When Maurice Oloo dropped out of school due to lack of fees, he became be a boda boda rider. Those days, not many people had ventured into the business, and the returns were good. Then the boda boda craze crept in, the market was flooded, and soon his income shrunk.
“There was a time when the operators were more than customers, and we had to literally fight for clients. It was bad,” recalls Oloo.
With a young family to fend for, he had to think fast of a more sustainable source of income.
Saw the light
One day, he went to buy vegetables from a neighbour and it was here that he saw the light. He seemed to have more orders than he can meet and appeared to lead a decent life from selling fresh vegetables.
“My friend told me he was growing this super vegetable that was fast maturing called Africa Best. After planting, it can be harvested a month after transplanting, and can be harvested for up to six months. It is nutritious, fast moving among customers and low maintenance,” Oloo explains.
He visited the friend a few more times to learn more about growing the vegetable for commercial purposes. Once he felt ready to start, he requested his parents to allocate him his share of land to roll out the project in Gwassi, Homa Bay County.
He bought seeds at a nearby agrovet and planted in a nursery. They sprouted in three days.
The seeds took about 21 days at the nursery before he transplanted them to the main farm. As they grew, early morning, Oloo would plough after every two weeks to make the soil fine. When transplanting, he used a spacing of 60 by 60 centimetres.
Three days after transplanting, he sprayed the leaves with an insecticide to control cricket which he says are common in the area.
“If you don’t spray, the pests will make holes on the leaves or eat the entire leaf leaving you with only small sticks standing on the farm,” he says.
Since water is readily available, Oloo used manual sprinkling every morning and evening for the first 10 days.
Two weeks after transplanting, he sprayed fungicide to prevent fungi attacks and then applied calcium-rich supplements for big healthy leaves. After four weeks, the kales were ready for harvest.
Lucky for him, neighbours who spotted the lush vegetables on his farm started asking when they will be ready for sale even before time. Once they were ready, customers flocked his farm.
With a steady market, now he sells the vegetables to neighbours and small scale traders in the nearby market.
Apart from fast maturity, the vegetable can also withstand harsh Nyanza weather.
“Lucky for me, I do not need to use fertiliser because the soil is packed with nutrients since it is virgin land,” says the 30-year-old father of two.
Every month, he fills a 90-kilo bag with kales, and sells at Sh12,000 depending on demand.
The big challenge he faces is exploitation by brokers.
“We do not have weighing machines, so some middlemen exploit us and ensure the kales are pressed inside the bag to accommodate more volume. We hope to solve this problem with time,” he says.
To sharpen his craft at vegetable farming, he works closely with established farmers and also attends agricultural trade fairs frequently to learn about latest trends. With a harvest every week and a ready market, clearly this cannot compare to boda boda business, he says.
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