Wild fruit farmers from Kitui county are set to benefit from a pilot project by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) to domesticate the edible but wild berries as a way of enhancing food security and increasing level of income in areas prone to drought.
Kefri Researcher, Pauline Bala, who has been spearheading the project, says the farmers have been doing semi-domestication of the trees without knowing that the resource can be developed to improve their incomes.
“Multiple benefits from dry-land fruit trees have been realised and what is needed is only to create awareness in the communities and to empower them fully in order to utilise the resource,” she said.
Bala, however, says the residents have to adopt the domestication initiative for economic gains because there is that myth that wild fruits are only eaten by marginalised communities who lack food. “We want to remove the community from that cocoon and make use of whatever is available near them to improve their lifestyles,” she says.
Kefri researchers have made a breakthrough in domestication of the Vitex payos whose fruit can produce high quality jam for bread, but waiting certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS) to determine the shelf life.
A research conducted by University of Bangor, Wales in conjunction with Kefri Researchers shows that black plum from Vitex payos has a high content of ascorbic acid, with 208mg per 100gm of fresh weight, therefore making it excellent source of vitamin C.
“The economic value of the tree is enormous in that a single tree can produce 25,000 fruits. This can produce 30kg of pulp translating to 120 jars of jam that can earn the farmer Sh12,000,’’ says Bala.
Meanwhile, in Kitui Central and Kitui Rural sub-counties, 700 women farmers are set to benefit from an agricultural project focusing on dairy goat rearing, honey harvesting, improved indigenous chicken and water harnessing.
The project being implemented by Groots Kenya through Tei wa Woo community-based organisation (CBO) seeks to empower women in agricultural projects, which are not linked with their menfolk. “The aim is to address factors which impede women from maximising food production like cultural beliefs and property ownership,” says Jeniffer Nyumu, chairman of Tei Wa Woo.
She said there is need to empower Kenyan women with skills needed to improve their incomes in order to sustain food security in the households. One way is help them tap untapped resources in their midst.