In Kenya, the demand for onions is always high throughout the year. With most farmers venturing into maize farming, the country mainly imports its red onions from other nations like Tanzania.
Onions are mainly grown in some parts of Mt. Kenya region, Kakamega, Hola Irrigation Scheme, Mt. Elgon in Bungoma County and in Kajiado. The crop does well in altitudes above 1000 m. According to Margaret Njenga, a former teacher, onions are currently the new gold as this article will reveal how she cashes in from her one acre.
Quit Teaching To Venture Into Agriculture
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The 35 year old is an established farmer who dumped the chalk for a better venture. She not only grows onions but also farms capsicums, cabbages, spinach, beetroots and tomatoes. She had been teaching for a couple of years until COVID-19 struck, leaving schools deserted.
Njenga was forced to be a full time farmer unlike initially when she used to do telephone farming. Due to the promising nature of her newly found enterprise, she gave teaching a permanent, wide berth.
“You only need water, determination and hope. Many people ask me why I quit teaching. It is a personal decision. Go for your goals,” she says.
Success in Onion Farming
According to various sources, there are a number of factors that are crucial for one to make a kill in growing onion. The farmer has to pick the best hybrid variety. In Kenya, the long day variety does well in cold regions like Nyeri while the short day is preferred in areas that are quite warm.
Njenga says that one also has to invest heavily on water and then conduct soil testing which will help in making the correct decision pertaining the use of fertilizers.
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“I started farming onions on half-acre, investing Sh 200000 capital, money that went on installing drip lines, preparing the farm and buying seeds,” she told Nation.
After purchase, one is discouraged from shaking the seeds as this can lead to some of them breaking. A kilogram of onion seeds goes for up to Ksh 30k and is enough for one acre.
Initially, seeds are grown on a seedbed for up to 6 weeks before being transplanted. Plenty of water is critical for the first two months but the same is reduced after bulbing begins. After transplanting, onions take only 3 months to mature.
According to Njenga, she is capable of harvesting over 15 tonnes in one acre. Given she sells a kilo for at least Ksh 70, she is able to make over a million shillings in sales.
The 35 year old is guaranteed of continuous income as she rotates her onions with tomatoes. She also keeps dairy cows which produce 70 litres of milk daily which she sells at Ksh 40 a litre.
The animals provide manure that is also used in the onion farm. However, most farmers prefer goat manure because it is generally considered slow releasing. For a bountiful harvest, the soil’s pH should be slightly acidic (6-6.8). Expected pests are thrips, leaf miners, red spider mites and onion flies which can be eradicated by use of available pesticides.