A new approach in onion farming in Kieni, Nyeri County, is fast bearing fruit; placing the country on the path to self-sufficiency in production of the crop.
For years on end, poor prices and inadequate information on growing bulb onions has seen Kenya largely depend on imports from Tanzania.
“More farmers in Kieni have embraced growing bulb onions and the prices are much better, we have thus recorded major decrease in imports of the same from Tanzania,” said Dennis Muchiri a market and trade officer at Farm Concern, the organisation helping farmers grow onions.
The firm has introduced local growers to better onion farming practices, use of hybrid seeds and an organised marketing system that eliminates profit-sapping middlemen.
Embaringo Commercial Village chairman Simon Nderitu said there has been a transformation in the living standards of onions farmers.
“Five years ago, I could hardly make Sh10,000 from an acre of land but now, using the hybrid seeds, I make Sh80,000 from the same size of land,” said Paul Mariga, a youthful farmer in Embaringo village after investing Sh17,000.
In the programme, farmers are organised into commercial villages — a community-based organisation enabling them to be trained on crop husbandry.
After harvest, the team is collectively introduced to traders who buy in bulk rather than the brokers.
Commercial village members buy farm inputs as a team from appointed companies to avoid counterfeits especially seeds and chemicals, in turn making savings due to economies of scale.
“We expect this growth to be sustained as more and more Kenyans get encouraged from the organised crop growing and marketing system,” said Mr Muchiri.
Adding that there are other areas of Kenya like Homa Bay County where production of bulb onions and garlic is taking root.