Nyandarua County farmers are banking on floriculture to improve their economic standing.
At Njambini township in Kinangop constituency, tens of acres previously occupied by cabbages, carrots and potatoes are now blooming in blue, white, red and green colours.
Farmers interviewed said floriculture has reduced their dependence on potatoes and milk.
With proper crop management practices, Nyandarua can turn around its fortunes by focusing on organic farming, especially cut flowers.
“The EU and the US are interested. We are also promoting organic pyrethrum farming,” Nyandarua County trade chief officer Daniel Muguku said.
Mr Njoroge Kimani is the pioneer flower grower in the area.
In 1987, Mr Kimani realised food crops were not doing him any good and took the decision to plant cut flowers in a two-acre piece of land. “I sold the flowers to retailers in Nairobi and other towns before a friend introduced me to an exporter in 1988. My family was living in a grass-thatched house, but from the earnings, we built a timber house. That is when I abandoned the other crops,” he said.
He said white and blue flowers are usually in high demand between December and May. For one to have sustained income throughout the year, he should plant at least three flower varieties “at the right time”. Farmers grow yellow lilies, standard eryngium, white agapanthus, planum eryngium, craspedia among others.
Mr Kimani puts potato production cost at approximately Sh40,000 per acre.
“You will use Sh5,000 to hire a tractor for ploughing and Sh7,000 for virgin land, then pay a similar amount for furrows, hire casuals to plant at Sh3,000 and then there is weeding, pest and disease control, fertiliser and others. One ends up harvesting about 50 bags each selling at Sh1,000,” he said.
The cost of production for flowers is almost similar, but the flowers are harvested twice a week. One plucks about 5,000 flowers in a day, which earns him about Sh15,000 as he sells a stick at Sh5.
At Njambini Community Horticultural Sorting and Grading Shed Unit, Ms Njeri Kinyanjui sorts flowers for transport to the airport. She said flowers are not labour intensive.