Tobacco gives way to lucrative horticulture
Kuria East has for a long time be known for the production of tobacco. But one farmer is making a killing by growing horticultural crops in the area, which is in Migori County.
The vegetable farm in the area, which is located a few kilometres from Kehancha town stands out in an area once dominated by tobacco.
The five-acre leased farm owned by Chacha Mwita hosts a variety of crops that include cabbages, tomatoes, indigenous vegetables such as Kunde (cowpeas), collard greens (sukuma wiki) and capsicum. The farmer started growing vegetables in 2015 in search of better returns.
“I used to grow maize and tobacco and although they were labour intensive, the returns were little. A visit to a friend in Molo changed my agribusiness,” he says, noting that his friend convinced him to switch to cabbages.
During a visit to the 39-year old farmer’s farm, he was as busy as a bee; harvesting cabbages from three-and-half acres.
“I planted about 4,000 heads of the crop. This is the fourth time I am growing cabbages and it’s because of their good returns,” reveals Mwita, adding that he sells each at between Sh30 and Sh70, depending on the size.
The farmer’s main markets are Isibania, Kehancha and Migori. He further transports the produce to Nairobi on buses plying the Migori-Nairobi route.
He starts growing the crop by planting his seeds in a nursery before he transplants to the field.
“The seeds take five to seven weeks in the nursery before they are moved. I then plant the seedlings half-inch deep with a spacing of 50 by 50cm,” explains Mwita.
But before transplanting, the land should be ploughed thrice and be weed-free. Besides DAP, he also uses rabbit urine and droppings as fertiliser.
Given that cabbages, which grow in well-drained soils with a PH of 6-7, are known to be heavy feeders, the farmer irrigates the crops when rains are erratic and mulches them.
He grows the Gloria F1 variety that takes 80 days to mature and has bigger heads. To keep off caterpillars and aphids, the farmer uses traditional methods that include applying wood ash on the heads of the cabbages.
Mwita has tomatoes on an acre-and-a-half. On average, he harvests 15 crates after five to seven days, selling each at Sh2,000 to traders from Migori and Kisii markets. The farmer supplies Sukuma wiki to three secondary schools in the area raking in close to Sh60,000 per month.
“I grow the crop traditionally by planting shoots I get from mature plants, which enables me to harvest faster,” says the farmer.
His efforts have been acknowledged by Migori County Government and World Vision. The former has appointed him an agriculture ambassador, a position he uses to encourage the youth to engage themselves in farming activities. He also works as a trainer of farmers in workshops organised by World Vision.