The Kikuyus call it thafai, Kalenjins name it Siwotet, in Luhya it is called isambakhalu while in Dholuo it is Ayila. For many years, Kenyan communities have been using the stinging neetle for various purposes including favouring of foods and a number of medicinal benefits.
The neetle has the ability to promote wound healing, treat benign prostatic hyperplasia and slow down a receding hairline and baldness.
It is also good for people suffering diabetes type two because it promotes insulin sensitivity. Additionally, the plant comes packed with numerous nutrients such as iron and calcium. Because of this, many herbalists have been using the plant to manufacture medicinal products for their patients.
Farmer making a fortune from stinging neetle
David Kiruhi is a man who got hold of a nascent idea and took on a quite different venture of cultivation of stinging neetle.
The idea struck his mind when he had traveled to Japan to study on how humans can sustainably earn from the environment without harming it.
It is then that he learnt how to commercially reap from the stinging neetle which is traditionally a wild plant in Kenya.
As he began sowing the seeds, his friends laughed off the idea as they thought the plant was readily available in the river banks. But Kiruhi was on a different mission.
“When I sowed the seeds on my farm, many were mocking me saying I was wasting time since the plant was readily available along the river banks. However, that did not kill my dream since I had already smelt good money,” Kiruhi told Nation.
Resistant to diseases
Kiruhi explains that he uses furrows that are half a metre apart and then sow seeds spaces 10 cm apart. One uses organic manure since the plant doesn’t need commercial fertilisers.
The plant is also resistant to diseases. It reaches maturity after one year and one needs to irrigate it during dry seasons.
Harvesting is done on a three week interval where the workers use protective gear to pick the leaves. The neetle is known to leave a chilling sensation should it come into contact with the skin.
Drying and milling
The plant is then dried and milled into a powder. Kiruhi packages his products in various weights ranging from 50 grams to 500grams. His product is branded Neto and can be found in supermarket shelves in Nyeri, Karatina, Nyahururu and Nairobi.
According to him, he can make up to a million shilling profit from his 5 acres of land.