Chia seeds packed in sacks. There is need for more farmers to grow the crop sparked by rise in demand in both local and international markets. Photo courtesy.
A non-governmental organization is urgently looking for willing farmers from all parts of the country to grow chia crop amid rising demand of the products in both local and international markets.
According to Momentum Trust, a Danish organization based in Kenya with its headquarters in Suaya County and working with small-scale farmers in Africa there are ready local and international markets prompting the need of more growers.
“We already have about 2,000 farmers growing the crop in Bungoma, Busia and Homabay counties but because of the high demand sparked by the nutrition value of the seeds there is need of more production,” said Philip Odhiambo, the organisation’s Homabay-Oyugis branch manager.
“There is a ready market in Denmark which imports over 1400 tons of organic Chia Seeds annually and we also sell to local companies such as Healthy U. We always harvest between 2-5 tonnes of chia seeds which is not enough for export.”
Nutritionists assert that Chia seeds are good for boosting libido and they improve brain health. They are also a good source of Omega-3, essential fatty acids which the body cannot produce. They are also rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
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How to Join
First, willing small-scale farmers are encouraged to form groups within their areas in order to meet production demands.
They then get registered with Sh300 per head, before being taken through agronomical trainings on the crop production.
“Chia is a new crop among many farmers in the country with a potential of doing well and earn them sweet returns. This is way we train our farmers giving them the required knowhow on best production practices to meet both local and international standards.” Said Odhiambo.
From registration the farmers are given organically certified chia seeds in form of a loan which they pay upon harvesting and selling the produce.
“We ensure that the farmers are not stranded with their produce after harvesting as Momentum Trust buys the seeds at Sh150 per kilogram.”
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Expected harvest and return
According to a February 2017 Market Research by Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) on production of different crops and nuts in Busia County, an acre of chia crop can yield up to seven tones of chia seeds under good agronomical practices.
The seeds can fetch a farmer up to Sh1500 per kilogram in the local market and while Momentum Trust offers Sh150 per kilo, there is intention by the organization to find a better price for their farmers.
“We have been mobilizing the farmers and there is increased interest among them to pick up the venture. However, there is need for a higher price by the farmers as this will continue motivating them,” said Odhiambo.
“Chia seeds are grown organically without using harmful pesticides and chemicals. It can do well in various soil and climatic conditions. The plant is very hardy and grows in dry areas.”
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Chia sprouts after about two weeks and germinates faster when there is good rainfall, taking some three months to mature.
Currently Momentum Trust farmers in various have already started harvesting their crops expecting to realise five tonnes of chia seeds in one month.
Philip Odhiambo can be reached on +254 725 924401