Mkulima today we talk about the fortune in arrowroots farming and sweet potatoes farming. Johnston Kiprono grows the two finding a ready market in an area where tea and maize are the dominant crops.
Tea and maize are the main crops of choice for many farmers in Nandi and the surrounding counties.
Alongside the crops, many others keep hybrid dairy cows thanks to the cool climate in which the animals thrive.
He is based in Chepcholol village in Emgwen in Nandi the home of maize though he has chosen a different path and gone to the old ways of traditional Kenyan food.
The 30-year-old cultivates arrowroots and sweet potatoes, crops that have ready market since they are rarely grown in the area.
“I farm Darsheen arrowroots variety alongside different types of sweet potatoes, including the reddish (irene) and purple varieties.
He was motivated to farm the crops due to their sweet returns.
A 90 kg sack of arrowroots goes for between sh 3500 and sh 4000 at the farm gate while a 50 kg pack of sweet potatoes from sh 400 to sh 1000.
arrowroots and sweet potatoes farming
On the other hand arrowroots and sweet potatoes, seedlings go for sh 10.
“The first time I harvested sweet potatoes, I earned sh 20, 000 from quatre an acre. This opened my eyes.” Says the young farmer.
He has since leased two acres at sh 15,000 each year to grow arrowroots, with the swampy portions hosting 8,000 plants. Sweet potatoes sit on an acre.
To grow sweet potatoes, the first tills the land then makes ridges that are 10 inches high spaced three feet apart. He adds plenty of manure on the ridges before planting the vines.
Arrowroots, on the other hand, thrive in an area where there is enough moisture in the soil for development. He plows the land until the soil has a fine tilth then propagates either suckers or rhizomes that have two or more nodes each.
The crops need spacing of 0.75 by 0.30 meters apart. The crops take six to seven months to mature.
“There is a huge demand for the produce. I sell most of it to traders in Kapsabet town,” says Kiprono, who harvests two tonnes of sweet potatoes per acre while a tonne of arrowroots from similar space.
The business has enabled him to educate his younger sibling who is in college, provide for their family and save for his university education.
Kiprono, who employs an average of four workers on a need basis, deferred his studies at Technical University in 2014 due to a lack of school fees.
Some of the challenges he has to contend with are high costs of labor, middlemen, and pests, and diseases.
“I want to advise young farmers that there are good returns in this form of agribusiness but it needs patience and determination,” says Kiprono, noting his goal is to farm the two crops on 30 acres each and process his produce.
- Arrow roost contains potassium, iron, and B vitamins which are great for metabolism, circulation, and a healthy heart.
- Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals
- They have cancer-fighting properties
- Boost immune system
Nandi agriculture executive Kiplimo Lagat says arrowroots and sweet potatoes are high-value crops that fetch good prices in the market because of their high nutrient value.
Dr. Lagat notes that to attract young people into agribusiness, they must be supported to access finance and land.
“Access to land remains one of the biggest challenges to young people who want to venture into agribusiness. Parents who have unused land should allow their children to farm on it to train them how to make money. This is one way of showing them that you can make a living from farming.”
Credits Stanley Kimuge
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