Kabarak village, located in Elgeyo-Marakwet County some 325 kilometers from the capital Nairobi, is an enchanting place.
Goats, cows, donkeys and sheep are the main animals we come across as we drive along the way. But there is more, the region is home to tasty and juicy mangoes.
We find farmer Francis Kiplagat sauntering on his 50-acre mango farm as he smiles broadly. The trees are at the flowering stage and he is anticipating a bumper harvest, the reason for his broad smile.
His orchard is weed-free and the trees are well pruned. Kiplagat is a beneficiary of Standards and Market Access Programme (SMAP), a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) initiative whose objective is to enhance small farmers’ produce high standards products and access to both local and international market.
Therefore, Kiplagat knows the importance of keeping high standards of hygiene on his farm, thanks to Kenya Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), a partner organisation in SMAP.
“Nimefunzwa kuwa uwepo wa kwekwe hutengeneza mazingira bora kwa wadudu na adui wengine (I have learnt that having weeds on my orchard creates an ideal environment for multiplication of pests and other enemies),” says Kiplagat.
His knowledge in taking care of mangoes has earned him the title “Professor of mangoes”. One of the knowledge he passes to other farmers is how to eradicate mango fruit flies, which had for years been a major challenge to him and other farmers.
Each time he sold his mangoes, the client would cut a sample, only to find a collection of maggots.
Worse still, he would always find hundreds of fruits on the ground as he walked on his farm.
His turning point came when he met Kephis officials and asked them to try if his produce would qualify for the export market. As fate would have it, the mangoes were rejected.
On some of the branches of his 400 trees, plastic containers clearly labeled “Funded by the European Union”, dangle leisurely.
These are pheromone traps which Kiplagat and a couple of his neighbours have embraced to eradicate the fruit flies.
“Before I started using pheromone traps, I used to harvest 15-20 fruits from each tree,” he says. “But now I harvest up to 500 fruits annually because of the traps.”
Before the traps, he had tried many ways to keep fruit flies at bay, including using pesticides. But he no longer needs the chemicals anymore as the pheromone traps work efficiently.
As he walks on the farm, Kiplagat looks at the fruits and confidently estimates how much he would earn in two month’s time.
“This one looks like it will give me over 1,000 fruits, if I sell each at Sh10, I would make some good money from this particular tree,” he says.
We will be back on his farm in December to follow up on market, value addition and consumption of mangoes.