Coconut Farming in Kenya
The coast region of Kenya has the potential for generating over Kshs 13 billion from coconuts against the current production worth Kshs 3.2 billion. The national government has earmarked over Kshs 500 million for the revitalization of the coconut industry at the Coast to increase livelihoods and boost economic development. The Government plans to grow the sub-sector by 10 percent yearly by supporting farmers to plant one million coconut seedlings annually.
The Agriculture Ministry is to supply farmers with early maturing, high – yielding and disease-tolerant coconut seedlings to boost production in the region. This will enable the industry to earn the Exchequer Kshs 25 billion, compared to the current Kshs 6.4 billion a year. The expansion of farms under coconut crops from the current 200,000 hectares to between 300,000 and 500,000 hectares will help generate more income for farmers. The Coast region has the potential to produce more than the 170 million nuts attained last year. The Government, through the Kenya Coconut Development Authority, intends to train more Coconut nursery growers.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Coconut Farming in Kenya
Coconut farming in Kenya is classified largely into 2 types in Kenya: The East African Tall (EAT) and the Dwarf coconut. The two are classified based on the most conspicuous difference between the two groups: the height of a mature tree. In other countries, hybrids are a third group available after breeding efforts. Kenya is in the process of importing and developing hybrid coconut varieties.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – The Plant And Its Environment
The coconut palm is monoecious it has male and female flowers on the same inflorescence, called a spadix, that develops within a woody sheath or spathe. The tree is composed of a crown of fronds borne on a single unbranched stem with aerial growth from a single growing point. A 40‐year old palm typically attains a height of 20–22 m (66–72 ft.). About the age of 1 year, leaves remain entirely. A leaf remains on the palm for about 3 years and thereafter, shed leaving a permanent scar on the trunk. The age of an adult palm is correlated with the number of leaf scars. The number of scars on the stem, divided by 13, gives the approximate age of the palm in years.
The coconut inflorescence is enclosed in a double sheath or spathe, the whole structure known as a ‘spadix’ which is borne singly in the axil of each leaf. The palm is monoecious, its inflorescence carries both male and female flowers. The male flowers are more numerous than female flowers. The former are borne on the top portion of spikelets which are attached to a main axis or peduncle. The female flowers are situated at the base of the spikelets.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Ecological requirements
Coconut palms have the best competitive advantage on sandy shorelines. Their ability to grow in infertile and saline soils, tolerate short inundations of the roots in saltwater, and thrive in a wide range of pH environments gives coconut palms this advantage. Coconut palms are naturally found on course sandy soils, but their ideal growth medium is well‐drained fertile loam or clay soils. The ideal PH range is 5.5‐7 although the palm can tolerate pH ranges from 4.5‐8. The tree cannot tolerate waterlogging within its root zone.
The palms require a mean annual temperature of between 21‐30 of coldest months 4‐12 °C and coldest tolerated temperature of 0 Freezing will kill seedlings and young palms and prolonged exposure will kill older palms
The level of precipitation required is not less than 1000 mm, but the most preferred is 1500‐2500 mm should be evenly distributed throughout the year. The supply of groundwater by seepage from upslope or a reachable water table could mitigate a lack of rainfall. inadequate water supply is not well‐tolerated and results in faster dropping of fronds, death of emerging fronds, premature fruit drop, and poor fruit crop in later years. Poorly draining soils receiving the sufficient rain quantities could become water‐logged; two weeks of water‐logged soil kills coconut palms.
Coconuts grow well in elevations ranging between 0‐600 m above sea level; however, exceptions exist especially in Kenya where coconuts have been grown at higher elevations.
Coconuts can grow in shade but nut production will be adversely affected
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Coconut Propagation
Coconut is primarily propagated through seed. Attempts at clonal propagation and embryo culture have so far been employed in some countries. Establishment through seed propagation can take two ways:
Direct Planting ‐
This is where quality seeds are planted in well-dug planting holes from where they germinate and grow, without need for further transplanting. Trees established in this way don’t suffer a possible transplanting shock, though it may make it difficult to manage them in case of drought and pest attack.
Seedlings can be raised in nurseries and managed until they attain the transplanting stage.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Good Seeds
- Mature: should dry up in the tree
- Free from pests/disease attack – the skin should be smooth
- Big size, especially if the aim is to plant trees for nut production
- It should contain water inside
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Preparation and Planting
Coconut Farm should ensure the propagation of only those nuts with good/ desired characteristics selected from the best trees available in the farms.
- The seeds are collected as soon as they have ripened In order to ensure the production of quality seedlings, there is a need to carry out proper seed selection.
- Discoloration and a foul odor when the nut is cut is an indication that the seed is not fresh and, therefore, is less likely to germinate.
- To hasten germination, slice the seed nut a bit and remove part of the husk on one end at the side of the three eyes.
- Soak the seed nut in water for two to three days. This will weaken the outer coat, allowing it to germinate more easily.
- When soaking, be sure to change the water daily to reduce incidences of pathogens
- For large quantities of seeds, they can be heaped together and covered with sisal gunny bags. Water is then applied by sprinkling until the gunny bags are completely soaked.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Management Practices
Only minimum tillage is required for the young coconut palms in the plantation. Inter‐cultural operations are mainly intended to control weeds and to provide aeration to the soil. If these objectives are met, any tillage system is as good as another and can be followed depending upon the local conditions.
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The objective is to suppress weeds and at the same time retain some moisture. One layer of dried coconut husks or dry grass is placed around the newly planted coconut seedlings from the base to a radius of 50 cm. In areas where there are incidences of termites, the husks should be drenched with a termiticide.
Coconut trees, like other crops, suffer competition from weeds and progressively decline in yields.
- Coconut trees should be kept weed-free at all times for better yields.
- Weeding twice a year is adequate for most environments of coconut growing.
- Generally, for the first 2 years of transplanting, a radius of about 1m should at a minimum, be kept weed-free. This should extend to 2m radius in subsequent years.
- Where possible, complete weeding of the farm is recommended.
Regular manuring from the first year of planting is essential to achieve higher productivity.
- Depending on the age of the coconut palms, 20 ‐ 50kg organic manure should be applied per palm per year with the onset of the rains, when soil moisture content is high.
- Different forms of organic manures like compost, farmyard manure, bone meal, fish meal, blood meal, neem cake, groundnut cake can be used.
- Broadcast the manure around every coconut tree base on a 2-meter radius then slightly plough it into the soil with a fork jembe.
To improve water retention around the tree base, a layer of mulch can be applied around the plant in various ways.
- Burying fresh or dried coconut husks around the palm is a very beneficial practice particularly for moisture retention especially in drought-prone areas.
- The husk can be buried either in linear trenches taken 3 m away from the trunk between rows of palms or in circular trenches taken around the palm at a distance of 2 m from the trunk.
- The trenches may be dug at 0.5 m wide and at the same depth. Place the husks in layers with concave surfaces facing upwards and covered with soil.
- The beneficial effects of husk burial will last for about 5‐7 years.
- It is a good practice to provide water to coconut trees in times of dry weather where this is possible.
- Observations have shown that coconut trees reduce flowering during the dry season and flower vigorously in the rainy season.
- Keeping the root zone moist all the time, where such is possible would be a positive way of improving coconut productivity.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Harvesting, and storage
- Power tiller operated ladder
- Climbing cycle / equipment
- Use of trained monkeys
How the harvesting is done
- Harvesting of coconuts is commonly done by climbing the tree with the help of a rope ring round the feet or ankles of the climber or by using a ladder.
- On reaching the top, the climber taps the nut in the lowermost bunch with its harvesting knife to test its maturity.
- If satisfied, the bunch is cut at the base of the stalk where it drops down to the ground.
- If the ground is very hard or if tender nuts are to be harvested, the bunches are lowered by using a rope.
- The climber also cleans the crown and removes the dry leaves, sheaths, and spathes.
- In the West Coast and certain areas where coconut leaves are required for thatching houses,
- one or two lowermost leaves are also cut down at the time of harvest.
- The cutting down of green leaves is not recommended as it affects the yield of trees to some extent.
- In some places where the trees are not tall, harvesting is done by cutting the bunches with a knife, attached to a long bamboo pole.
- Nuts that are to be stored for making copra should not be harvested until they are completely mature and dry.
Coconut Farming in Kenya – Postharvest Handling
- Harvested nuts should be kept with their husks intact under shade conditions. This will increase their shelf life to a maximum period of six months.
- Dehusking of nuts should be done using either a pointed iron bar or a strong and pointed stick (5 cm diameter). The use of a panga may damage the shell.
- Dehusked nuts should not be exposed to sunlight as the shells will crack causing quality deterioration.
- Harvested tender nuts should be carefully handled during transportation and stored in cool and dry places under shade to increase their shelf life.
Frequently Asked Questions about Coconut Farming in Kenya
How do you maintain a coconut plantation?
Before planting the pits are filled up with topsoil and powdered cow dung compost up to a depth of 50 to 60 cm. Then take a small pit inside this, so as to accommodate the nut attached to the seedling. Plant the seedling inside this pit and fill up with soil. Press the soil well so as to avoid water stagnation.
What can be cultivated in coconut farms?
However, in lands, reclaimed by heaping alternate layers of sand and clay, coconut thrives well. Proper supply of moisture either through well-distributed rainfall or irrigation and sufficient drainage is essential for coconut. Coconut can be grown in soil with a pH of 5.2 – 8.6.
What type of soil does a coconut tree need?
Coconut palms grow well in a wide range of soil types and in a wide pH range, from 5.0–8.0, provided the soils are well-drained. Successful growth requires a minimum average temperature of 72°F and an annual rainfall of 30–50 inches or more.
How many years does it take coconut to grow?
Given the proper care and growing conditions, coconut palms produce their first fruit in six to ten years but take 15 to 20 years to reach peak production. Coconut palms continue fruiting for approximately 80 years
How long does it take for coconut trees to grow?
Coconut trees will generally start to produce fruit five to six years after planting. However, fruit production doesn’t really flourish until the tree is 12 to 13 years old, according to horticulturists at Purdue University. Once flowers are pollinated, fruit takes about 12 months to mature.
What is the lifespan of a coconut tree?
The tall variety is commonly planted for commercial purposes. With a life span of 60-80 years, it is considered a “three-generation tree” as it can support a farmer, his children, and his grandchildren. The tree is slow to mature, bearing coconuts in six to 10 years.
How can I make my coconut tree grow faster?
To start to grow a coconut plant, one should begin with a fresh coconut that still has the husk on it. When you shake it, it still should sound like it has water in it. Soak it in water for two to three days. After the coconut has soaked, place it in a container filled with well-draining potting soil.
How much does it take for coconut firms in Kenya?
Famers who produces all-natural, organic certified virgin coconut oil using coconuts sourced from over 2,000 organic and fair trade certified smallholder farmers. We sell the product in a wide range of packaging, from retail pack sizes (200 ML to one liter) to bulk container sizes (25-liter cans, 190 KG drums, 1 MT IBC and 20,000 KG flexitank).