Top 5 Fruit Trees to Grow During El Niño Rains in Kenya
Kenya, like many other countries in East Africa, experiences periodic climate phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña. El Niño is characterized by increased rainfall, while La Niña brings drier conditions. These weather patterns can have a significant impact on agriculture and food security in the country. During El Niño rains, it’s an excellent opportunity for farmers to maximize their fruit tree cultivation.
About Expected El Niño Rains In Kenya
The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) has forecast that Kenya will experience above-average rainfall in the October-November-December (OND) 2023 season due to the El Niño climate phenomenon. The El Niño is a natural climate pattern that occurs every few years and causes warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. This warming of the ocean surface leads to changes in the atmosphere, which can cause changes in weather patterns around the world.
In Kenya, the El Niño is expected to bring above-average rainfall to most parts of the country, with the exception of some areas in the north and northeast. The heaviest rainfall is expected in the western and southern parts of the country, including the Lake Victoria basin, the Rift Valley, and the coastal areas.
Arid and semi-arid counties like Turkana, Samburu, and Northeastern counties are likely to experience highly enhanced rainfall, with places like Wajir and Mandera also expecting extended rainfall into January 2024. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that El Nino will return this year following a three-year La Nina.
La Nina involves the cooling of sea surface temperatures across the East Central equatorial Pacific and stronger East Winds. The Kenya Meteorological Department says that this season’s El Nino may be comparable to the one experienced in 1997.
Looking back at history, the last time Kenya experienced an El Nino was in 2006, resulting in significant loss of life and billions of Shillings in losses. So, what should Kenyans expect?
In the Western belt, farmers should anticipate post-harvest losses. On the other hand, the Ministry of Agriculture predicts enhanced agricultural production in some parts of the Western and Eastern regions, leading to more affordable agricultural food commodities and improved food security. Additionally, there will be greater availability of water to support farming and geothermal power generation.
However, some parts of the country are likely to experience landslides and flooding. If not properly managed, this could result in loss of life. Education may also be affected in certain areas, as schools could flood and learning materials may be destroyed.
This situation arises as Kenya is emerging from one of the worst droughts in 40 years. In the months to come, another dry spell is expected, leading to further water shortages. It is crucial to reignite the conversation on water harvesting and implement measures to mitigate this foreseeable crisis.
In this article, we’ll explore the five best fruit trees to grow during El Niño rains in Kenya.
5 best fruit trees to grow during El Niño
1. Mango Farming
Mango trees (Mangifera indica) thrive during El Niño rains due to their high water requirements. These heavy rainfall periods provide ample moisture for mango trees to grow, flower, and produce an abundance of delicious fruits. Mangos are not only a favorite among Kenyan households but also have great economic potential as they can be sold in local markets or processed into value-added products like dried mango or mango juice.
Mangoes grow in various parts of the country, including the coast, eastern, rift valley, and western regions. These regions have specific varieties well adapted to their local climatic conditions. Some mango varieties grown in Kenya include Ngowe, Apple, Tommy Atkins, Kent, Keit, Vandyke, and Boribo.
Mango fruit farming in Kenya is seasonal, with the majority of the harvest-taking place between December and March. During this period, processing facilities and markets are usually overwhelmed with a high supply of mangoes. During off-seasons, there is a shortage of fruits, resulting in decreased production and, at times, the closure of some processing facilities.
2. Hass Avocado Farming
Hass avocado trees (Persea americana) are another excellent choice during El Niño rains. These trees are known for their drought tolerance, but they also benefit from increased rainfall. The added moisture helps hass avocado trees grow more vigorously and produce larger and juicier fruits. Kenya’s avocado industry has been on the rise in recent years, and planting hass avocado trees during El Niño events can lead to a bountiful harvest.
Hass avocados are grown in Muranga, Nyeri, Kiambu, Meru, and Kisii regions. The entire Mt Kenya region can facilitate Avocado growth because of its climatic conditions. When planted in areas such as Embu, Kathiani, Mua Hills, and Machakos, they should be irrigated.
The journey of Hass avocados meant for export is a natural wonder that combines careful cultivation, delicate handling and careful attention to the ripening process. The result is the unique buttery flavor and creamy texture that has made Hass the most loved avocado variety.
3. Papaya Farming
Papaya trees (Carica papaya) are a great option for Kenyan farmers during El Niño rains. These tropical fruit trees are fast-growing and highly responsive to increased water availability. The consistent rainfall during El Niño events ensures that papaya trees receive adequate hydration, leading to larger and sweeter fruits. Papayas are not only delicious but also rich in vitamins and minerals, making them a valuable addition to any garden.
Investment in pawpaw farming is increasingly becoming attractive to farmers in Kenya who are keen to tap into new opportunities in the agribusiness sector. Well, it is not an entirely new crop but there are two main reasons why its farming has recently become more profitable: one, the increasing awareness on its nutritional and medicinal values among local consumers and two, the opening up of an attractive export market especially in Dubai and the larger Middle East.
4. Banana Farming
Banana trees (Musa spp.) thrive in Kenya’s climate, especially during El Niño rains. These moisture-loving plants benefit from the excess rainfall, resulting in robust growth and an abundance of bananas. Bananas are a staple food in Kenya and can be consumed fresh or processed into various products such as banana chips and banana bread. Growing banana trees during El Niño events can help ensure a steady supply of this nutritious fruit.
In Kenya a wide range of banana varieties is grown which include: Ripening- Grand naine, Giant Cavendish, Vallery, Williams hybrid, Chinese dwarf, Gold finger, Kisii sweet etc. Cooking types- Kisii matoke, Uganda Green, N’gombe, Nusu N’gombe, Solio, Ishighame. Dual purpose – Muraru, Fhia. If you are planning for the export market, consider the Giant Cavendish.
5. Passion Fruit Vines
Passion fruit vines (Passiflora edulis) are a profitable option for farmers during El Niño rains. These vines thrive in moist conditions, and the increased rainfall enhances their growth and fruit production. Passion fruits are in high demand in Kenya’s markets, both for their refreshing taste and their use in making juices and desserts. Planting passion fruit vines during El Niño events can lead to a consistent supply and a lucrative income source for farmers.
Passion fruit is a perennial plant that allows farmers to enjoy yields for longer periods often exceeding three years depending on management. As with most other fruits, you can intercrop passion fruit with vegetables such as leeks, onions, beetroots, spinach, strawberries and any other crop that does not share pest and diseases with the passions. Popular cultivars include purple passion fruit and yellow passion fruit. The purple passion fruit (Passiflora edulis f. edulis) Suitable for areas with an altitude of 1100 to 2500m above sea level. The fruit has an aromatic flavor with a diameter of 4-5 cm.
Passion fruits are grown in Thika, Nyamira, Kisii, Nyeri, Kakamega, Murang’a, Meru, among other regions. Fruits can be eaten fresh or processed into juice.
El Niño rains offer a unique opportunity for Kenyan farmers to boost fruit tree cultivation. By choosing the right fruit trees that thrive in moist conditions, farmers can ensure a bountiful harvest and contribute to food security in the region. Mangoes, avocados, papayas, bananas, guavas, and passion fruits are some of the best options for planting during El Niño events. With proper care and attention, these fruit trees can provide not only nutritious fruits for households but also potential income through local markets and value-added products. So, seize the moment during El Niño rains and invest in these fruitful additions to your garden.