News and knowhow for farmers

Siaya farmers penetrate export market with little known flower

Frus­trated with the poor re­turns from the tra­di­tional farm­ing of cer­eals, farm­ers in Siaya have dis­covered a gold­mine in morb­dick, a plant they have tra­di­tion­ally re­lied on to cure flu and cold and whose de­mand in the in­ter­na­tional flower mar­ket has soared tre­mend­ously in the re­cent past.

Morb­dick, a tiny yet leafy plant fea­tur­ing small buds that hold its seeds is a feral herb used for cur­ing com­mon cold. The juice crushed and squeezed from its leaves, when thrown into a stuffy nose prompts a per­son to sneeze out the flu virus.

However farm­ers in Siaya have re­cently cashed in on the grow­ing de­mand for flowers abroad to sell the morb­dick plant which is now being used to fill the gaps in bou­quets fea­tur­ing its more fam­ous plant cous­ins like roses or carna­tions. The farm­ers are now earn­ing between Sh15 and Sh75 per branch de­pend­ing on the sea­son the plant ma­tures.

Ac­cord­ing to the morb­dick farm­ers, or­gan­ized into a 30 mem­ber group named Ko­molo, some cli­ents abroad grade the branches ac­cord­ing to the num­ber of buds it has between the first 70 cen­ti­metres, while oth­ers grade them ac­cord­ing to the branch thick­ness and leaves it con­tains. The balls which cluster to­gether in branches are con­sidered too, when mak­ing a bou­quet.

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The farm­ers have already had their high times on the sale of leafs dur­ing moth­ers day, Valentines day and Christ­mas when they couldn’t even meet the huge de­mand. However the de­mand for the flowers has been at an all time low dur­ing sum­mer and spring months when the in­ter­na­tional cus­tom­ers opt to use vari­ants of the plant.

Ag­ri­cul­tural of­ficers in the area say that ma­jor­ity of the Nyanza area fa­vours op­timum growth of the plant due to soils in the area which have re­l­at­ively low acidic levels. To in­crease pro­duc­tion of the plant, local ag­ri­cul­tural of­ficers have teamed up with the Min­istry of Ag­ri­cul­ture, the Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural Re­search In­sti­tute and a group of uni­versity lec­tur­ers to train farm­ers on how to plant the crop, cul­tiv­a­tion pro­ced­ures, the main­ten­ance, cost ef­fect­ive in­teg­rated pest man­age­ment prac­tices and how to cre­ate a bou­quet with Mor­bid­ick.

The group has however only man­aged to ex­port 10,000 in every two weeks against a set tar­get of 300,000 weekly due to skep­tical farm­ers who have shied away from em­bra­cing the alien plant. Aware­ness train­ings have there­fore been or­gan­ized in the province to in­crease the num­ber of farm­ers in the group from the cur­rent 30 to 1000.

Farm­ers are also or­gan­iz­ing how to buy their own cool­ing plant which they say will in­crease the pro­duc­tion levels of the plant and in­su­late them from brokers who have been cash­ing in on the lack of stor­age space by the farm­ers to buy the plant at a cheap price.

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The morb­dick farm­ers are also pla­cing their hopes on the timely com­ple­tion of the Kisumu Air­port ex­pan­sion pro­gramme ar­guing that in­tro­duc­tion of cargo flights to in­ter­na­tional des­tin­a­tions is likely to allow them to fre­quently ex­port there­fore in­creas­ing their rev­enue base.

Farm­ers found res­pite in the plant after hav­ing struggled to get re­turns from maize, beans and sweet pota­toes which have been doing badly in the area. De­creas­ing stocks of fish in Lake Vic­toria where most of them re­lied on for small busi­ness and the in­creas­ing num­ber of fish­er­men in the area who all com­pete for the dwind­ling fish stock have pushed all but the har­di­est of farm­ers from the lakeside, set­ting the stage for Mor­bid­ick.

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