NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
After years of struggling growing various crops
in vain due to low rainfall, farmers in semi-arid areas in Kenya
have finally found a crop that is putting money in their
The crop is not only
drought-tolerant but is highly valued both in Kenya and in the
export market especially in Asia, making the farmers reap
profits amid the negative effects of climate change, which has
hit hard arid areas.
The green gram is
also known as the mung bean, a small round bean similiar in
shape to the field pea. The crop requires low rainfall hence
performs well in semi-arid areas, is resistant to many pests and
goes for up to 1.5 U.S. dollars a kilogram in the Kenyan market.
Sammy Mutunga, a
farmer in the dry Kitui County, eastern Kenya, is among those
who have embraced the crop reaping big from his once
Mutunga grows green
grams on two acres and this is his third season, having started
the farming in 2016.
“I was among the
first people who embraced the crop when a non-state organization
came in this area to promote it. They told us that it would
perform better than the maize we were all struggling to grow. At
first we doubted because they were selling the seeds but I gave
it a try, starting with quarter acre,” he recounted Friday.
The crop did
unexpectedly well, said Mutunga, noting that he harvested a 90kg
bag of green grams from the quarter acre.
“I was extremely
happy. I could not believe that from a quarter acre, I would get
a bag of green grams yet my two acres of maize only offered less
than 10 bags,” he said.
He sold the produce
at 0.8 dollars a kilogram, earning some 60 dollars, which he had
not even anticipated.
Since then, Mutunga
and dozens of other farmers in the county have embraced the
crop, ditching maize and others that were not performing well.
“I grow the crop on
five acres after stopping the farming of cowpeas which I had
done for years. This is my second season and I must say things
are good. Last season, I harvested 20 bags (about 90kg) of green
grams and sold a kilo at 1 dollar, earning some 1,747 dollars,
money that I have never reaped before,” said Elizabeth Muli, a
farmer in Machakos County.
“I normally plant
seeds in a spacing of 10cm from one crop to another and 60cm
between the rows. One uses 4kg on an acre and plant with some
DAP fertiliser,” she offered.
Green grams take
three months to mature and the pods are harvested just like
beans, dried, threshed and winnowed.
“An acre produces at
least 4 bags and one spends some 180 dollars per acre to grow
the crop. Which means if they sell a kilo at 1 dollar, they end
up with some 180 dollars profit. This is good money,” said Muli.
away in Tharaka-Nithi County, another dry region in central
Kenya, farmers growing the crop are exporting it to India,
China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The farmers export
the crop through an agent and in 2016, they earned some 194,174
dollars from export to Dubai.
“Green gram is ideal
for dry areas because it requires little rainfall. Rains in arid
areas last only about three weeks, which are enough for the crop
to grow until they have four to six leaves and are ready for
first weeding,” said Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer.
He noted that green
grams are a lucrative crop since in supermarkets, a kilo goes
for up to 1.8 dollars while farmers sell on the farm for at
least 1 dollar.
Kenya Red Cross
Society, which has partnered with county governments in eastern
Kenya to promote the crop, noted that its aim is to make it the
cash crop. Secretary-general Abbas Gulet said the agency has set
aside some 5 million dollars to buy produce from farmers mainly
in Kitui to save them from exploitation by middlemen, adding the
crop would save residents from perennial hunger that has dogged
the region for years.