Arrowroot farming in Kenya is becoming increasingly popular due to its high profitability and low input costs. The crop is a water crop and is well suited for cultivation in marshy zones where water is not a limiting factor. However, with the introduction of upland arrowroot technology, the crop is now grown in many parts of the country.
Arrowroot is a high-value crop that fetches good money for farmers. It is a perennial crop that can be harvested every six months, and one can get mature arrowroot within that time frame. The crop is also highly nutritious and has a high monetary value. As a result, it has become a viable enterprise for many farmers in Kenya.
Many farmers in Kenya are now venturing into arrowroot farming due to its high profitability. With proper tending of the crop, farmers can earn a tidy sum from the sale of arrowroots. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of arrowroot farming in Kenya, including the best practices for cultivation, the potential profits, and the challenges faced by farmers in the industry.
Overview of Arrowroot Farming in Kenya
Arrowroot is an important crop in Kenya, grown mainly for its edible corms. The crop is highly nutritious and is a good source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron. Arrowroot is also rich in vitamins such as vitamin B6 and vitamin C. In Kenya, arrowroot farming is becoming increasingly popular due to its high demand both locally and internationally.
Arrowroot farming in Kenya is mainly done in highland areas where the climate is cool and moist. The crop grows well in well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. Arrowroots can be propagated through suckers or by planting the corms. The crop matures within 8-10 months after planting and can be harvested for up to 3 years.
Arrowroot farming in Kenya is mostly done by small-scale farmers who use traditional methods of cultivation. However, with the adoption of modern farming practices, arrowroot farming has become more efficient and profitable. Farmers are now using highland arrowroot technology, which involves planting the crop in trenches 60cm deep and 1 meter wide. This method creates the same conditions as in the river valleys, where arrowroots are traditionally grown.
Arrowroot farming in Kenya has numerous benefits, including providing food security, generating income, and improving soil fertility. The crop is also easy to maintain and requires minimal inputs. Additionally, arrowroot farming has a low environmental impact as it does not require the use of harmful chemicals.
Climatic and Soil Requirements for Arrowroot Farming
Arrowroot is a tropical plant that thrives in warm and humid climates. It requires a temperature range of 21 to 30 degrees Celsius and a rainfall of 1,500 to 2,500 mm per year. The plant prefers a well-distributed rainfall pattern throughout the year, with no prolonged dry spells or waterlogging.
Arrowroot requires a friable, well-drained loamy soil. However, soil at the foot of the hills, in valleys, and newly opened areas are preferable. Clayey soil must be avoided since it induces poor rhizome development and usually causes the deformation of the rhizome, which tends to break during harvesting.
Before planting, it is important to prepare the soil by deep plowing and harrowing to loosen it and remove any weeds or debris. The soil should be enriched with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve its fertility and water-holding capacity.
It is also recommended to conduct a soil test to determine the soil’s pH level and nutrient content. Arrowroot thrives in a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, and any deficiencies or imbalances can be corrected with the appropriate fertilizers or soil amendments.
Preparation and Planting of Arrowroot
Land preparation is an essential step in arrowroot farming. The land should be plowed and harrowed two or three times, depending on the soil. Plow deep enough to provide favorable conditions for better root development. It is also essential to remove all weeds, rocks, and debris from the land to avoid competition for nutrients and water.
Arrowroot can be propagated by suckers and rootstock or rhizomes with two or more nodes each. The suckers should be obtained from healthy and mature plants. The planting holes should be 60 cm deep, 1 meter wide, and any desired planting length.
After digging the holes, add a layer of manure mixed with soil at the bottom of each hole. Place the suckers at an angle of 45 degrees with the top node facing up. Cover the suckers with soil and press it firmly to remove any air pockets. Water the newly planted suckers to help them establish quickly.
The spacing of the suckers depends on the desired yield and the available land. A spacing of 30cmx30cm is recommended for big-sized arrowroots. With four suckers in every hole, the farmer covers them with a little layer of soil. After about two weeks, add manure mixed with soil around the plants to provide the necessary nutrients.
It is also important to ensure that the arrowroots are well watered. The plants should be watered regularly, especially during the dry season. The amount of water required depends on the soil type and the stage of growth. Too much water can cause the roots to rot, while too little water can stunt the growth of the plant.
Topdressing should be done between the second and third months after planting. This is done by applying NPK inorganic fertilizer. A 50-kilogram bag adequately caters to one acre. Proper feeding is ultimately what will determine the quality of your arrowroots.
Overall, proper preparation and planting of arrowroot are crucial for a successful harvest. Ensure that you follow the recommended spacing, use quality suckers, and provide the necessary nutrients and water for the plants to thrive.
Arrowroot Farming Practices and Techniques
Arrowroot farming is a profitable venture in Kenya, and it requires proper techniques and practices to ensure maximum yield. Here are some of the best practices and techniques:
- Soil Preparation: Arrowroots grow well in well-drained and fertile soils. Before planting, the soil should be tilled and mixed with organic matter such as compost or manure to improve soil fertility. The soil should be loosened to a depth of at least 30 cm to allow for proper root development.
- Planting: Arrowroots are planted by stem cuttings known as suckers. The suckers should be planted in trenches measuring 60 cm deep, 1 metre wide, and 30 cm apart. The planting should be done during the rainy season to ensure proper germination and growth.
- Irrigation: Arrowroots require a constant supply of moisture to grow well. In areas with low rainfall, irrigation is necessary. Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigation as it conserves water and ensures that the plants receive enough moisture.
- Fertilization: Arrowroots require adequate nutrients to grow well. Organic fertilizers such as compost or manure can be applied to the soil before planting. During the growing season, nitrogen-rich fertilizers such as urea can be applied to promote growth and yield.
- Pest and Disease Control: Arrowroots are susceptible to pests and diseases such as nematodes and bacterial wilt. Crop rotation, intercropping, and the use of resistant varieties can help control pests and diseases. In case of an infestation, appropriate pesticides should be used.
By following these practices and techniques, arrowroot farmers in Kenya can achieve high yields and maximize profits.
Pest and Disease Management in Arrowroot Farming
Arrowroot farming in Kenya is a lucrative venture that is gaining popularity due to its high demand and nutritional value. However, like any other crop, arrowroot is prone to various pests and diseases that can cause significant losses. Therefore, it is essential to implement effective pest and disease management practices to ensure a healthy and productive crop.
There are various pests that can attack arrowroot tubers, leaves, and stems. Some of the common pests include:
- Arrowroot mite: This pest feeds on the leaves, causing them to turn yellow and eventually die.
- Arrowroot scale: This pest attacks the tubers, causing them to rot and reducing their quality and yield.
- Arrowroot weevil: This pest feeds on the tubers, causing significant damage and reducing the yield.
To manage pests in arrowroot farming, it is essential to implement the following practices:
- Regular monitoring: Regularly inspect the crop to identify any signs of pest infestation and take appropriate action.
- Use of natural predators: Introduce natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings to control pests.
- Use of organic pesticides: Use organic pesticides such as neem oil and garlic spray to control pests.
Arrowroot is also prone to various diseases that can cause significant damage and reduce the yield. Some of the common diseases include:
- Arrowroot blight: This disease affects the leaves, causing them to turn brown and eventually die.
- Arrowroot rot: This disease affects the tubers, causing them to rot and reducing their quality and yield.
- Arrowroot mosaic virus: This disease affects the leaves, causing them to have yellow and green mottling.
To manage diseases in arrowroot farming, it is essential to implement the following practices:
- Regular monitoring: Regularly inspect the crop to identify any signs of disease and take appropriate action.
- Use of disease-resistant varieties: Plant disease-resistant varieties to reduce the risk of disease.
- Use of crop rotation: Rotate arrowroot with other crops to reduce the risk of disease.
- Use of fungicides: Use fungicides such as copper sulfate to control diseases.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling of Arrowroot
Arrowroot is usually harvested 8 to 10 months after planting when most of the leaves have turned yellow and shrunk. Harvesting should be done carefully to avoid damage to the rhizomes, which can reduce the quality and yield of the crop. Hand digging and mechanical harvesting are the two main methods of harvesting arrowroot.
If hand digging is used, the soil around the plant should be loosened with a fork or a spade before the rhizomes are gently pulled out of the soil. If mechanical harvesting is used, a harvester or a tractor with a plow attachment can be used to lift the rhizomes out of the soil.
After harvesting, the rhizomes should be washed, peeled, and graded to remove any damaged or diseased rhizomes. The rhizomes can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks before processing or planting. However, if longer storage is required, the rhizomes should be treated with a fungicide and stored in a cool, humid place to prevent drying out.
Processing of arrowroot involves washing, peeling, grating, squeezing, settling, drying, and grinding into powder form. The starch can then be used for various purposes such as making biscuits, cakes, and puddings, and as a thickener for soups and sauces.
Proper post-harvest handling of arrowroot is important to maintain the quality and yield of the crop. The rhizomes should be handled carefully during harvesting and processing to avoid damage. Storage conditions should be optimized to prevent drying out or rotting of the rhizomes. By following these practices, farmers can ensure a successful and profitable arrowroot farming venture.
Market Opportunities and Challenges in Arrowroot Farming in Kenya
Arrowroot farming in Kenya presents a great opportunity for farmers to earn a decent income. The crop has a high value in the market due to its nutritional benefits and versatility in cooking. Arrowroots are used in various dishes such as soups, stews, and as a thickener in sauces. Additionally, the crop has a high demand in the international market, especially in Europe and North America, where it is used in making gluten-free flour.
However, arrowroot farming in Kenya also presents its fair share of challenges. One of the main challenges is the high water demand of the crop. Arrowroots require a lot of water to grow and mature, and this can be a challenge in areas with low rainfall. Additionally, the crop is susceptible to diseases such as arrowroot scale and arrowroot mite, which can significantly affect yields.
Another challenge facing arrowroot farmers in Kenya is the lack of market access. Many farmers struggle to find reliable buyers for their produce, leading to low prices and income. This is especially true for small-scale farmers who lack the resources to access larger markets.
Despite the challenges, there are various opportunities for arrowroot farmers in Kenya. One of the opportunities is value addition. Farmers can add value to their produce by processing it into flour or other products such as chips and crisps. This not only increases the shelf life of the produce but also creates additional income streams for the farmers.
Another opportunity is the growing demand for organic produce. Arrowroot farming can be done using organic methods, and this presents an opportunity for farmers to tap into the organic market, which commands higher prices.
In conclusion, arrowroot farming in Kenya presents both opportunities and challenges. Farmers can tap into the high-value market by adding value to their produce and exploring the international market. However, they need to overcome challenges such as water demand, diseases, and lack of market access to fully realize the potential of arrowroot farming.
Arrowroot farming in Kenya is a viable venture that can yield high returns when done correctly. The crop is easy to grow and requires minimal maintenance, making it an excellent option for small-scale farmers looking to diversify their income streams.
As seen from the success stories of veteran farmers like Mueni and Muruli, arrowroot farming can generate significant profits. With the right techniques and technology, even farmers in dryland areas can grow arrowroots and free themselves from poverty.
However, it is essential to note that arrowroot farming is not without its challenges. The crop is susceptible to pests and diseases, and improper harvesting can significantly reduce yields. Therefore, farmers must take the necessary precautions and follow best practices to ensure success.
Overall, arrowroot farming presents a promising opportunity for farmers in Kenya. By tapping into this sector, farmers can improve their livelihoods and contribute to the country’s economic growth.
Also Read: Potato Farming In Kenya
Sources: Muriithi, Winfred M. Factors influencing yield of arrowroot production among small scale farmers: a case of Abothuguchi West Division, Meru Central, Kenya. Diss. University of Nairobi, Kenya, 2011. Link: http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/4189
Kosgei, Job Rotich, et al. “Land and Water Resources Planning and Management Options in Floodplain Wetlands in Nyando Basin, Kenya.” Journal of Environmental Protection 12.12 (2021): 1144-1160. Link: https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=113925