All you need to know about Onion Farming in Kenya.
The Ultimate Guide to Onion Farming in Kenya.
Types of Onions grown in Kenya.
Kenya has been importing a percentage of its most used onions… the red onion. While we have large uninhabited portions of fertile farming land that are suitable for onion farming. Onion grows in different areas in Kenya, but not all.
- Emali and many other places are situated around central Kenya.
Be that as it may, Kenya has the agricultural prowess to produce its own red onions. In fact, that serves as an opportunity for more onion farmers to join the bandwagon and create employment by growing this lucrative crop.
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Is it really worth the investment?
Onion farming, if done well, can fetch roughly 1200 Kenya shillings per 15-kilogram bag of well dried and cured onions. This will obviously depend on the location and specific season. Timing is important when planning to plant the red onion and to profit from it.
What is the process of growing onions?
Different onions have different methods of planting that guarantee success in productivity at different levels. Spring onions are much easier and more versatile and can literally be planted anywhere with a flexible budget.
- Spring Onion.
I used to use this type of onion to cook while I was on campus. It is very economical and can be used very well for seasoning soups and in salads as well.
The spring onion can also be planted even in pots in your backyard, making it reasonably easier to manage than the bulb onion.
The spring onion however has a short shelf life and can only be used within a short period of time before its leaves turn yellow. This is because when using the spring onion to cook, even the leaves are used!
- Bulb Onion.
From the name, this is a type of onion that has some sort of bulb shape to it. There are many differences between the bulb and the spring onion. Being the most common onion used in homes in Kenya, it is in high demand all the time. That is the main reason why Kenya imports onions at some point during the season! The demand cannot be satisfied by the onion farmers that we already have in the country.
Bulb onions are usually cured or dried to increase their shelf life. This means that when they are dried, they can stay for a very long time before they spoil. Curing just removes some level of moisture from the onion that may be disadvantageous to the shelf life of the onion.
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The bulb onion generically takes about three to four months to mature. Much can be done to ensure the successful harvest of this lucrative crop. In detail;
The onion does well in soil that naturally drains water and rainfall easily. Waterlogged soils cause early rot and undergrowth with the crop.
Soils must also be tested to ensure the right ph for the successful growth of a productive onion crop. The most favorable ph is an average ph of around 5.8 to 6.7 or 6.8. The soil should not be too acidic or too basic.
Soil testing can be professionally done by local laboratories in your area.
Water and temperature requirements.
Onions in general require just an adequate amount of rainfall.
Farmers are advised to grow the onion during periods that receive short rains because too much rain leads to the rotting and spoiling of the crop.
In areas that receive little to no rainfall, irrigation is advised. There are various methods of irrigation that can be used for onion farming.
However, before picking a method of irrigation, at least learn the type of soil that you are growing your onions on so as not to spoil your crop.
Methods of irrigation used in the onion are;
Drip irrigation: This is a method of irrigation that uses a system of pipelines that adequately distribute water to the root of various crops in a specific field. It is a super method of irrigation that minimizes water loss as well as improves root formation and supports plant growth.
Basin Irrigation: From the name, the crop is planted in ‘basins’ and a channel of water is directed into the basins from time to time. Either daily or weekly.
Hand Watering using a watering can: This one requires a lot of labor and time. Hand watering using watering cans is mostly used by kitchen garden farmers who have only to cover small spaces.
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Fertilizer that will be used on the onion crop will largely help in bulb formation. As this is the main part of the crop.
Inorganic fertilizers are the most used in Kenya because they are the most effective, or so ‘they’ say.
I stick with cow manure! It is the best natural fertilizer, has all the nutrients, and is undeniably 100 percent organic!
Seedlings or seeds requirements.
The onion cannot be planted directly in the field like garlic. It is first planted in seedbeds which are well taken care of in well constructed sheds which are later transplanted to well-tilled farms.
What are the diseases that affect onions?
At first, I thought that onions have a pungent smell that repels literally any form of pest or parasite. That is not the case, however.
Onions get attacked by a wide range of pests and diseases if mismanaged. Magots from rotting is the most common closely followed by thrips. The best way to control these would be to use a recommended pesticide from your local agro vet.
However, as I stick to my original 100 percent organic lifestyle, I still recommend rabbit urine as it is 100 percent natural and organic.
This is one of the happiest seasons of an onion farmer’s life. Brokers may or may not flock to your farm to find out prices and look for a way to ‘eat’ into your profit.
Harvesting of onions takes a while and requires hot weather conditions. The best season to harvest onions is during the dry season. During this season, it will be much easier for the onions to be faster cured and dried so that they last longer.
How do you know your onions are ready for harvest?
The bulb onion is usually ready for harvest once the leaves dry up or when the top of the bulb begins to form a shiny membrane.
The spring onion is ready for harvest when it reaches a height of about 13 to 15 centimeters long and has a thickness of about one and a half centimeters.
The process of harvesting is better done in groups where work is easier done and faster completed. Bulbs are dried in the sun before they are stored in specialized structures that have good ventilation and aid in faster curing.
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My key takeaway on Onion farming in Kenya.
Onion farming is a great way to get one’s hands dirty to make an extra coin. Telephone onion farming may be common these days for farmers looking forward to filling the extra demand for onions in the market.
For those who have a passion for going to the shamba and investing their time in farming, then onion farming would be a great idea to get a good start. Reach out to me to share your experience with onion farming!
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