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Traders smiling all the way to the bank by selling a rare fruit

The adage; “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” has for a long time been used to encourage people to adopt healthy eating habits including the consumption of different varieties of fruits and vegetables to evade diseases.

Humans are advised to always ensure they are eating from the three main groups of foods which include; carbohydrates, proteins and Vitamins. Medics opine that the human body requires various essential minerals and vitamins in order to operate at an optimal level and boost the immunity levels to protect it against diseases.

These minerals are commonly acquired from the fruits and vegetables and other food items and therefore people are advised to consume the fruits and vegetables that are within their reach in order to give their bodies the necessary minerals and nutrients.

To this end, a little known fruit in Kenya which is known as dragon fruit is fast gaining popularity among the residents of Naivasha and the country at large.

Although the dragon fruit is not a common species of fruits like oranges and bananas, it is said to have numerous health benefits if consumed regularly and in the right portions.

Cecilia Thuku, a Nutritionist at the Naivasha Sub County Hospital explains that the dragon fruit is considered to be rich in vitamin C that improves immunity as well as supports the nervous system, body absorption of food nutrients and iron minerals that promote proper functioning of the heart. 

According to Thuku, eating fruits in huge portions is not healthy but rather a risk to one’s health due to the high glucose levels in fruits that can lead to weight gain over a period of time and advises that fruits be taken in moderation; in between meals as a healthy snack.

She further reveals that the dragon fruit has low Glycemic Index (GI) compared to other fruits, hence better alternative to many other fruits for those who want to check their sugar levels. 

The GI is a value used to measure how much a specific food affects sugar levels in the body and as a result, the dragon fruit is said to be good for diabetic patients because it does not raise the levels.

With the enormous nutritional benefits arising from consuming fruits as outlined by the nutritionist, it’s advisable to take a serving of at least half a fruit per snacking time depending on the size of the fruit.

Thuku adds that ongoing research has given positive indications that fruits help in easing constipation among young children therefore increasing health benefits that accrue with the consumption of the dragon fruit.

Despite having these health benefits, the dragon fruits are not easily available as the tree grows in only certain parts of this country under certain climatic conditions, thus making the fruit expensive and beyond the reach of many.

Meet Ann Wanjiku who sells the dragon fruits in Naivasha town. She claims that for 15 years, she suffered from stomach ulcers but after incorporating the fruit in her diet, her condition eased.

The recovery encouraged her to venture into the business ostensibly to bridge the gap in the demand of the fruit which is not easy to find in the Kenyan markets. 

Wanjiku says that her customers keep returning and often bringing with them new customers who flock her premise to purchase the rare fruit. Many of them attest to reaping benefits from consumption of the fruit. 

According to Wanjiku, there are 11 varieties of the dragon fruit but the white, red and yellow dragon fruit species are the most preferred and available types in the Kenyan market.

Eliud Karanja alias “dragon man” a vendor on the outskirts of Naivasha town says though a bit new in the area, people have embraced the dragon fruit due to its enormous benefits. 

According to Karanja, business is booming and at times he sells up to 300 pieces of dragon fruit  in a good day adding that an average red dragon fruit costs Sh. 300 per piece, white dragon fruit goes Sh. 1,000 each while the yellow one sells at Sh.1,200 per   piece. An average dragon fruit weighs between 200 grams to 600 grams.

Dragon man discloses that he sources his fruits from a Chinese investor who grows the fruits in Naivasha along Moi South lake road, adding that small scale holders have started investing in the venture to boost the supply and this might bring down the cost of the fruit in future.

Karanja is optimistic that his trade will expand as he plans to buy a transport vehicle in the future to increase the supply to neighbouring regions.

Dragon man sums up by encouraging people to consume the fruit which has innumerable benefits, more so to those with chronic ailments.

Indeed businesses exist to fill a certain vacuum in the market and the two fruit vendors are among several others who have noticed the gap in the demand for the dragon fruit and are smiling all the way to the bank!

By Mabel Keya-Shikuku

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