Groundnut farming in the country has been the domain of small scale farmers in the western parts of the country for domestic and commercial use.
However other counties have now started planting the crop after introduction of new varieties by researchers that could suit their areas and are raking big.
Taita taveta is one such county whose leadership has been assisting their farmers in getting the suitable varieties and working with other stakeholders to ensure that small scale farmers are able to make money through groundnuts.
The crop is known to survive drought or reduced rains but with the help of irrigation during the low season, one can harvest over one tonne of groundnuts in an acre.
Davis Mwangoma, the County Executive in charge for agriculture, livestock, fisheries and irrigation in the country says that they are encouraging farmers to grow groundnuts as a Drought Tolerant Crop (DTC) and others such as green grams and pigeon peas.
The drought tolerant crops have potential in some counties, he said adding that the national drought tolerant crops strategy is important to ease pressure from the over-reliance on major staples like maize, wheat and rice and create markets for the more under-utilized DTCs.
“As Taita Taveta, we have done calculations and gross margins for groundnuts in terms of what the farmers can get at the end of the day and this includes ensuring that farmers are linked to markets,” he said.
The CEC gave an example of Taita Taveta groundnut farmers who have signed a contract with Upfield Company that produces the blue band peanut butter. The company previously worked under Unilever.
Farmers through their cooperative have a guaranteed market for groundnuts. Upfield has been importing ground nuts from Argentina and India for their peanut butter but today farmers in Taita have been contracted so that they grow the groundnuts and supply to them,” he said.
Mwangoma noted that for farmers who are using a bit of irrigation, their expenditure from cultivation to the harvest is around Sh. 20,000, but with one acre producing almost a tonne, the farmers are able to cope since they get returns.
One Kilogram of groundnuts, he explained, is sold at Sh 87, and one acre produces one tonne. A farmer gets around Sh 80,000 per acre and if he has around 5 acres, he makes a clean Sh 400,000 without sweating much.
He said the farmers do not struggle with the inputs as they are cheap but also noted that the soils are normally tested and have been found to have very low aflatoxin making it suitable for groundnut production.
We are encouraging farmers to adopt groundnut as an alternative crop and this is a game changer since stakeholders such as USAID through their Accelerated Institutional and Food Systems Development (AIFSD)-Drought Tolerant Crops programme that has been working in the area for three years have extended their project of assisting farmers in the drought tolerant production crops for another three more years.
“We appreciate the difficulties the farmers have been getting in accessing improved and drought-tolerant seeds. We are grateful to AVCD and now AIFSD for facilitating the establishment of TANAFACO, cooperative that has come in handy in seed procurement, local seed production, and marketing of farmers produce,” he said.
26 year old Agnes Waithera, who has ventured into groundnut farming said she was attracted to start growing groundnuts because of guaranteed market and better prices
“I have been growing green grams and this is my first season to harvest groundnuts which I have planted in six acres at our family farm in Mata area in Taveta,” she adds.
“Out of one acre, one produces around one tonne and for a Kilogram selling at Sh 85 one easily can make Sh 85,000. Currently I have planted six acres and expecting to get six tonnes of high quality groundnuts,” she tells KNA, a smile on her face.
Waithera called upon the youth not to rely on employment or the job they were trained on but to try out farming which is very profitable.
Peter Munyi Manager of Tanafako, the apex farmer producer organization formed in 2019 said the contract that they got with Upfield is on pilot basis and they are required to harvest 100 tonnes of groundnut which is equivalent to one million kilogrammes.
We have signed the short term contract of five months with Upfield and we will be able to give them 100 tonnes of Ndovu variety (Egerton II) groundnuts. Once we deliver then we will sign the main contract with them and we are sure that we will deliver 100 percent,” he said.
Munyi noted that if the farmers deliver the 100 tonnes, Sh 18 million will go back to the community and that is a lot of money for them to cover for their food, schools fees and good living instead of getting bursary from the county government.
“The demand for groundnuts is high, we have support of Egerton University who are the only breeders who deal with groundnuts,” he said.
In the pilot programme, Munyi explained that they are also working with Syngenta who have given them an agronomist to assist farmers in the process of production and also UPL Company through KALRO who are distributing AFLASAFE.
By Wangari Ndirangu