Calendar reversal helps farmer conquer the market

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Yad Bio Vitaliser company officer Andrew Kusewa poses beside multi-storey kales and black night shade gardens in  demonstration farm on October 8, 2016 during the Nairobi International ASK Show. A Trans Nzoi farmer has reversed vegetable growing calendar to beat market challenges. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.

Growing vegetables for harvest during the low supply season has helped a Trans Nzoia County farmer in conquering marketing challenges.

Moses Kinuthia, who mainly grows black night shade, kales and cabbage, repeatedly lost much of his harvest to low market prices when the supply was high. He had to reverse his farming calendar against that of other farmers.

Kinuthia grows the black night shade, famously called managu and kales, also known as sukuma wiki at the beginning of December. The vegetables are usually ready for harvest from January until March.

“January is marked with growing of maize in most parts of the country, including Western Kenya.  Having what other people do not have drives them to you instead of you looking for them. I do not struggle looking for the market. That has been my calendar of growing vegetables for two years,” the Kiminini farmer said.

Unlike the months of November and December when most farmers have plenty of vegetables, which are grown after maize harvests, Kinuthia earns between Sh6,000 and Sh6,500 for every 90kg sack full of managu.

The same quantity hardly fetches Sh1,500 when the supply is high.

Between January and March 2016, the farmers harvested an average of four such sacks every week from the one acre vegetable piece. He made a gross profit of between Sh24,000 and Sh30,000 per week.

On small-scale, his wife sold the vegetables to those who flocked to their home, with a ‘palmful pinch’ fetching at least Sh20.

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He avoids cabbage because, he says, it needs more water during those months.

In addition to the water from the nearby river, he has dug out three pond-like reservoirs measuring about 15 feet by 10 feet for collecting irrigation water.   

When the water level goes down he uses a generator to push it into the farm.

“I flood the field to ensure sufficient water is available for the entire week. In retaining the water moisture in the soil, I use maize stalks as mulch. The mulch also helps in smothering the weeds, therefore, reducing soil disturbance by weeding at that time when it is dry,” Kinuthia said.

On the first week of December, he is planting managu and sukuma wiki on one acre, with each taking half of the piece.