Onion Farming in Kenya: A Venture Capable of Fetching Millions of Money.

How would we even get to enjoy the kitchen delicacies without onions? Onion farming is one of the most underrated practices that has a potential of fetching millions of money. Many Kenyans for a long time have been enjoying the presence of this gem in their kitchens without really putting much thought to it in terms of monetary value. I mean, why would we be enjoying something soo good and fail to think that we can farm it and make money as well.

Onion farming in Kenya.

Onions thrive in various regions of Kenya that offer diverse micro climates that allow for all year-round cultivation. These areas include Nakuru, Kitale, Eldoret, Embu, Meru, Bungoma, Nanyuki, Limuru etc.

Ideal climatic conditions for growth of onions in Kenya.

Onions thrive best in well-drained soils that provide a conducive environment for onion cultivation by preventing waterlogged conditions, promoting aeration, supporting root development, and facilitating nutrient availability. A soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.5 is ideal for the growth of onions. Onions prefer full sunlight exposure and cool temperatures between 13 to 24 degrees Celsius for optimal growth. Adequate and constant water supply is essential as well.

Step by step process for planting onions. 

Onions can be grown from sets, seeds, or seedlings. A set is a small onion bulb that is planted instead of a seed to produce a mature bulb and is usually have had been planted before in a previous season. Planting onions involves several steps such as.

Mixed varieties of onion sets.

1.    Preparing the soil

Preparing the soil for planting onions involves choosing a well- drained area with a sand loamy texture, testing the soil pH, and adjusting it accordingly to a range between 6.0 and 7.5. This step also involves incorporating organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve on the soil fertility and structure. After all that is done, till the land to loosen up the soil while removing existing weeds and grass to reduce competition for nutrients.

2.    Planting materials

Choose quality onion sets, seeds, or seedlings from reputable sources like Richfarm Kenya. Call or Whatsapp 0724698357/0723213602 to make your order. When selecting, assess the available varieties and choose based on your culinary preferences, think of the local climate and growing conditions as some regions may favour one planting material over the other, also consider the maturity period and how quickly you would want to harvest. For example, sets mature more quickly than onions grown from seeds.

3.    Actual planting

The best time to plant onions in Kenya is before the onset of the rains, around late February to March. Onions require a lot of water to grow up so proper timing when planting is important. You should plant the sets, seeds/seedlings about an inch deep with a spacing of around 12-18 inches apart.

4.    Watering

Water the onions consistently especially during the early stages of growth and bulb formation. To maintain consistent moisture, you can consider taking up drip irrigation which is efficient in delivering water directly to the root zone while minimizing water contact with the foliage, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.

5.    Mulching

Mulching is a practice that involves covering the topsoil around a plant with a layer of materials such as leaves, grass etc. It helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and maintain more stable soil temperatures.

6.    Pests and diseases

Onions are prone to a number of pests and diseases such as onion maggots, downy mildew, bolting onions, thrips, pink root etc. Managing onion diseases involves combining preventive measures and targeted interventions.

7.    Harvesting

The most awaited time of the whole process is now here. Your onions are ready and it’s now time to harvest. This is approximately 3 to 4 months or less after planting depending on the variety.  Harvest when the tops have fallen over and started to dry, it indicates that the bulbs have stopped growing and are likely mature. The outer skin of mature onions is papery and has a colour for that particular onion variety.

You can harvest your onions manually or through machines. Hand harvesting in as much as it can be tiresome is much better as it allows for careful handling of the bulbs, reducing the risk of damage. Manual harvesting involves lifting the layer of soil around the onion with a garden fork or shovel and then lifting the bulb by hands.

Common onion varieties grown in Kenya.

In Kenya, several onion varieties are cultivated to suit different preferences and growing conditions. Onion varieties are classified in to two, local varieties and hybrid onion varieties.

a)    Local onion varieties

§  Red Creole

§  Bombay Red

§  Texas Grano

§  Red Pinoy

b)    Hybrid onion varieties

§  Red Passion F1

§  Red Nice F1

§  Red Coach F1

§  Jambar F1

Economic potential of onion farming.

Onion farming possesses considerable economic potential due to its high demand and versatility. Onions are highly consumed and are a staple ingredient in many global dishes, ensuring a consistent market demand. Additionally, onions can be cultivated year-round in different regions, contributing to a steady income. The versatility of onions extends to value-added products such as pickles, sauces hence creating opportunities for you as a farmer to add value to their produce. Engaging in onion export further contributes to the agricultural economy, offering income opportunities for farmers.

Health benefits.

As we look towards food security and profit making in onion farming, we do not overlook the health benefits associated with onions. Onions provide numerous health benefits and incorporating them in a balanced diet is a flavourful way to harness these health benefits and enhance overall nutritional intake.

Onions are rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids which help combat stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Compounds in onions exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that potentially aid in the prevention of inflammatory conditions. Onions decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases by promoting lower blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels. The presence of Vitamin C and B6 in onions supports a healthy immune system, enhancing the body’s ability to fight off diseases.

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