Zebra melon turning out to be a real money spinner

This fruit has many names and both farmers and consumers have yet to settle on the most appropriate one. But they at least agree on one thing – that the fruit is a real money spinner, with a kilo fetching as much as Ksh300.
Zebra, gibra, and emla are some of the names used to describe Charentais Melon also called France melon. Its origin has been traced to India, and it found its way to Murang’a County last year.
Its popularity is growing by the day, thanks to the eagerness of many farmers to grab any emerging agribusiness opportunity. The fruit is much smaller than ordinary water melons, round-shaped with dark green and light green spotted stripes that give it the zebra fruit name.
Save for the stripes, one can easily mistake zebra fruit for pepino melon. The vines of this fruit resemble those of a water melon, but are thinner, while the leaves are also smaller.
When fully mature, its flesh turns somehow creamy, though, according to farmers, the best time to harvest is shortly before it starts ripening, when the flesh is still white.
A dealer in Murang’a Town, Mt Eliud Kamau, says that the fruit is in such high demand that he is sometimes unable to meet. “There are only a few farmers growing it and though scarcity makes it expensive, many customers have come to appreciate it for its nutritional and medicinal benefits.
Some claim it helps to contain high blood pressure, and diabetes, among other chronic diseases. It is also said to boost sexual virility,” adds the trader.
These qualities and the fact that it is sweet and easy to eat, just like an apple without peeling makes it attrachis window of opportunity relentlessly. Mr William Thuo, from Kahuro in Murang’a County, is among pioneer farmers, who started small, but is now investing in the crop heavily.
Gibra fruit was introduced to him by a friend who informed him that a kilo was selling at Ksh300 at a collection centre near Thika Town. He gave him a few seeds in mid he only planted 20 seeds, which he scattered in the farm.
“I did not want to doubt him; yet I was not ready to take a big risk. That is why I decided to start in a small way,” he says. That was in July last year.
Around September, Mr Thuo harvested his first fruits, but could not transport them to Thika due to the logistical problems. He, therefore, decided to sell them at a local market at Ksh50 a piece and they were all bought.
“I harvested about 500 fruits from the very first plants, I also learnt some very important lessons,” says the farmer. The Ksh25,000 he got motivated him to invest more in the vine crop, setting aside an eighth of an acre in his second trial.
Among the key lessons he learnt was that the crop does not require topdressing with nitrogen-based fertilisers. Top dressing, he realised, makes the plants more vegetative at the expense of producing fruits. His friend had also advised him to plant at a spacing of six by six feet, but he figured out that the best spacing is eight by six feet.
Mr Thuo planted the second crop in November, and was able to harvest in late January. Improved production and promising returns have now motivated him to increase the area under cultivation to half-an-acre. He now plans to have at least one acre ready for harvest by December.
“A large part of my two-acre farm is occupied by maize, but this is the last time I am planting the grain. Very soon, the entire land will be a plantation of gibra,” says the farmer. The farmer says the fruit is best eaten alone or can be used to prepare a salad or pudding.
Markets At the Thika collection centre a kilo (about six to eight mature fruits) retails at Ksh300. In Murang’a does Mr Thuo sell to local supermarkets, wholesale grocers or individual customers. “Either way, whether you sell locally or sell at Thika, one still makes money. The only advantage with Thika market is that they buy in bulk, unlike in local markets where our customers visit and buy according to their ability,” he concludes.

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  1. Comment:smart farmer am Samuel from kirinyaga county, am a farmer. I came across this article on zebra/gibra farming in Muranga . My question is where in Thika do they buy the fruit? please send the contacts if possible or connect me to one of the farmers.
    thanks for the highlights quite educative.
    keen follower of smartfarmer. Thanx in advance

  2. A million thanks to Smart Farmers Magazine for being really smart in informing the craving Farmers of our days.

  3. Quite educative…good job! How can one get access to the seeds. Two, please get me the contact details of Mr. William Thuo, regards


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