The decline in production and consumption of several types of fruits has jolted a government research body to undertake a major campaign to promote the underutilised crops in yet another drive to help feed a fastrising Kenyan population.
Last week, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) showcased some of the abandoned crops at the Nairobi International Trade Fair. Some of these foods include jackfruits, guava, gooseberries and custard apples.
The Director of Crop Systems at Kalro, Dr Lusike Wasilwa, said the value of goose berries will get recognition in a month’s time when the first-ever Ribena beverage – fruit juice —will be introduced into the market. It will be trade under the brand name Kula Kalro. “If we don’t promote these neglected crops, we will lose out on the fruits and vegetables,” he said.
Lusike said they have been working with farmers to promote the growing of goose fruits and currently have distributed seeds in over 22 counties. Kalro, in partnership with USAid, has distributed over 55,000 guava, gooseberry and jackfruit seedlings to farmers in Busia county in a campaign to entice farmers to take up farming of underutilised fruits for commercial production.
“Already, 20,000 guava fruit seedlings, 20,000 jackfruit seedlings and 15,000 gooseberry seedlings have been distributed to various farmers in the county. We have also educated farmers on the tools, process, packaging and marketing in the fruits’ value addition,” she said.
The campaign started in late 2016 and has seen Kalro and its partners move from region to region to educate farmers on the fruit farming, marketing and value addition in a bid to eradicate the negative perception that locals have had towards the fruits.
For example, Lusike said, a fruit like guava has been ignored and yet it is highly nutritious and is laden in iron, which is needed for brain development in children. “We want more people to consume these fruits and dispel the false notion that they are for the poor. A guava a day will keep our men’s prostrate glands healthy,” she added.
Dr Lusike said young people can benefit by adding value to the fruits by making juice and even fruit jam. “We are also creating jobs for the youth and in the next two weeks we are putting up a mobile app on the fruits we are promoting on line,” she said.
Owen Indiya, also from Kalro, regrets that the country imports guava fruits from Israel and Egypt yet the fruit can be grown locally. “Jack Fruit has a rich source of vitamin A and C, is readily digestible and can be used to manufacture jam and jelly,” he said.
On its part, gooseberry fruit is rich in vitamins C and A, manganese and dietary fibre. It can also help address problems of appetite, prevent heart diseases and also help in digestion, he added.
Other fruits such as custard apple, Indiya said, have great medicinal value. This year’s international trade fair ran under the theme Promoting innovation and Technology in Agriculture and Trade.