Onion Farming in Kenya – My Experience



The date is 16th of August 2014, the place is highlands restaurant Mama Ngina Street Nairobi.  I am a few minutes early for a meeting with friends that I haven’t seen for a long, long time.  These are true friends. The type that holds me accountable for the way I conduct my life. Am sure in this meeting I will have to give account of the strides I have taken in life so far, and if no strides then explain.   But I also know that we will talk enthusiastically about what we need to do next to make big money.  Big money! Yes big money. Isn’t it not always about big money?   

It is from this meeting that I made a resolution to try my hand in Onion farming.  “One acre of land gives 17000 tons of onions” That’s what Opoti one of my friends had said. I googled out and yes! I found articles that corroborated this.  17000 tons of onions translate to about 850,000 Kenya shillings in just four months. 850, 000 Kenya shillings is equivalent to 8500USD at the current exchange rate. This can get me a 2010 model of Volkswagen Golf from the used cars dealers.  Volkswagen golf is currently my object of desire.   
Farming is never my cup of tea. But for 8500USD, anything could be my cup of tea any day. So with this motivation I went to the seed company, bought 1kg of red creole F1 onion seeds, a tin of fungicide and tin of some herbicide.
Two weeks later I travelled to upcountry and negotiated an acre of land for one year from my dad. Then with help from a handful of handymen friends of my dad, we made a seed bed and I came back to the city to wait for transplanting time a month later. 
The promise of 8500USD does wonders.  One month went so fast and I was back to upcountry for the next step of this exciting venture. I rushed to the farm not even before putting down my bags.  From a distance I thought Oh! Favor must be upon me; there seemed to be a concentrated growth of plants in the seed bed. But when I got closer, my heart sunk. The onions had been overgrown by weeds.  It took lots of searching before we could identify any single onion plant.
We did transplant a few, but they didn’t fill up even an 8th of an acre. In the days that followed, there was heavy rain; it washed away the few that we had transplanted.
At this level I had spent 40,000 Kenya shillings including bus fare to upcountry for the two trips. 
That’s my experience with Onion Farming. I haven’t given up though; I have to try again differently.  

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