What you need to know:
- Dragon fruits, strawberries, kiwi, grapes, gooseberries, muskmelon, sweet melon, pawpaws, tomatoes, guavas, oranges and mangoes are some of the fruits grown at Kaiview Ecological Horticulture Limited, which uses equipment and methods borrowed from China
- The farm was started in February last year by three Chinese investors, namely He Qin Wen, Tang Xiao Kun and Zhang Weng Sheng.
- They sell the harvest to Chinese restaurants in Nakuru and Nairobi and supermarkets frequented by the Chinese.
- Prof Richard Mulwa, a Chinese farming technology researcher at the department of crops, Egerton University, says the Asian nation’s farming technology can be adapted to smallholder farmers, but the challenge is lack of access to high quality hybrid seeds from China.
Moi South Lake Road in Naivasha, which links the town to Hell’s Gate National Park and several flower farms, was once a nightmare for motorists.
But that is in the past. Today it is a lovely tarmacked road that makes locals and foreigners relish a ride on it.
It is off this road that one finds Kaiview Ecological Horticulture Limited.
The 22-acre orchard, located on the shores of Lake Naivasha, is a farming marvel, with crops flourishing on Chinese organic farming technology.
Dragon fruit (pitaya), strawberries, kiwi, grapes, gooseberries, muskmelon, sweet melon, pawpaws, tomatoes, guavas, lemons, oranges, mangoes, and avocados are some of the crops that beautifully stand on the farm, dancing to the cool breeze that often wafts from the lake.
It is a refreshing experience as one strolls in the orchard, enjoying the scenery and the warmth of beautiful fruits.
“The farm was started in February last year by three Chinese investors, namely He Qin Wen, Tang Xiao Kun and Zhang Weng Sheng,” says Alice Wanjiku, one of the managers who leads a team of 20 workers on the farm.
Good weather conditions and soils that can support a majority of fruits farmed in China attracted the Chinese investors, she tells the Seeds of Gold.
Before growing any of the crops, Alice explains that the soil is well-tilled, then mixed with chicken manure and cow dung, which must be buried underground for at least one month for good composition.
Uses drip irrigation
“The manure is first sifted until it is fine before application. The use of organic fertiliser helps in pest control and minimises soil fumigation,” she says.
They plant dragon-fruit cuttings on beds that are a metre apart. The crops are then supported so that they don’t bend as they fruit.
“One must also cut offshoots for good growth of the main fruit. Dragon fruits need ample spacing so that when they start to produce the fruits, they can grow without any hindrance,” says Alice.
Sweet melons, muskmelons, strawberries (snow white variety) and cherry tomatoes are grown in greenhouses. On the other hand, purple potatoes, lemons, mulberries, pawpaws, lemons, Chinese cabbage (Napa and kohlrabi), green beans and purple beans are farmed in the open.
“We grow the yellow cherry tomato variety because that is what the market wants. Few farmers grow them here,” explains Alice.
The tomatoes, which are grown in sunken beds that are plastic-mulched, are not pruned.
“Pruning affects production of the fruit. If you prune, you remove branches that would have given you fruits.”
The farm uses drip irrigation to maintain a steady supply of water.
"Naivasha is hot and our soils do not retain much water, which is required at the flowering stage. Mulching using polythene helps retain moisture and reduce evaporation,” says Mercy Mang’oli, another farm manager at the farm, who like Alice, speaks Mandarin, the official Chinese language.
They sell the harvest to Chinese restaurants in Nakuru and Nairobi and supermarkets frequented by the Chinese.
A kilo of dragon fruit goes for Sh1,000, strawberries Sh200 for a 200g punnet and cherry tomatoes sell at Sh250 per kilo. Chinese cabbages and purple sweet potatoes go for Sh3,000 per kilo.
"We grow all our produce organically, using natural fertilisers as we wish to protect the ecosystem," says Tang.
The investor adds that they are also an agro-tourism centre, where visitors can spend the night in special rooms they have created and eat and harvest fresh fruit.
“We also train local farmers and university students on the Chinese practices. Currently, we are not charging as we want to popularise the practices.” The farm, however, has to grapple with wild animals like water bucks and monkeys.
“We have dug trenches around the farm to repulse hippos at night and use scouts and dogs to scare away monkeys. The scouts go around the farm at least three days a week and if they detect a diseased fruit, they take pictures and we send them to plant doctors in Kenya and China for advice,” says Alice.
Prof Richard Mulwa, a Chinese farming technology researcher at the department of crops, Egerton University, says the Asian nation’s farming technology can be adapted to smallholder farmers, but the challenge is lack of access to high quality hybrid seeds from China.
He says the use of organic manure helps in pest control since when it is decomposing, a lot of ammonia gas is produced, which repels pests.
1. The farm uses an organic booster, bioactive microbes (BM), which is mixed with manure to retain nitrogen, which helps plants after it is transformed into nitrates. The mixture also helps eliminate soil diseases.
2. The manure mix is covered with polythene material and after four weeks, it is ready for use. 200ml of BM is diluted with 20 litres of water for optimal solution.
3. Accessing Chinese seeds can be expensive. The best way to get them is by multiplying the seeds from Chinese farmers like the one in Naivasha and distributing to local farmers.