The third phase of a water project for irrigation by the national government in the lower semi-arid parts of Maara, Tharaka Nithi County is luring over 2,907 farmers in the area who have been into other crops dominated by banana to adopt beetroot production to fetch more in market.
The project which is a continuation of Muringa-Banana Irrigation Development Project whose first two phases were commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta is on course and should be complete by the end of its two years construction period.
Elias Mutugi who is currently growing tomatoes, kales, some maize and nappier grass in part of his half acre piece of land intends to fill the remaining part of his piece of land with beetroots.
“I made a lot of money from maize that I sold green to traders but with the new crops, I intend to penetrate the market further to maximize the returns I get from this piece of land,” said Mutugi.
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Murithi Musa and his brother Edward Micheni are farmers in the outskirts of Chuka town in Igamba Ng’ombe Constituency. The two owns a 3.5 acres Kagumo-Hort farm where they have been practicing mixed farming.
Besides poultry, rabbit and fish farming, we have been growing crops such as bananas arrowroot, passion fruits, strawberries, mangoes, garden peas, courgettes and cucumbers among other but are now venturing into beetroots production to take advantage of the water by the project.
“Its market is growing and the farm cannot even satisfy the demand which includes the two main supermarkets in Chuka town that is Jatomy and Maguna Andu Supermarkets hence the need for more farmers in the area to grow the vegetable,” says Musa.
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Experts assert that beetroot requires a lot of water for faster growth, therefore, irrigation should be practiced during the dry season as it requires a temperature of 18-25 degrees C and soil pH of 6.0-7.0.
The plant takes 60 days to mature and an acre can produce up to 60,000 pulp tubers.
One needs three kilogrammes of seeds each costing Sh3, 400. Kenya seed Company stockists and retail outlets sell 25 grams at Sh110 while 50 grams cost Sh170.
To plant an acre, a farmer may spend up to Sh20, 000 for planting, fertiliser, weeding, and ploughing costs and one needs about 400 grams of seed for an acre.
Due to the vegetable’s rich nutritional and medicinal value as it can help reduce blood pressure, its market rate is growing and most farmers are adopting it. Currently, a kilo of beetroots goes for Sh115.