Daniel Mumia, a farmer in Kakamega County does not regret quitting sugarcane growing to focus on groundnut and Bambara nuts farming, a venture that is now earning him a steady triple income.
The farmer now earns approximately Sh752,000 per season from nut farming compared to Sh240,000 he used to take home from sugarcane farming.
“I quit sugarcane farming due to delayed payments for cane delivered to Mumias Sugar Company which owes me Sh240,000 for 80 tonnes of produce,” said Mumia.
“I decided to grow groundnut and Bambara nut farming by expanding the initial two-acre farm into a six-acre farm which was previously occupied by sugarcane. The land was acquired from my father,” said Mumia.
The idea of venturing into nut farming was struck after his close friend shared the business idea which he liked and decided to give it a try.
In a season, the farmer harvests approximately 16 unshelled bags of groundnuts and up to 35 bags of Bambara nuts.
Once shelled the groundnuts reduce in volume to four bags which he sells at Sh13,000 per bag while Bambara nuts retail at Sh250 per kilo translating to Sh22,500 per 90kg bag at Matungu market.
“I thought it’s a good idea to try the Bambara nuts too, they used to be my favorite dishes in the ’90s and early 2000 but currently even in the market it’s not easy to get them from the local shops because fewer people consume them and even plant them. It is resistant to high temperatures and is suitable for marginal soils where other leguminous crops cannot be grown especially in this region there are times when the temperatures are too high for other legumes”, added Daniel.
The crop has a nutritive value of 65 per cent carbohydrate and 18 per cent protein content. Due to its high protein value, it is a very important legume that can be an excellent substitute for meat, yet it is still considered one of the prioritized neglected and underutilized species in Africa.
Aside from diet enhancement and the rich proteins found in the nuts, the legumes also add nitrogen to the soil. For instance the soils in the Kakamega region where most farmers were practicing sugarcane farming, most of the soils lack nitrogen. The nutrients in the nuts improve the soil which means a reduced need for fertilizers.
Compared to cereals, nuts have all the essential nutrients that a food needs, and because of this, they help in the prevention of malnutrition and other health-related complications like kwashiorkor and even rickets which are triggered by poor dieting.
“I want to change the usual eating narrative in the region, although the produce may not be as big as anticipated but having it available to the market means people will consume them alongside other meals. The nuts also help reduce the effects of various health conditions such as anemia as it contains iron and other essential nutrients which boost the body’s blood level,” said Mumia.
Consuming nuts is also an advantage to consumers as it reduces the chances of getting cancer and other health issues because of the presence of antioxidants which protects the body from harmful food chemicals. The minerals contained in the Bambara nuts such as calcium protects the body from arthritis, osteoporosis, and other related bone diseases.
However, compared to maize, maintaining the legumes is affordable, and the pests are minimal. On a maize plantation, it takes almost 50 kg of fertilizer per acre which costs Sh1800 but for the nuts, they require 40 to 50 kgs of CAN and NPK and five liters of folia feed for all six acres.
According to the Nuts and oil crops Directorate, Kenya’s overall peanut production increased in 2021 by 2,826 tons to 12,897 tons as a result of increased acreage and productivity in Homa Bay, Kakamega, and Migori Counties.
Peanuts are a favorite snack among Kenyans, unfortunately, the increasing demand for peanuts underpinned by the country’s increasing population has not been matched with increased production or even productivity.
The country is a net importer of peanuts from countries within the COMESA region such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi to supplement the meager domestic production. During the 2021 season, the area under the crop recorded a 28 per cent increment i.e. 3,177 ha from 11,098 ha reported in 2020 to 14,598 ha reported in 2021.
The highest farm gate prices in 2021 were reported in Lamu County at Sh 150/kg and Sh 126/kg in Homa bay county and least prices were reported in Meru and West Pokot counties at Ksh 90/Kg. Market prices on the other hand ranged between Sh 180/Kg and Sh 220/Kg in the major market outlets across the country.