A pioneer of late mangoes
Pius Mutia examines the unripe mangoes on one of his trees and then moves on to the next one. On reaching the shade, he stops to listen attentively to the agricultural adviser talking about how to care for fruit trees. Some 20 mango producers are already huddled around the adviser who is gesticulating wildly with his hands. From time to time they all burst out laughing.
Article and photos by Loredana Sorg, Biovision
Pius Mutia grows mangoes on his land in the village of Mutune in the Kenyan district of Kitui; he has trees of differing ages and varieties. That – and because he has always been interested in new experiments – is why the Farmer Field Day is being held on his land. The regional agricultural advisers and our partner, icipe, the international insect research institute have organised a visit to Pius Mutia’s orchard – during which the growers bombard the experts with questions.
The Field Day attracted more than 100 farmers, who had the opportunity to visit the 5 different stops. The experts provided information on the production of seedlings, tree care as well as marketing, accounts and the integrated management of the mango fruit fly. One farmer is so fascinated by the various traps and parasitoids brought along by the team of three from icipe and used to control the destructive fruit fly that she is reluctant to move onto the next stop when the time is up.
“We have a major problem with the fruit flies,” explains the District Officer in charge of agricultural produce. “If the mangoes are damaged by the fruit fly, we cannot export them”. That is why he welcomed the idea of working with researchers from icipe to introduce integrated pest management (IPM) in Kitui; IPM consists of a broad range of measures and so is effective at controlling the fruit fly in all stages of the insect’s development.
“My mangoes are ripening well,” says Pius Mutia with evident pleasure. In contrast to those in his neighbour’s garden, his fruit are still small. “In January and February, the market is swamped with ripe mangoes and each fruit only fetches five Swiss centimes. The variety that I grow won’t be ready until April but then I get as much as 20 Swiss centimes per mango”. By then, the dealers will be literally queuing up to buy his fruit. The enterprising farmer hit on the idea of growing a late-ripening variety when he saw similar trees on a friend’s land.
And because he is always keen to try something new, he recently planted his first apple tree. He does not yet know whether the seedling will thrive in the tropical heat of Kitui but the joy of trying something new is clear from his face. What is more, if one day he can harvest his own apples, the demand for his fruit at the local market will be even greater than that for his late-ripening mangoes.