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Technology helps farmer grow arrowroots with less water

Beatrice Kirui a mixed farmer from Boito in Bomet County displays arrowroots from her farm. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

Beatrice Kirui, a farmer from Boito in Bomet county, has turned her farm into a demonstration centre for youth. 

The farmer has arranged the five-acre Valley Farm Resource Centre into more than 20 blocks with 50 varieties of cash crops.

The crops include; groundnuts, arrowroot, cassava, soya beans, fruits and herbs.

When The Smart Harvest team arrives at the farm, Chamgaa, a group of youths from Kaptepengwo in Konoin constituency are being taught the basics of arrowroot farming from land preparation to planting and harvesting.

Kirui grows Dasheen arrowroot variety using upland arrowroot technology that allows the crop to thrive in a non-swampy area.

Upland arrowroots technology involves planting the crop in trenches lined with polythene paper and filled with soil manure mixture.

“Most farmers in Bomet county believe that arrowroot can only thrive in the swampy areas but using this technology which involves planting the crop in trenches lined with polythene paper and filled with soil manure mixture, a farmer can grow the crop anywhere,” she says. 

What is upland arrowroot technology?

For Kirui's arrowroot farming project, she dug a 20 metre long, two metres deep trench lined with a black polythene bag.

“I filled the trench with soil mixed with an equal measure of cow dung and other farmyard manure. I then flooded it with water to the point it looked like a rice paddy pad before planting the arrowroot in even spacing,” she explains.

After planting the arrowroot, Kirui says a farmer must ensure that the trench is kept wet through a regular water supply. The farmer has dug a well.

“The arrowroot trench should be flooded with water at least every three days. However, if a farmer comes from a rainy area, it can take up to a week or more depending on the farmer's observation of the swampy status of the trench,” she says.

Kirui opted to plant the Dasheen arrowroot variety which takes four to six months to mature due to its nutritious and high milling content when dried.

The farmer says she makes up to Sh500 from a single tuber.

“A farmer can tell if the arrowroot is ready for uprooting by counting the number of leaves. If they are mature enough, the big leaves should be four,” says  Kirui.

Next to the arrowroot, is the soybeans block where Kirui, farms the versatile legume that produces at least twice as much protein per acre as most other vegetables or grains.

“There are companies which have started contracting farming in Bomet to grow the beans. We want young farmers to reap from the project. Soybeans do well in Bomet,” she says.

With the cost of cattle feeds hitting the roof, Kirui says dry soybeans can be ground and turned into cattle feed.

“The feed also enhances milk production,” she says.

At the vegetable garden side of the farm, Kirui grows indigenous vegetables like Crotalaria, which is highly nutritious.

“The vegetable is ideal for men as it helps in prevention of prostate cancer,” she says.

Kirui says the vegetable which takes a month to mature can be sowed in lines or broadcast.

“I prefer planting the vegetables in lines to ease the thinning,” says Kirui.

Since Kirui is also a small-scale dairy farmer, she has planted purple sweet potatoes variety whose broad leaves she feeds to her cows.

“Whereas the traditional sweet potatoes variety takes up to six months to mature, improved varieties such as the purple-fleshed takes four months,” she says.

Kirui's Valey farm also comprises a demonstration block with sugarcane, passion fruits, Hass Avocado, bananas, onions, and other herbs.

Peter Rotich from Chamgaa Youth Group says Kirui has inspired him to venture into arrowroot farming.

“Through my visits to this farm, I have learnt how to grow the crop using the upland technology,” he says.

John Mutai from Kabiangek village says he has learnt principles of organic farming from the farm.

“Going organic not only reduces the cost of production because also of commercial fertiliser. More importantly, organically grown crops have no adverse effects on consumer health,” he says.

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