At Miloleni village in Nakuru County is Joseph Mwaura Muchiri’s farm where he practices onion farming. A few years ago, he was engaging in maize farming but later ditched it.
He ditched maize farming to onions when he realised that it required more input but the returns were disappointing. Currently, he has a three-quarter piece of land full of different varieties of onions in various stages of growth.
Mwaura ventured in onions agribusiness early last year after noticing the demand and good market in the area. “I only grew the onions for subsistence purposes until I received two local buyers who bought my onions at a relatively good price. This encouraged me to expand the farm,” Mwaura said.
Further, the local market in the area is good as most of the dealers rely on the onions from Dundori in Nyandarua County; thus, he was aiming to provide an alternative near the source of the product.
Currently, his farm has approximately 60,000 onion plants of different varieties, the dominant one being the spring/ scallion onion. The farmer said that spring onions are more prevalent in the region, thus high demand.
Also, unlike bulb onions, spring onions do well throughout different seasons of the year in the area and are not much affected by heavy rains. Mwaura sells roughly 4 tons of spring onions to the dealers at an average of 20 Kenyan shillings per kilogram totalling to 80,000 Kenyan shillings per season.
Spring onions take three to four months to fully mature when the leaves are standing tall, green, and succulent. This indicates that the plant is ready for harvesting while the bulb varieties may take up to five months depending on the climatic conditions.
Comparing to maize farming, he manages three seasons which is a great profit margin. He has been attending agricultural shows and farmers’ seminars to sharpen his skills in onion farming. Mwaura uses organic fertilizer that he processes in his homestead and applies it twice in a season to enrich the farm soil for better yields.
Despite all, Mwaura encounters some challenges in his onion agribusiness venture. One of the challenges is lack of reliable market as he told the Kilimo Pesa Team during our visit to his farm.
The other challenges include extreme weather conditions such as excess rains or extended dry seasons lower production and may also result in the emergence of diseases such pink root, botrytis leaf blight, purple blotch and downy mildew.