Mango farmers get training to help boost quality of fruits

Mango farming training

Participants during a training session in Makueni for farmers operating mango tree nurseries. They were trained on clean planting materials for the mango value chain in a bid to boost cultivation and market access for the crop, both locally and internationally.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Farmers operating tree nurseries in Makueni, Embu and Machakos counties have benefited from training on clean planting materials for the mango value chain in a bid to boost cultivation and market access for the crop, both locally and internationally.

The training is aimed at ensuring that nursery operators sell quality and disease-free seedlings to farmers. This way, their mango trees will be healthy from the beginning and have high chances of survival and yield more fruits on maturity.

The initiative is a partnership the between European Union-funded Market Access Upgrade Program (Markup Kenya) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro).

“Mango is one of the fruits bringing a lot of money in the country. In 2019-2020, the fruit earned Kenya Sh15 billion coming second after banana which earned the country Sh29 billion,” said Ms Grace Watani, a scientist from Kalro who is in charge of the horticultural seed unit.

Participants show grafted mango seedlings.

Participants during a training session in Makueni show grafted mango seedlings.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Quality seedlings

For mango production in the country to increase, Ms Watani noted that farmers have to start by planting quality seedlings.

Additionally, farmers need to know and access clean seedlings for varieties which are highly marketable and suitable for the climate conditions of different regions.

The trainings, therefore, have been an opportunity to expose nursery operators to not only how to produce clean seedlings, but also inform them which varieties are suitable for different regions.

Ms Watani urged tree nursery operators to register with the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) and get certification from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) as required by the law.

This way, she added, they will not only win confidence from clients, but also sell more and quality seedlings.

Ms Grace Watani, a scientist from Kalro

Ms Grace Watani (left), a scientist from Kalro who is in charge of the horticultural seed unit, speaks during a farmers' training in Makueni recently.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Help change practices

Mbeere South Sub-County agriculture officer Paul Kiige welcomed the training saying it will help change practices both among farmers and tree nursery operators.

“This is a timely training as many mango farmers just buy seedlings without considering quality and market trends,” said Mr Kiige, adding that he was optimistic that Markup Kenya will train more farmers and tree nursery operators.

Markup Kenya is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) in partnership with the government and the private sector.  The programme aims at promoting food safety and market access for selected Kenyan produce locally, regionally and internationally.

Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (Fpeak) called for the empowerment of stakeholders along the mango value chain, especially farmers, saying this would help in addressing various challenges.

mango farmers operating seedling nurseries

The training initiative for mango farmers operating seedling nurseries is a partnership the between Markup Kenya and Kalro.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Challenges

Fpeak’s Technical, Standards and Compliance officer Patrice Ngenga noted that the mango sector is faced by challenges such as diseases and pests like fruit flies, adding that the challenges can only be addressed if farmers are equipped with knowledge.

“I urge farmers to work with agronomists so that they can get guidance on proper use of pesticides and also identify pests and diseases so that they can use the right pesticides,” said Mr Ngenga.

He advised farmers to work in groups so that they can learn from each other and enjoy the economies of scale.

Register nurseries

Some tree nursery operators who have benefitted from the trainings have resolved to get their nurseries registered and employ the skills they learnt, saying they were optimistic that this would enhance market access for not only seedlings, but also the mango crop.

Mr Cyrus Muta, a nursery operator from Makueni, said he previously used to graft his trees unprofessionally but will now be doing it in the manner recommended by agriculture professionals.

Another trainee, Ms Fridah Karimi from Embu, said she would start keeping proper records, adding that she had been running her nursery casually without any record keeping.

“I will also market the varieties whose fruits are marketable so that more farmers will be interested in growing the same as this way, I will make more sales and earn more income,” said Ms Karimi.

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