A farmer in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia county, Mark Mukopi has been growing maize on his 14 acre farm for over 30 years.
But last year he decided to farm watermelons, which are growing in popularity in the region.
An acre of watermelon can fetch about 4,400 US dollars, compared to an acre of maize grown over the same period which brings in about 300 dollars.
The harvest is good because as we talk irrespective of the poor weather, because the short rains have not come as expected.
“The harvest is good because as we talk irrespective of the poor weather, because the short rains have not come as expected. We have had very little rain unlike what we anticipated initially so the yield has not been good as I wanted but for a start,” he said.
The farmer sells his melons to wholesalers at an average price of 1.50 US dollars for a watermelon weighing six kilograms.
At the main market, many fruit traders said they sell about 10 tones of the fruit per week to regular clients.
“Watermelons purify blood in your body and you feel healthy, that is why I like buying them. They boost blood in my body,” said Mary Mabia, a customer.
“You find that you sell about 10 pineapples per day but with watermelon you can sell 100 to 150 kilos per day on retail,” said Peter Irungu, a trader.
Trans Nzoia is an agricultural region and forms a key part of the county’s main bread basket.
Trans Nzoia county Agronomist, Kenneth Kagai said that while more farmers diversify, food security is not at risk.
“We are encouraging our farmers to practice a farming system whereby they can have maize as a first crop during the long rains and then after harvesting the maize, especially those farmers who have got water they are able to irrigate their farms and plant alternative crops like the watermelon,” he said.
Many farmers have traditionally grown Kenya’s staple maize and wheat but bad weather and poor sales, caused by cheap imports have seen farmers look for alternatives.