New high yielding pawpaw variety from Cuba finds its way to Kenya

29 July 2017 Author :   Isaiah Esipisu
FAO's Giuseppe De Bac brought the seed from Cuba

WEST POKOT, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Residents of West Pokot, a region well known for cattle herding within Kenya’s Rift Valley region are now into farming of a new pawpaw variety recently introduced to the area from Cuba by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The variety known as Pawpaw Maradol is high yielding, tasty, and the tree is dwarf, making it possible for small children to pick ripe fruits while standing on the ground. But above several other varieties, this particular one is self pollinated, hence, does not require the aid of insects or hand pollination.

“In the beginning, I planted just three trees of Pawpaw Maradol. And considering the yield, I think this is going to be my main source of livelihood in the near future, so I have decided to increase the number of trees on my farm to 103,” said Sheila Cherop, a mother of three children from Kangorio village in West Pokot County.

From the demo plots established by FAO in Mosol Ward, it is visible that one Maradol pawpaw tree variety can hold up to huge 100 fruits at any given time for duration of three years.

The new variety was first introduced in Ethiopia by FAO, where it flourished very well. Three years ago, FAO bought certified seeds from Ethiopia and brought them to West Pokot through an Italian Agency for Development Cooperation funded project to help West Pokot resident increase quality and production of added value crops.

And so far, it seems to have adapted to the prevailing climatic conditions and the ecology of the region, giving even better yields.

“One of our targets is to help rural communities in this county adopt new ways of accessing food, incomes and better nutrition,” said Giuseppe De Bac, the Project Manager and an experienced agronomist working with rural communities for more than 30 years.

So far, over 2000 individual farmers are trying the new pawpaw variety on their farms, and those who have already harvested for the first time have sold the fruits in the local market.

“Once farmers start planting the pawpaw crops in large quantities, we will be able to teach them ways of adding value to the fruits so that they can sell it in supermarkets and other markets away from the local market in Pokot,” said De Bac locally nicknamed as Lopong, and ordained as Pokot elder despite being an Italian.

However, before the farmers increase their acreage, FAO has already handed over the crop to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) in Marigat, Baringo for further research particularly to find out where else the fruits can flourish well.

Pawpaw maradol matures in 11 to 12 months, and has a lifespan of three to four years after it should be cut down.

Generally, Pawpaw trees are relatively disease free, including a resistance to Oak Root Fungus (Armillaria). A number of vertebrates such as foxes, opossums, squirrels and raccoons will eat the fruit, although deer, goats and rabbits will not eat the leaves or twigs.

Nutritionists say that the fruit is rich in vitamin C and a number of minerals not limited to potassium, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and manganese.

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