More than 80 farmers in Bahati constituency, Nakuru county, have discovered a new cash crop — an onion herb known as chives.
The farmers, who traditionally grew maize and beans, have now become net exporters after they were introduced to chives farming by a local firm, Premier Seeds Ltd.
Through a group model, farmers have been able to own greenhouses on credit through a partnership between the company and Chase Bank.
Simon Andys, the founder of Premier Seeds, said farmers are allowed to repay the loan from the proceeds of chives at favourable repayment terms that are agreed upon between the financier and individual farmers. “Farmers make a 10 per cent deposit before the construction of the greenhouses as commitment to the project,” he added.
Premier Seeds, he said, works with the farmers through supply of the certified seeds, training on good agricultural practices, building their greenhouses and linking them to ready markets. “Most of the farmers have not practiced greenhouse farming before and are growing a crop that requires observance of good agricultural practices and traceability. We have therefore had to do thorough training on every aspect of farming to ensure that the farmers’ produce are compliant with the export market,” said Andys.
Such practices include having a tracking sheet at the entrance of each greenhouse that allows farmers to record the timing of key activities in the greenhouse including the time of spraying and irrigation. This is in keeping with the export requirements.
Chives take 45 days to mature after which farmers harvest after every 20-25 days for up to three years. An ordinary greenhouse measuring 240 metres squared produces up to 150 kilos, with a kilo of chives fetching Sh600.
The perennial crop is easy to grow and is rarely attacked by pests and diseases. The demand for chives has been on the rise in Europe, averaging between two and four per cent each year. This has made it the favourite across the entire basket of herbs that include coriander, basil and parsel.