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Kale variety is gold for farmer

George Ouma Oloo at his sukuma wiki farm in Upper Nyakach, Kisumu County. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

George Oloo was a truck driver until he discovered there is money in growing kale.

The variety he plants allows him to harvest the leaves for a period of three years.

Many varieties of kale have a lifespan of between three and six months, and are more demanding in terms of management and care.

However, the variety he plants is tall and resilient to diseases when mature.

“Sometimes I have to use a stool to access the leaves of some plants as they grow so tall,” says Oloo.

When the Smart Harvest team caught up with him, he was harvesting some leaves for domestic use on his farm in Nyakach, Kisumu County.

Oloo got the first seedlings of the variety -  ‘A thousand-headed - from a neighbour’s farm. The young branches of the kale are pruned and transplanted into the field as seedlings.

Oloo explains that after ploughing, the land is left for three weeks to allow the decomposition of the organic matter, as well as the sun rays to kill any soil-based pests.

The pruned branches are then planted at a spacing of 60 by 30 metres and watered daily until they develop roots.

Oloo applies organic manure two weeks after planting and weeds two weeks later.

He uses pesticides to control aphids, which are rampant in the area.

After four months, the kales are ready for harvesting.

“We harvest twice every week and the harvesting can go on for three years depending on how you care for the crops,” says Oloo. He sunk a well where he fetches water to irrigate the crops.

The harvesting is done every Tuesday and Saturday, which coincides with the Oboch market days.

“I do not have to go to the market. There are women who come here and harvest. My work is to supervise the harvesting and take money,” he said, adding that he makes between Sh12,000 to Sh20,000 every week from the kale.

And to ensure that he sustains the supply, Oloo gets to the farm at 5am every day and works till noon, before he takes a three-hour break, and resumes work at 3pm to 5pm.

His day begins with checking for any pest or disease invasion, then he prunes, waters, or weeds, depending on the stage of the crops.

With his one-acre parcel located next to his rural home, the 35-year-old man says he has enough time for farm work.

He has joined a local youth group, Apul Tinda Mixed Development Group, which brings together about 10 young farmers who benefit from agricultural tips. “Apart from sharing ideas, we can also do some table banking, and people can borrow money from the group to boost their ventures,” he says.

Enos Onyuka, a Food Security expert with Stipa Kenya, says the kale variety is a cross between kanzira and exotic varieties. Mr Onyuka explains that the variety is resistant to most pests and diseases in the region, and is the best bet to ensure food security.

“The crop does well in both high and low altitude areas, and the long life ensures sustainable supply of the produce,” he says.

He, however, notes that to succeed, one needs to ensure proper management of the crop and regular top dressing.

Onyuka says poor management of the crop leads to production of smaller leaves, which can also develop a bitter taste.

“With this type of crop, the cost of production is reduced, and it can best address food security issues if well managed,” he said.

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