Overcome financial stress by growing passion fruits
About three months ago, Mathias Kasamba, the chairperson of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) committee on Agriculture, Natural resources and Tourism ventured into passion fruit farming.
It was the newest enterprise on his farm at Ttome – Kakuuto in Kyotera district. The 700-acre farm has other crops like coffee, sweet potatoes, garden eggs, jack fruits, matooke and a commercial tree forest among others.
He also rears cattle, goats and pigs but the his latest sensation with passion fruits is so telling. After two months of harvesting, he now sees the passion fruits as his cash cow.
“It can be an intervening crop. As you wait for the coffee to grow you get cash which maintains the workers, pays the operational costs and maintains the farm,” Kasamba says.
Passion fruit is a tropical fruit categorised under berries by botanists. It is the fruit of the Passiflora vine, a type of passion flower. It has a tough outer rind and juicy, seed-filled center.
Passions are a popular fruit and a common recipe for juices in Uganda.
There are several types, which can vary in size and color. The most commonly available are the purple and yellow varieties.
Passion fruits are easy to grow as they can be mixed with other crops like coffee.
They grow vigorously once planted in the right conditions and can easily spread by 5-6 metres each year. Within four to six months, a farmer can start harvesting.
One of the varieties on Kasamba’s farm is Local PF12 – the indigenous variety commonly known as Masaka. It is high yielding and can offer a farmer good returns on investment but is labour intensive.
Kasamba also grows the Kawanda hybrid variety, a disease resistant type developed by Kawanda Agricultural Research Centre.
This however yields less compared to the local variety but can remain productive up to four years.
Commitment is the major prerequisite to starting passion fruit growing, not money or big start.
”From 20-30 plants of the Kawanda variety; you can get a bag every two weeks. And the current cost is Shs 450,000 while the local variety sells at Shs 800,000 per bag,” Kasamba said.
From his 15-acre block of passion fruits, Kasamba earns about Shs 3m to Shs 4m every week.
GROWING THE KAWANDA VARIETY
The hybrid Kawanda variety is a cross between the local purple and the yellow passion fruits.
Its seedlings can be transferred from the nursery bed after four weeks.
They are then planted with a 10×15 feet spacing and supported with a pole.
According to Robert Kiwanuka Waliggo, a passion fruit farmer at Kiruuli village in Kifamba Sub County, Rakai district, at this stage, addition of manure is encouraged but it should not be excessive.
For infertile land, you can add urea and then spray super green on the leaves to keep them green.
A farmer has to cut off buds/shoots keeping only three of four.
‘’Eliminate bent shoots/buds and keep the good ones that can easily be led on the poles,” Waliggo said.
On the poles, connect all of them with ropes that is to say, both horizontally and vertically.
Lead the shoots on the poles and ropes. Often eliminate excessive stems to avoid congestion.
You can choose to lead them to the ground such that they do not interfere with the ones flowering up the poles and ropes.
Spraying should be done every after two weeks.
At three months, when the passions are well nurtured, a farmer can harvest two bags of 100kg each from 30 plants every two weeks.
‘’Currently, a bag of Passion fruits is sold at Shs 450,000. When you calculate, you realise that in just two rounds of harvest, a farmer recovers their capital. Then you start enjoying profits for four years,’’ Waliggo said.