Growing fruit trees in Kenya is a profitable venture for many small farmers. But which fruits can thrive in the dry areas of kenya? Over 80 % of Kenya land is classified as arid and semi-arid. The region is known for its hot and dry climate, making it challenging to grow normal food and cash crops. Lucky for you, there are some fruit trees that do best in these conditions and can give you dependable income for years.
In this blog post, we will discuss the best drought-tolerant fruits to grow in Kenya. They include the loquats, black plums, date palms, tamarind, kei apple, prickly pear cactus, dragon fruits, thorn melon, and pawpaws among others. Besides, we provide detailed information on how to plant and care for them.
Hylocereus undatus. other common names; Cereus triangularis, Thanh long, Strawberry Pear, Cactus fruit, Night blooming Cereus, Jesus in the Cradle
Dragon fruits are a new fruit in Kenya. Its popularaity is growing fast with many farmers growing it to match the growing market demand. The fruit is grown from cactus vines making it one of the best drought tolerant fruit for dry areas in Kenya. The fruit is known for its sweet and delicate taste and is high in antioxidants and fiber. Dragon fruits are often used in smoothies, salads, and desserts.
To grow dragon fruits, farmers consider a spacing of 2 by 2metres. This gives you 1,000 support posts for the cactus plants for an acre of land. Each post can support two dragon fruit vines. Therefore, you can grow about 2,000 plants in just one acre of land! Each vine will give you approximately 30 fruits annually under worst drought conditions, with an average weight of about 0.5kg.
Eriobotrya japonica, other names; Japanese medlar, nispero, Maltese plum, Japanese plum, 盧橘, pipa
Loquats are small, sweet, and juicy fruits that are rich in vitamins A and C. They are known for their high fiber content and low-calorie count, making them an ideal snack for health-conscious individuals. Loquats are easy to grow and require minimal maintenance, making them a popular choice among small farmers in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions.
To grow loquats, farmers should plant the trees in well-drained soil and full sun exposure. Loquat farming in Kenya has the following
- Well distributed rainfall of 100cm throughout the year.
- Deep, well drained sandu-loam soils that are rich in organic matter.
- Preferred spacing of 6 to 8 metres.
- Plant 200-300 fruit trees in 1 ha of lamd.
vitex payos, local names; Swahili: mfudu, Kamba: Kimuu, Embu: Muburu, Giriama: mfudu.
Black plums, “chocolate berry” or vitex payos is a key indigenous fruit tree in Ukambani region of Kenya. They are known for their sweet and tangy taste and are rich in vitamins A and C. Black plums are also high in antioxidants, making them an ideal fruit for boosting the immune system.
In Kenya, these fruits have a thriving market in areas of Kitui, Mutomo, Mbeere (Ishiara).The blackish pulp of the fruits is edible and eaten raw. It is often used to make jam. A beverage is made from the fruit
juice, and boiled fruits are the basis for an alcoholic liquor and wine. The seeds inside the fruit stone are also edible. Cooked young leaves are eaten as a vegetable or in sauces.
It grows from altitudes of 0-1600m, in areas with 650-850mm mean annual rainfall. It can also grow to a height of up to 10m. V. payos often grows in sandy soils, less often clay red and rocky ones
Phoenix dactylifera, Other common names Dade, Date, Datte, Dattel, Datter, Dattero, Dattier, Datil, Edible Date, Kharjura, Palmera Datilera, Palmier Dattier, Palmier-Dattier, Phoenix dactylifera, Tamera
Date palms are one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world and can thrive in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. They are known for their sweet and chewy taste and are rich in vitamins and minerals. Dates are a popular ingredient in many desserts and can also be eaten as a snack. Dates can be eaten fresh or dried and is rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as vitamins A, B and K. They are also rich in carbohydrates.
Dates farming is popular in areas of Kibwezi. Below are the key requirements for successful dates farming in Kenya.
- They do well where rainfall amounts range between 600 and 1,000 millilitres a year.
- They do well in dry and humid climates especially along the coastal counties
- Propagated from suckers, which are harvested from mature palms and transplants.
- Reccomended pits dimensions measuring 3x3x3 feet.
- Consider watering for at least once every week until they are about six years when they start producing.
Tamarindus indica, Other common names, ukwaju Imlee, Imli, Tamarin, Tamarindo, Tamarindus indica, Tamarinier, Tamarinier d’Inde, Tintiri
Tamarind is a popular fruit in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions and is known for its tangy and sour taste. The fruit is high in antioxidants and is often used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. Tamarind is also a popular ingredient in many dishes and can be used to make sauces, jams, and chutneys. It is also used for souring porridge, juices, fried seeds, seasoning and flavouring
Tamarind farming in kenya has does well sin Garissa, Tana River, Lamu, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Taita-Taveta and Kajiado counties. The following are some top conditions for optimal yield
- Altitude ranges from 0 to 1,500 metres above sea level.
- Annual rainfalls range from less than 400mm to more than 1,400mm.
- Tree spacing should be a minimum of five metres, but this can be up to 15 metres
- Regular pruning to control growth and maintain shape is recommended.
Dovyalis caffra, common names; kei apple, keiappel, wilde-appelkoos, appelkoosdoring; English: kei apple, Dingaan’s or wild apricot;
Kei apple is a native fruit to Kenya and can thrive in the country’s arid and semi-arid regions. The fruit is known for its sweet and sour taste and is high in vitamin C. Kei apple is often used to make jams, jellies, and sauces and is also eaten fresh as a snack.
Kei apple growing in Kenya is mostly as a fencing plant. As a fruit tree, below are some requirement an conditions.
- For the production of fruit, they should not be set closer than 12-15 ft (3.5-4.5 m)
- Does well in almost any soil, including limestone, but cannot tolerate damp sites or high watertables
- Can grow from 0-2450 metres above seal level
- A pH preference of 5.5-8.5
Prickly Pear Cactus
Opuntia ficus-indica, Other common names; Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, Spineless cactus, Nopal Cactus
Prickly pear cactus is a unique fruit that can thrive in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. The fruit is known for its sweet and tangy taste and is high in antioxidants and fiber. Prickly pear cactus is also used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. are rich in calcium, vitamin A and C, and also boost blood production in the body In Kenya its classified as an invasise cactus species with ongoing plans to control it.
To grow prickly pear cactus, farmers should plant the trees in well-drained soil and full sun exposure. Prickly pear cactus trees require minimal watering, making them an ideal fruit for arid regions. However, farmers should still water the trees regularly during the growing season to ensure healthy growth and high yields.
kiwano melon, jelly melon or horned melon.
Thorn melon, also known as kiwano, is a unique fruit that can thrive in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. The fruit is known for its sweet and tangy taste and is high in vitamins A and C. Thorn melon is often used in salads, smoothies, and desserts.
To grow thorn melon, farmers should plant the trees in well-drained soil and full sun exposure. Thorn melon fruits requires following conditions for best yields;
- The ideal temperatures are 20-30°C for germination.
- The annual rainfall of 350-600mm per annum
- It takes 3 to 4 months for the fruit to rich maturity.
Carica papaya, other names; Papaya.
Pawpaws, also known as papayas, are a popular fruit in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid regions. The fruit is known for its sweet and juicy taste and is high in vitamins A and C. Pawpaws are often used in smoothies, salads, and desserts.
To grow pawpaws in Kenya, consider following conditions;
- Warm to hot climates for growth
- An altitude below 2100m above sea level.
- Annual rainfall of about 1000mm which is well distributed.
- Deep, well drained soils with adequate moisture, but not waterlogged.
Mango trees are well-suited for arid areas due to their ability to withstand drought conditions. They thrive in warm climates with temperatures ranging between 27-32°C and require minimal rainfall. In fact, mango trees can survive on just 40-50 inches (850 -1000 mm) of rainfall per year. They are easy to grow, have high yields, and are resistant to most pests and diseases. Additionally, mangoes are a popular fruit in Kenya and can be sold for a profit.
Avocado trees are another fruit tree that thrives in arid regions of Kenya. They prefer warm temperatures between 20-24°C and require minimal rainfall, making them ideal for areas with limited water resources. Avocado trees are also resistant to pests and diseases, making them relatively easy to care for. The fruit is highly nutritious and can be sold for a profit in local markets.
Psidium guajava, Other names Amrood, Brazilian Guava, Common Guava, Feuille de Goyavier, Goiaba, Goiabeiro, Goyabe, Goyave, Goyavier, Goyavier du Brésil, Guaiaba, Guaiava, Guavenbaum, Guayaba, Guayabo, Guayave, Jambu Batu, Koejawel, Lemon Guava, Mansala, Red Guava, Yellow Guava
Guava trees are a hardy fruit tree that can thrive in arid regions of Kenya. They prefer warm temperatures between 20-30°C and can survive on as little as 40 inches of rainfall per year. Guava trees are relatively easy to care for and have high yields, making them a profitable crop for small farmers.
Citrus trees, including oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, can also thrive in arid areas of Kenya. They prefer warm temperatures between 15-30°C and require minimal rainfall. Citrus trees are relatively easy to care for, have high yields, and the fruit can be sold for a profit in local markets.
Punica granatum, Other names Punic apple, Granatapfel, Melograno, Melagrana, Anardana, Anar, Dadima, Fruit du, Pomme Grenade, Punica granatum, Shi Liu Pi
Pomegranate trees are a fruit tree that is well-suited for arid areas of Kenya. They prefer warm temperatures between 25-30°C and can survive on as little as 10 inches of rainfall per year. Pomegranate trees are relatively easy to care for, have high yields, and the fruit can be
sold for a profit in local markets. The fruit is also highly nutritious and contains antioxidants that can boost the immune system.
To plant a pomegranate tree, choose a site with well-draining soil and full sun exposure. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, and mix the soil with organic matter before planting. Water the tree immediately after planting and regularly thereafter until it is established. Pomegranate trees require minimal pruning, but you should remove any dead or diseased branches.
How to care for Fruit Trees in dry areas
Once you have planted your fruit trees, it is essential to care for them properly to ensure a successful harvest. Here are some tips for caring for fruit trees in arid areas of Kenya:
- Watering: Fruit trees require regular watering, especially during the dry season. Water the trees deeply once a week rather than giving them small amounts of water daily. This will encourage deeper root growth and make the trees more resilient to drought conditions.
- Water conservation; water basin should be built around each tree to ensure adequate moisture for young trees.
- Fertilizing: Fruit trees require regular fertilization to ensure healthy growth and high yields. Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring and again in mid-summer. Avoid over-fertilizing as this can damage the trees.
- Pruning: Regular pruning is essential for maintaining the shape and health of fruit trees. Prune in late winter or early spring before the trees start to bud. Remove any dead or diseased branches and thin out any overcrowded branches.
- Pest and Disease Control: Fruit trees are susceptible to pests and diseases, especially in humid conditions. Keep an eye out for signs of pest infestations or diseases and treat them promptly. You can use organic pesticides or consult a professional if you are unsure.
In conclusion, planting fruit trees in arid areas of Kenya can be a profitable venture if you choose the right trees and care for them properly. Mango, avocado, guava, citrus, and pomegranate trees are all well-suited for these regions if you are looking to make moneyand can thrive in drought conditions. Loquats, black plums, date palms, tamarind, kei apple, prickly pear cactus, dragon fruits, thorn melon, and pawpaws are some of the best fruits to grow in the same regions
By following the planting and care instructions outlined in this post, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest and improve the livelihoods of small farmers in the area. Farmers should ensure that they plant the trees in well-drained soil and full sun exposure, provide regular watering, and apply a balanced fertilizer to ensure healthy growth and high yields.