Thousands of farmers involved in a programme to equip them on growing seedlings of high value trees and plants are now earn decent incomes in a market fuelling a secondary markets in leaves sold to make plant oils.
Chaperoned by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), the project was rolled out in regions that included Wangige and Muguga in Kiambu, Kieni East in Nyeri and Laikipia, farmers in clusters of 50. In Nyeri and Laikipia the project has been sponsored by Toyota as a way to offset the carbon footprint caused by vehicles.
Farmers with even an eighth of an acre can join the scheme and get reasonable financial returns, claims KEFRI. In the Muguga region of Kiambu, 80 farmers trained by KEFRI late last year made Sh126, 500 “in a day”, said Jesse Lugadiru a project officer at KEFRI. The farmers there have around 100,000 seedlings.
The seedlings being grown in the farmers’ mini-nurseries are diverse and include species indigenous to Kenya and high value trees and plants, like sandalwood, tea tree, bamboo, Aloe Vera, rosemary herb, and Calliadra fodder.
The price per seedling ranges from Sh5 for common species to Sh1500 for high value seedlings such as sandalwood. “In the long run we hope the farmers will continue to improve economically,” said Lugadiru if the project expands in the whole country.
As part of the initiative, farmers tending the nurseries are selling leaves of eucalyptus globules, a medicinal eucalyptus, to Benmah Engineering Company from Kariobangi, which is extracting its menthol elements to sell to companies making medicines.
To Benmah, farmers are selling a kilogram of leaves at Sh15. A 3-month-old eucalyptus globulus yields around 5kgs of leaves and after another 3 months yields the same volume, again. So far, the demand for leaves by Benmah is not being met by the farmers. To meet the demand for menthol and essential oils it needs it is importing the extracts from India.
Benmah is also sourcing croton seeds for Sh15 a kilogram for oil extraction. For Rosemary Herb, Lemon Grass and Tea Tree the price per kilogram of leaves is Sh30.
Tea Tree is used to make medicines to treat acne, dandruff, athletes’ foot, boils, eczema wounds due to its antiseptic traits.
Rosemary is a culinary anti-oxidant herb with Vitamin E and can be used in marinade before grilling meat. It has also been found to inhibit oestrogen production that when excessive causes breast cancer. Lemon grass is used to make food tasty and has been found to have extracts that ward off some cancers.