they harvested

and distributed among themselves as a way of encouraging each one to plant

the crop,” she says, revealing that later they were convinced by their secretary

general, Ignatius Wabwire, to plant pawpaw.

“This came into my mind after attending several agricultural seminars. We

were taught of the financial, nutritional and medicinal values of the pawpaw

and we gained interest and after discussing it among ourselves we agreed to

give it a try,” says Wabwire.

Research shows that pawpaw produce enzyme papain which eases digestion

by breaking down proteins in the body and boosts the immune system as it

also prevents the recurring of cold and flu.

They spend Sh15, 000 annually on leasing land and to ensure that the pawpaw

is chemical free. Wabwire says they use organic fertiliser which they purchase

at a cost of Sh30, 000. Since the manure is prepared by the local residents, it is

purchased from them and as a result, they are empowered financially.

He says that a single pawpaw tree produces between 15 and 20 fruits in a

single harvest. He disclosed that they have just had a harvest of 10,000 kg from

the single acre of land. This is expected to fetch them about Sh500, 000.

Wabwire says the plant does not require close husbandry as it is free from

most diseases. “Pawpaw leaves are very bitter and poisonous to insects and

resist diseases and therefore nothing can affect it once it has grown,” he says,

adding that pawpaw farming is only threatened by vagaries of weather such as

high temperatures and wind.

Marketing of the fruit is a challenge and the large market in Busia town is

virtually flooded by the giant size paw paws from the neighbouring Uganda.

The group retail their produce in local markets and in the villages at Sh50 per

fruit.

“We currently have more than we can consume domestically. We were

targeting to sell to traders in Busia town but some traders from Uganda started

bringing genetically grown pawpaw which is relatively larger than ours and

therefore many traders prefer to go for the ones from Uganda because of their

sizes,” he says.

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