Sunday, May 26, 2024

How Kenyan farmers are making over Sh2 million a year from okra farming

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Okra farming has recently gained popularity in Kenya as consumers start to notice its nutritional benefits.

The vegetable is a good source of vitamins C and K, which help in boosting immune system and promote healthy blood clotting.

It also contains folate, a B vitamin that is crucial for cell growth and development, and magnesium, a mineral that is essential for nerve and muscle function.

Furthermore, okra is loaded with antioxidants that protect the body against cell damage and inflammation, which can contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

The crop can be consumed as a vegetable in soups and stews, as a pickled snack, and as an ingredient in smoothies.

It comes in various varieties, including Clemson Spineless, Burgundy, Lee, Louisiana Green Velvet, and Emerald.

The Clemson Spineless is the most popular in Kenya and is regarded as a high-yielder. The crop can tolerate high temperatures and is therefore suitable for areas with a warm climate.

To succeed in the venture, it is advisable to choose high-quality seeds that are suitable for the local growing conditions and observe proper farming practices from planting to harvesting.

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High-quality seeds that are free from diseases and pests are recommended. Farmers can get these seeds from agricultural stores and seed companies across the country.

According to experts, the best time to plant okra in Kenya is between October and December when the weather is warm and dry.

However, okra can also be planted in the early part of the year between January and February.

The crop is ready for harvesting 50-60 days after planting and should be harvested regularly to encourage continuous production.

Okra has a wide market both locally and internationally. Locally, It can be sold in supermarkets, open-air markets, hotels and restaurants, vegetable vendors, and exporting companies.

The international market includes countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

On average, an acre of land can produce between 5,000 to 8,000 kilograms of okra pods per season, depending on factors such as soil fertility, pest and disease control, and irrigation.

The price of okra in Kenya depends on the season and the location. During the peak season, when the crop is largely available, the price can be as low as Kshs. 80 per kg but climbs to Sh300 per kilo when demand is high.

Paul Otieno, who grows the crop at Bamgot in Kisumu County, says the venture gives him an estimated annual net income of KSh 2 million a season.

The farmer has two 1.5-acre farms in different locations where he grows the crop on a rotation basis. He grows the high-yielding “Pusa sawani” variety, which matures in 45 to 55 days.

In a week, the farmer harvests 950kg, out of which 300kg is exported to South Sudan, 300kg is supplied to the Great Lakes University of Kisumu (GLUK), and the remaining 50kg to Kisumu City’s Jubilee Market.

He sells both fresh and dried Okra, with the dried produce fetching him the highest earnings. A kilo of this dried okra goes at KSh 300, while the fresh one goes for KSh 80 per kilo.

The two products earn Otieno Sh180,000 and Sh4,000 per week, respectively, translating to Sh736,000 per month.

The farmer said the harvesting period of okra lasts for three months meaning after the end of the season, he earns KSh 2,208,000 gross income and about KSh 1.1 million in profit.

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