Western Kenya counties such as Kakamega, Bungoma, and Busia have long been known for sugarcane production. But times have changed after farmers were left frustrated over delayed payments, non-payments and collapse of sugar millers.
The once renowned giant sugar millers such as Mumias, Nzoia and Chemilil Sugar have for years been realizing dwindling fortunes. Take Mumias Sugar for example; it limped to its deathbed before being resuscitated just recently.
They say hard times create strong men and Ramadhan Mutenyo is a perfect example of this phrase. As he spends time weeding his farm, he is almost certain that the flow of sweat on his brow would be rewarding.
Here is the story as WoK.
The 32 year old from the Khalaba sub-location, is one of the farmers who has switched to arrowroot farming. He started on half an acre, and now he has tripled the land size on to about one and half.
“When I compared the proceeds from sugarcane with the promises I got from my neighbour who introduced me to nduma, I quickly switched crops.”
“Arrowroot farming is profitable; I make three times the amount I could get from two acres of cane. School fee arrears are a thing of the past,” he told Nation.Africa.
Mutenyo is among farmers in Matungu constituency’s Busombi village who have built a client base that allows them to ship arrowroot to almost every part of Kakamega county as well as the capital.
As a calculative farmer, Mutenyo reveals that he uses the succession planting method, in which arrowroots are planted at different times. This ensures that the plants are in various stages at all times.
Harvesting occurs all year through which ensures the income stream is always flowing. This method of staggered planting is commonly used in commercial agriculture to maintain a consistent supply of crops and meet market demands.
It also aids in the prevention of produce surpluses or shortages during specific seasons.
Good returns and Diversifying to dairy farming
Every week, Mutenyo harvests at least 100 kilos of nduma, which he sells to traders in Nairobi and other major Kenyan cities. He packs it in a 70-kg sack and sells it for Ksh 6,500 to the middleman. The middlemen sell the 70-kg sacks to Nairobi traders for Sh10,000.
However, he hasn’t kept all his eggs in one basket. Given the favorable climatic conditions of Matungu which receives adequate rainfall, Mutenyo has used his profits to diversify to dairy farming.
Growing of Arrowroots
According to Kakamega County’s Chief Agriculture Officer Hillary Onjoro, arrowroots take five to six months to mature. Furthermore, two varieties are widely grown in Kakamega: Dasheen and Eddoe. Dasheen does well in lowlands and has large tubers, whereas Eddoe grows well in areas with little water.
Both varieties are important sources of food and income for farmers in the region, and they are often used in traditional dishes such as stews and soups.
Farmers are advised to grow yams in open areas because shade reduces yields.
“The crop can be grown in trenches or holes. Those in holes mature more quickly.” Water can be captured by planting in trenches,” Onjoro tells Nation.
Arrowroots are grown from suckers in holes a foot deep. The holes should be spaced about a foot and a half apart. After two weeks, farmers apply manure or fertilizer.
Weeding must be done on a regular basis to keep the farm clean. Although mulching prevents moisture loss, the land should not become waterlogged.
It is important to strike a balance between weeding and mulching to maintain a healthy and productive farm.
Eating arrowroots has many health advantages. These include regulating blood pressure and heart rate, assisting with digestion, enhancing immunity, and removing extra cholesterol from the body.
Arrowroots are also a good source of potassium, which is essential for maintaining proper fluid balance in the body and promoting healthy muscle function. Additionally, it is gluten-free and can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in cooking and baking.