By Fredrique Achieng’
A visit to Nairobi Agricultural Show, last year, inspired John Mburi of Laikipia County to try a new crop on just ¼ acre of his four-acre farm in November 2019. Within months, his new planting of the herb mint had delivered him over S1m on its first harvest.
For almost a decade, since 2010, John has been farming maize, until he visited the Nairobi show and learnt about herbs that he could easily grow on this farm. The mint, which takes just 90-95 days to mature from the first planting, is now earning him far more than maize that used to take 8 months to each harvest,
“I was growing maize on my four acres of land, but due to poor market performance, I decided to move to herb cultivation. I started mint as my first herb variety. So I planted it on a quarter acre of my land to see how it would turn out,” said John.
After the first 90 days, he was happy with the results. He had found a few traders who were interested in buying the mint from him, and on his first harvest, he was able to produce 5,400Kgs of fresh leaves, which he sold for Sh1,080,000.
This was a strong enough result to encourage him to continue with the crop. Bearing in mind that mint is an invasive crop, it had already spread to almost another quarter acre of his farmland. So he decided to maintain it on the area it had already grown over but now opted to grow it in pots, going forwards, since it helps to stop the roots from spreading.
Related News: Kenyan mint farmers set to double their export as peak season starts
He transplanted all the existing plants into ceramic clay pots, which help maintain and transfer moisture, and submerged them into the soil.
“The size of the pot is dependent on the number of plants you would want. For me, I used five-litre pots, which each hold around ten plants. The distance between each plant is 8 inches: this way it gives space for the plant to grow well,” he said.
Mint grows easily on its own, even in poor soils, and does not need fertilizer, which is one of the reasons why John chose it.
“The main care that I give it is the constant watering, which I do twice a week: aside from that, the plant is self-sustaining. To keep them moist all through I have placed grass mulch on the area where they have grown,” he said.
A trick John uses to maximize his harvest is trimming of the branches of the plant, which increases their volume per plant, resulting in more leaves for his harvest.
On harvesting, he sells fresh leaves at Sh200 per kilo and dried leaves for Sh250 a kilo. This is the farm-gate price for traders who come to buy the herb directly from him at his farm. His other customers include hotels in the area and his neighbours.
Since the herb has already matured and he has already built a customer base, John is now harvesting around 1,000kgs per month from his half acre, which he sells for around Sh200,000.
It’s a rapid success and has inspired John to investigate venturing into other herbs now, such as rosemary, basil and thyme.