Farmers in Murang’a find quick money by growing exotic herbs

A group of farmers from Mathioya sub county of Murang’a have ventured into growing exotic herbs which fetch them quick money as compared to cash crops like coffee and tea.

After being introduced to the growing of the exotic herbs by a local organization, the farmers have also abandoned growing of food crops like maize and potatoes as the new venture gives high returns.

The Murang’a Agro-preneurship Outreach Program (MAOP) organization introduced the farmers into growing of the herbs which include rosemary, thyme, mint, dill and basil which are largely used in the food industry due to their aroma and medicinal value.

A local farmer, Fredrick Muya reflects that he opted to try the new venture mid last year but upon first harvesting, he was impressed by its huge returns which he could not raise from coffee and maize crops he used to grow before.

Muya said together with a group of 20 people, they were approached by the MAOP coordinator who offered them training and seedlings to try and supply to otheir farmers.

At first, neighbours would wonder why Iam growing wild plants but later they also ventured into growing of the herbs after witnessing the big profit I raised from the herbs, added Muya.

He narrated that at first he started with two varieties; rosemary and mint in a quarter an acre of land where at first harvest he raised more than Sh. 100, 000.

The organization he narrated, has been helpful in providing seedlings and in marketing of the herbs in local and international markets.

On average, Muya observes that rosemary herbs planted on an acre can produce about seven tonnes per harvest and given that a kilo sells on average of Sh. 200 this translates into Sh.1.4 million.

By growing coffee or tea you cannot raise such an amount of money within a period of six months. Scarcity of the herbs is also contributing the demand and prices to be high, added the farmer.

Unlike other crops, the herbs have a strong scent which keeps pests away and they are also resistant to diseases.

Once planted, the plants would require minimal attention apart from weeding and watering.

Muya says this is an opportunity that every famer in the county should embrace to put an extra coin in their pockets.

The MAOP Coordinator, Samuel Kariuki said when the program kicked off, many people came in seeking to be incorporated and they had to open doors for them creating a bigger forum.

He explains that the program aims at shifting farmers from traditional farming which no longer is fruitful and also encourage young people into farming.

Kariuki divulged that the aim to venture into the herbs was informed by the massive subdivision of the land in the area which is no longer economical.

The plants, he says would require a small piece of land and one can be able to be make money every month.

The coordinator further notes that an eighth of an acre, a farmer can generate at minimum of Sh. 50, 000 since the herbs have high demand particularly in international markets.

He said MAOP has sought partnership with Green Blade which is an affiliate company of centum in off taking the program by providing the seedlings, farm inputs as well as buying the produce for the farmers.

We inject the starting capital inform of a soft loan which is recovered after sometime from the sales that farmers make, said Kamau.

Given that the herbs are largely for export, there are extension officers on the ground who monitor the farmers to ensure good farming practices are achieved for quality produce.

Karikuki says there are plans to upscale the program to reach out to all the farmers in the county terming the herbs a lucrative venture that they cannot afford to miss.

Currently there are 400 farmers who have been included in the program and their production is impressive.

Source: Kenya News Agency