NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenyan farmers are embracing various
Asian crop varieties to curb diseases and earn more as the
market for the produce grows, writes BEDAH MENGO.
To curb diseases, the farmers are grafting local crop varieties
with those from Asia that have a longstanding record of being
resistant to stubborn diseases.
A tomato variety that originates from Asia known as Cheong
Gang has become popular with Kenyan farmers seeking to eliminate
the deadly bacterial wilt disease.
Bacterial wilt, which is soil-borne, ravages acres of
tomatoes across the East African nation every year, heaping
losses on Kenyan farmers and cutting supply.
The disease does not spare both farmers growing the crop in
the field and in greenhouses, making quite a number of them
abandon the agribusiness.
For those farming in greenhouses, some have been going at
great lengths to source for soil that they consider virgin and
disease-free from forests to grow the crops.
Others have turned to expensive soil treatment process like
soil solarization and use of chemicals to kill the soil-borne
"I graft Cheong Gang tomato variety with the local Anna F1 to
curb bacterial wilt.
"I have been doing it for the last two years and the results
have been excellent," said Collins Kipkorir, a tomato farmer in
Nakuru, on Monday.
During the grafting, he uses the Asian variety as the
rootstock because of its ability to resist bacterial wilt and
other diseases and the local variety is used as the scion
because of its high production.
Kipkorir starts the process by first planting the two
varieties of tomatoes in seedbeds separately and once they
acquire about four leaves, he uproots the two at the same time,
cuts each into two parts and grafts the scion to the rootstock.
"The resultant product is a plant that is not only
high-yielding but also tough on diseases making me earn more.
"I learnt of the Asian variety during a farmers’ field day in
Nakuru and the good thing is that it is available locally," said
Kipkorir, who farms in a greenhouse, adding that he gets about 8
kg of tomatoes per plant.
Cheong Gang is acclaimed for its resistant to bacterial wilt
and its rootstock is globally used in the fight against the
disease, according to Caroline Mutua, a crop specialist at
She noted grafting helps not only control diseases like
bacterial wilt and fusarium wilt but also boost yields.
Farming of pak choi, a Chinese vegetable, is also picking up
in Kenya, as the number of citizens from the Asian nation in
The vegetable that belongs to the same family as spinach and
cabbage is mainly grown in Limuru and Naivasha, northwest of
Nairobi, and is sold to Chinese restaurants in the city.
Other places where it is grown also have cool temperatures
which are ideal for the crop.
"I am currently farming pak choi on quarter acre and sell the
produce at a city market in Nairobi and to a Chinese
businessman," said Benson Kiboi, a farmer.
Beatrice Macharia, an agronomist with Nairobi-based
consultancy Agro-Point, noted that two things are making Asian
varieties popular in Kenya, the first being their proven disease
tolerance and high yields and second, growing nationals from the
region in the country.
"Crops like mint, thyme and turmeric are becoming popular
with Kenyan farmers because of the growing community of Chinese
"Some of the foreigners are even farming themselves for
export or for the local market at Chinese restaurants," she