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Vitex payos (Lour.) Merr Fruit Trees in the Drylands Areas of Eastern Kenya: Use, Marketing and Management

DOI: 10.3923/brj.2010.14.21

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Abstract:

This study explored the local use, marketing and management of Vitex payos in drylands areas of Eastern Kenya. Data were collected through household surveys using semi-structured questionnaires; transect walks, informal discussions and direct observations. Questionnaire responses were analyzed to generate descriptive statistics using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) while graphs were generated using Excel. Vitex payos fruits were found to be used in >90% of the households and the management of the fruit trees was incidental rather than deliberate. A majority of farmers (>80%) pruned the Vitex payos trees found on the farm to reduce shading effects on the associated crop plants. Coppices from cut trees were managed to provide new crops. Some farmers smoked the flowering and fruiting trees to repel the flying insect pests while a few others sprinkled ash at the base of the tree to deter crawling insects. Besides the consumption of Vitex payos fruits as snacks and sale for income generation, fruits were used for treatment of diarrhoea. The trees were also used for placing of beehives while the leaves, bark and roots were used for making herbal medicine. The wood was used for timber, fuelwood and tool handles. The naturally ripe and fallen fruits were collected on the ground although a few gatherers harvested fruits by climbing and shaking the tree or branches to dislodge the fruits. Within households, the fruits were spread on mats under shade for 1-3 days before taking to the market. Traditionally, mature unripe fruits are placed in buckets and covered with wood ash to hasten ripening. Taste of the fruits was the main criteria used by consumers to select the best fruits. Farmers retained on their farmlands trees with high fruit productivity and those that produce sweet fruits. Ripe fruits were sold on farms, roadside stalls and local markets either by gatherers themselves or through fruit vendors. Gatherers and fruit vendors suffer heavy losses due to fruit damage during transportation to the markets. Lack of storage facilities and low market value lowers the overall income from the sales of the fruits. Small land sizes and lack of planting material negatively affected farmers planting of the trees. There is need to promote the fruits through initiating processing activities to improve on their shelf live and to add value to generate higher income at the farm level. Processing of fruits into high value products like fruit jam and juices should be explored. Increasing the accessibility and availability of good planting material should be explored through vegetative propagation techniques to capture desired traits such as taste, size and high tree productivity.

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