News and knowhow for farmers

How Limuru farmer earns Sh9,000 weekly from 40*100 managu plot

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By George Munene

On a 40*100 piece of land you can har­vest up to 300 kilo­grams of man­agu every week selling at Sh30 per kilo­gram; this can earn you a cool Sh9000 in a week.

Hav­ing grown man­agus on a trial basis for home con­sump­tion at her back garden in Limuru, Mary Ikigu star­ted com­mer­cialy farm­ing the ve­get­able com­mer­cially at the be­gin­ning of the year on some 100 dis­used mush­room grow­ing bags. This she at­trib­utes to hav­ing found the crop highly mar­ket­able, par­tic­u­larly given Kenyan’s new­found love for mboga za kienyeji and it being a re­source-ef­fi­cient crop in its pro­duc­tion; does not need to be grown in spe­cial­ized con­di­tions, i.e. green­houses, a 5000-liter water tank that en­sures ac­cess to ir­rig­a­tion water is all Mary re­com­mends. A farmer will also need to cost for ma­nure and part-time em­ploy­ees to help with land pre­par­a­tion, weed­ing, har­vest­ing and wa­ter­ing de­pend­ing on the size of their farm.

With what is con­sidered lim­ited farm­ing space; half an acre to 50*100 sized plots; man­agu farm­ing can be a money minter given ac­cess to the right mar­ket link­ages. The lar­ger your farm size the more its har­vest and profit po­ten­tial. The nu­tri­ent-rich ve­get­able can as well be grown in ver­tical grow­ing bags.  A farmer she says can stra­tegic­ally divvy up their land into plots to make sure they have con­stant har­vests.

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“Man­agu is sold in mar­kets in a bunch; a hand­ful for about Sh10 or per kilo, with a kilo­gram, usu­ally fetch­ing Sh30-40. They are also packed and sold in sacks. As with most other crops, it is a num­bers game; the more har­vests you have the more you are able to sell,” Ikigu ex­plains.

Man­agu prices in Kenya are usu­ally dic­tated by rain pat­terns: they grow faster and are read­ily avail­able in mar­kets dur­ing rainy sea­sons; their prices are there­fore lower. “You’ll sell man­agu for Sh2000 a sack dur­ing the dry sea­son, over the Janu­ary to March months the mar­ket has thus far been great, but the price can crater to as low as Sh500-300 when rains hit be­cause most farm­ers de­pend on rain­fed ag­ri­cul­ture and are able to grow it as well,” the bud­ding farmer says.

The main mar­kets for man­agu in Kenya are open-air mar­kets. These in­clude Mu­thurwa, Kawang­ware, Kangemi where she takes her pro­duce or has buy­ers come from to pick the leafy ve­get­able from her farm. Oth­ers are City Park in Nairobi where most buy­ers, some of whom are Chinese na­tion­als, prefer im­proved rather than Kienyeji man­agu which is less bit­ter. Mary points out that Farm­ers can also tar­get more struc­tured mar­kets such as learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions, res­taur­ants, hos­pit­als and mama mbo­gas within their loc­al­ity. 

African Night­shade should be har­ves­ted early in the morn­ing or late in the even­ing. The crop’s leaves de­teri­or­ate eas­ily when picked when it is sunny this makes them less ap­peal­ing to buy­ers de­pre­ci­at­ing their value.

A crop can be con­tinu­ously picked for two months, but the har­vest­ing period can be in­creased by adding ma­nure every two weeks after weed­ing. Ra­toon­ing; cut­ting off of the main stalk up to 15-20 cen­ti­meters also al­lows for the plant to de­velop new shoots ex­tend­ing the har­vest­ing time. This Mary says will however also lead to re­duced yield thus she opts to re­place her ex­ist­ing crop.

From Mary’s ex­per­i­ence, the pests af­fect­ing man­agu are often aph­ids and mealybugs. Given her crops are or­gan­ic­ally grown she tackles them using neem oil. “If your crop has suffered a pest at­tack you should spray them once a week. To pre­vent such at­tacks, I keep to a re­gi­ment of pro-act­ively spray­ing my ve­gies every two weeks,” she says. This also in­volves spray­ing them for fungal at­tacks; Man­agu are of the So­lanaceae fam­ily thus are eas­ily af­flic­ted by late and light blight; using Re­gain a bio­lo­gical fun­gi­cide man­u­fac­tured by Real IPM. 

For her plant­ing ma­ter­ial, she sows seeds picked off her shrubs or buys them from Sim­law or Kenya seed. Man­agu takes 45 days to grow in her nurs­ery and one to two and a half months be­fore the ve­get­able’s first har­vest de­pend­ing on the level of ag­ro­nomic man­age­ment. Seed­lings are trans­planted when they are 15cm long/ after 30-45 days or when they have five true leaves. The plant dis­tance should ideally be 30*30cm. On her ver­tical farm bags, Mary fits two seed­lings into every bag

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Ma­nure is es­sen­tial in provid­ing the ve­get­able with Ni­tro­gen, Phos­phorus, Po­tassium and mi­cronu­tri­ents; man­agu will often nat­ur­ally grow in areas that are heav­ily fer­til­ised such as cow­sheds. For her bags, Mary uses two buck­ets of chicken ma­nure and 8 buck­et­fuls of cow dung.

Man­agu re­quires a mois­tur­ized en­vir­on­ment to thrive with their quant­it­ies fall­ing in Kenyan mar­kets over drier months when they fetch a premium price. Wa­ter­ing should also be done at trans­plant­ing to im­prove the sur­vival chances of the plant­lets.

“The land pre­pared in read­i­ness for pant­ing should be finely tilled en­sur­ing the soil is fine enough to hold the plant’s seed­lings which are very tiny. The seed­lings are en­cumbered in their ger­min­a­tion by com­pacted soil, tak­ing longer to grow in soils with hard­pans,” she says.

Man­agu does best in soils with a PH of 5.5-6.8 but can grow in vari­ous soil types given proper ag­ro­nomic prac­tices are con­duc­ted, i.e, ma­nur­ing, wa­ter­ing and fre­quent weed­ing.

Given the crop’s early suc­cess, Mary is plan­ning on ex­pand­ing her space under man­agu and cul­tiv­ate the ve­get­able not just in her ver­tical garden. Be­sides man­agu, she also com­mer­cially grows straw­ber­ries, cel­ery, spring onions, pars­ley, am­ar­anth and kunde. 

You can check out her jour­ney, and point­ers on how you too can tap into this luc­rat­ive ag­ribusi­ness here: Mary Ikigu_The­farm­girlke

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