Njogu-ini, a remote village in Nyeri County, and about ten kilometres from Ihururu shopping centre is dominated by tea leaves as the main cash crop grown by many.
Though, a good number also grow maize, beans and vegetables such as sukuma wiki and spinach in their homestead gardens. Others, who have a reliable source of water to do irrigation, grow cabbages.
Just like some parts in Central Region, Kericho, Nandi Hills, and Kisii, among others, which are tea zone areas, Njogu-ini is of red soils believed to favour the crop.
Despite part of her land having the crop, Roselyn Githinji is a diversified horticultural farmer. Her farm is a host of numerous crops such as red bulb onions, cabbages, tomatoes and carrots.
Githinji’s land also accommodates Irish potatoes and capsicums. The short-term harvest crops are all incorporated in two acres, the farmer prioritising on onions, which she claims are a hot cake in the region.
“Onions are said not to perform well in red soil. I have proved this notion wrong,” clarifies the farmer.
Notable areas for bulb onion farming in Kenya are Kiawara in Kieni Constituency, Kajiado and Karatina. Others are Naivasha, Emali and Mai Mahiu, all of which are of black soils.
Experts say onions perform well in well-drained and fertile soils. Preferable soil pH should be 5.8 - 6.5. However, it is advisable to do a soil test before planting any crop to know acid content and nutrients in the soil. That guides a farmer on nutrient application.
The crop, onion, is a very attractive commercial investment in the Kenyan market since local production is not enough. Backing up the sentiment, Roselyn Githinji says a move which started in 2017 as an experiment, turned out to be a great source of income.
The farmer, who is also a mother of four, explains she tried the crop in barely eighth of an acre. “I invested Sh20,000 as capital. The yields were unbelievable. I harvested about 2,000 kilos each going for Sh40,” she said. This gives her a gross return of Sh80,000. The locals and wholesalers from Nyeri town are her main customers.
Roselyn says she advanced to half an acre and an acre later on. She rotates onions with Irish potatoes, capsicums, cabbages, tomatoes and carrots.
Onions can be grown by direct seeding or nurturing seedlings in a nursery bed. Roselyne goes seedlings way, stating that she observes proper onion management practices. “I plant them using animal manure acquired from my livestock. I supplement the crop with fertilizer for virtuous produce,” she says, adding that she has a permanent employee who helps her in farm handjobs. An acre needs about 1.5 kilos of seeds.
Red onions require sufficient water supply especially at the early stage, for bulbs formation, and she sources the commodity from River Muraria which is few meters from her farm. Under proper farm management practices, the crop matures between four to five months after sowing.