Sunflower Overtakes Maize Farming In Tana
As a result of the lucrative returns, maize farmers in the Tana Irrigation Scheme are diversifying into contracted sunflower farming.
More than 300 acres of sunflowers are planted in the scheme. World Concern, a non-governmental organization, first introduced the plant to farmers.
Sunflowers are used to produce edible oils, soaps, and animal feeds.
Morris Adero, a 72-acre sunflower farmer at Tana Irrigation, reported that the plant performed well in the test on the former maize crop field.
“This plant does not require a lot of money to manage, if you plant it after three days, you will put in the first fertilizer and then you wait for three weeks and spray using pesticide. After a month and a half just apply the second fertilizer,” explains Odero.
Sunflower farmers have signed a contract with the Thika-based Rafiki Pay Company.
The farmers sell them one kilogram for fifty shillings. A single acre produces between 1,200 and 1,500 kilograms of seeds.
“Compared to maize farming, sunflower is twice as profitable because the cost of cultivation is lower. The production cost of one acre is Sh16, 000. At the moment, this plant has gained momentum, and many people have embraced sunflower farming, “said Adero.
He expressed confidence that sunflowers will dominate the 12,000-acre scheme when the second phase began in January 2019.
In the meantime, farmers have initiated discussions with World Concern to establish a factory for value-added along the Tana River to maximize farmers’ profits.
However, farmers are contending with African bollworm pests and will need to intercrop sunflowers with green grams in the subsequent phase to reduce crop losses.
Sunflowers require between 80 and 120 days from planting to harvest and can be planted three times per year.
Typically, sunflowers are harvested when their heads have turned a vibrant shade of yellow.
Before being removed from the farms, the heads are cut and hung upside down on the stocks to dry completely.
Ayub Baroba, an additional sunflower farmer, remarked that since harvesting is done manually and there is a shortage of canvas for drying the seeds, drying incurs high costs.