Jane Wangeci is harvesting her strawberries when we met her on her half-acre farm in Gitero, Nyeri County.
The farmer picks the fruits and puts them in a container as she also hand-picks weeds, which she dumps on the edge of the farm.
She finally fills the bucket and carries it to a shed under a banana tree.
“I grow the Chandler variety. I started with the Woodland variety in 2014 before I switched last year,” she says.
Chandler, according to her, has a higher productivity, is bigger, resistant to diseases and has a longer shelf-life.
“Unlike the other varieties, Chandler can be on transit for three days and the buyers will still have time to sell them without getting destroyed.”
She plants the splits at least two feet apart and a foot between the rows. One should ensure the roots are covered but the crown should be at the soil surface. An acre will take at least 25,000 splits of the strawberries.
“The soil should be mixed with well decomposed animal manure before transplanting the splits that must be consistently watered until new leaves sprout,” she explains, adding that a split contains at least 10 plantlets.
It takes at least 75 days for the splits to mature and start bearing fruit, and the mother plant can continue producing fruits for the next five years.
She harvests the crop at least thrice a week, getting 35kg per session that she sells a kilo at Sh120 at Karatani market and to Lutheran Foundation, where she also gets the splits.
Michael Kabiru, an agronomist in Nyeri, identifies botrytis as the major disease that affect the berries.
Botrytis is a condition that is prevalent during the rainy season which makes the berry looks like its rooting by forming moulds on the skin.
“Farmers can choose to mulch their crops and prune leaves that are close to the ground on a regular basis which helps in eradicating the disease,” notes Kabiru, advising farmers to grow the fruits at a place with adequate light and warm temperature.
Other than the weather caused disease, birds and snails are a perennial problem that farmers grapple to wade off. However, Jane says there is also the challenge of accessing the local market.
“There are too many brokers who are cutting deals for farmers in the market making it hard for us to break even.”