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Kenyans can grow garlic instead of importing from china: here is the starter guide

Did you know that we still import garlic from China and Tanzania? Its worrying since garlic can grow well in Kenya and does not require much as you would have thought.

Unlike other high-value crops, garlic is not hard to grow because there are a few important requirements that can be easily met. Generally, fertile well-drained soil, adequate moisture, and, of course, planting the right seeds (disease-free germinated cloves) is all you need to successfully grow garlic.

In Kenya, it has successfully been cultivated in parts of Narok, Nakuru and Meru, only that it is done on a small scale. 80% of the garlic used in Kenya is imported from China and the prices for this commodity have remained at an all-time high.

Get Over Ksh 700,000 from an acre of Hybrid onions in Kenya

How to grow your own garlic

We always recommend farmers to start with conducting a soil test to ensure that their soil has the right minerals and the correct PH. The pH should range from 4.5 to 8.3, but an ideal pH is between 6.5 and 6.7.

  • When planting, the spacing you use should be advised by the irrigation method to be employed, weeding methods of choice and the target yield – quantity vs quality. Plant between 100 and 200kg of cloves on an acre.
  • It is advisable to plant garlic in double rows or in wide beds of four to six rows with 10 to 20cm between plants. Tighter spacing in the beds will produce more bulbs but of smaller size with the net tonnage per square foot being higher than when you plant with wider spacing.
  • Prepare your land by ploughing and harrowing, then broadcast 10 tonnes of well-composted manure in advance. Avoid areas under trees or other sources of shade.
  • Buy your germinated cloves from a reputable dealer. Avoid buying the seeds from the market place or unscrupulous dealers because they may not be disease-free.
  • Once you have the cloves, break-up the bulbs not longer than 24 hours before you plant them while being careful not to bruise or damage them. Place cloves 3-4cm below the surface, root down.
  • You will need to water your garlic during dry periods throughout the growing season, and stop completely during the last few weeks.
  • Carefully remove any weeds whenever they appear, and avoid prolonged use of herbicides as they retard plant growth.

During growth, lack of water is the most common stress because garlic does not compensate for drought periods by prolonged growth. Even a short period of drought affects the yield, especially during bulb expansion because lack of water predisposes the crop to infestation by insects.

Garlic will tell you when it is time to harvest. Start harvesting when the lower leaves begin to yellow and fold and the garlic grows “weak at the neck” and begins to fall on the ground. Harvesting too early decreases total yield and reduces quality of the bulb. It will also cause rapid deterioration during storage.


It is estimated that Kenya imports up to 80% of garlic from China. That can tell you how much demand we have locally that we are unable to meet. After packaging and importing all the way from China, garlic is sold at a wholesale price of about Sh200 per kg.

Plan and implement today if you can, they demand is overwhelming which means that the future can only be bright for garlic farmers.


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Get Over Ksh 700,000 from an acre of Hybrid onions in Kenya

In Kenya almost every meal is cooked with “kitunguu” , some even go a notch high and make “ kachumbari”. This definitely tells you that onion is a basic need in mosts families that can afford it. Apart from those in rural areas who at times grow their own onions, all other homes in urban areas buy onions when they need to cook.

Let’s do the math, an acre of bulb onions given the care it requires can give you an income of Ksh 770, 000. After, 3 months of transplanting the bulb onions it can produce more than 16,000 Kgs bulbs.

Currently 1 kg of bulb onions can fetch Ksh 50, that is, 18,000 * 50= Ksh, 900,000. Production cost per acre is estimated to be less than Ksh 150, 000. This translates your net profit to Ksh 750,000. The best varieties that are doing well in Kenya are Jambar F1, Red Pinoy F1, Red Comet F1, Red passion F1.

Read: How to quit your job, move to your farm and start making sane money


If you are a farmer and you are interested in getting the best results, then you need to start from the nursery and follow the following guidelines;

  • Make a raised nursery bed 1 metre wide and any desired length.
  • Apply well decomposed manure at a rate of 15kg per square metre.
  • Mix and Apply DAP fertilizer at a rate of 20 grams per metre square
  • Make shallow furrows 15 cm apart. Mix the seeds with dry ash, sand or soil at a ratio of 1:3 to help spread the small seeds.
  • Plant the seeds and cover lightly with soil and apply mulches ( Grass or Polythene cover spread over the soil on the nursery bed)
  • After planting irrigate the nursery bed liberally for the first 10 days and continue watering regularly.
  • Germination of seeds will take about 7-10 days after which the mulches are removed and used to make a shade above the tender plants which have not fully developed.
  • Transplanting of the seedlings takes place 6 weeks after planting seeds in the nursery. Transplant when the seedlings have pencil thick base and a height of approximately 15cm.
  • Seedlings should have 3 to 5 well-formed leaves at transplanting time. Two weeks before transplanting reduce the shade to improve seedling survival rate in the field.
  • It takes about 3 months for onions to mature

Read: Profitable chilli farming in Kenya

Onions can be grown both indoors and open field farming. The choice is yours depending on your resources and the size of your land.

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Onion Farming Profit Per Acre

Before venturing in Onion farming, you should first know the best time to plant depending on location. This will help you gauge the right time according to weather and the market.

Best Time To Plant Onion In Kenya

The Kenyan population is growing day by day, thanks to improved medical services, and extended life expectancy. This means, demand for food is always high and as we all know most foods require onions to prepare. The best time to farm onions is during the short rains such that harvesting is done either in January and February. Around the period between January and February, there is a limited supply of onions from Tanzania which translates to an increased cost of onions in the country. If your timings are right, you stand to benefit with substantial profit margins when you supply when there are enormous demand and little supply. The two bulbs available in the market from Tanzania and Kenya differ in quality. The Tanzanian variety is small in size, thin and firmly layered with a characteristic smell while the Kenyan one is big with free layers.

Read: What you require while establishing successful pig farming

Projected Profit Of Onion Farming In Kenya

The profitability of onion farming will depend on the time of the year, when you get your produce to the market. below is a breakdown giving you the price estimates for onion farming.

Lets assume you plant an entire acre of onions in Kenya, on the higher  side you could use atmost 150,000. We approximate that an acre will produce atleast 14000-18000 kilograms of bulb onions. The market price for now is around Ksh 40-100 per kilo, i.e 16,000 * 40 = 640,000-1600000

minus the cost of production – 150,000 (Net profit). Even if you don’t sell at the retailing price, and have to do a wholesaling price, you will still manage to get some good returns.

Read: A starter guide on having a successful small poultry production unit

Capital Required To Cultivate An Acre Of Onions

When undertaking small-scale onion farming in Kenya, one requires a capital cost of anything between Ksh 100,000 to Ksh 200,000. Nevertheless, if one is embarking on large-scale onion farming in Kenya, you will need more capital; this is because you need different types of farm equipment and machinery to work on the several acres of land. For instance, in small-scale farming of one acre of land, you need farm equipment’s like forks, rakes, hoes, bags and knapsack sprayers among others while as a large grower you need heavy machinery like under-cutters, windrowing, tractors/trailers as well as bagging equipment. As such, the latter will cost more but the returns will definitely be higher.

Well, this is one investment you should try if your area is viable.


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Zero Starter Guide Of Onion Farming In Kenya

There are different varieties of onion, although the most popular in Kenya are the green and the bulb-purple. According to KARLO, Kenyan farmers do not look out for the required cinditions like soil chemical composition, soil fertility, and climatic favourable conditions before going for a specific onion. For example, onion and garlic prefer a fairly neutral PH, of between 6.5 and 7.0. Soil that is too acid or too basic causes slow growth and late maturity.

Below is a guide that you might follow while planting onions.

Onion Farming in Kenya: Preparation and Fertilizing

Onions require full sun, good soil drainage and soil rich in nitrogen. Choose a location that gets plenty of direct sun and where your onion plants will not be shaded by other crops. Onions grow best on raised beds or raised rows at least 4 inch high and 20inch wide. Pull and remove all visible weeds. The soil should be loose and crumbly. If it’s compacted, work in compost to improve aeration and drainage.

Onions are heavy feeders and require consistent feeding to produce big solid bulbs. At planting time, prepare the soil first with compost and also work in a good source of granular, high nitrogen fertilizer.

As plants grow and begin to bulb up, plan to supplement feed every few weeks with a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Be sure to apply all fertilizers according to suggested rates or quantities.

Read Also: The work of Agricultural Engineer in Kenya

Onion Farming in Kenya: Planting

Rows should be made 12-18 inches apart. If you want the onions to grow to mature bulbs, plant them 4-6 inches apart and 1inch deep (and no deeper, as this will inhibit their ability to bulb). If you prefer to harvest some earlier as green onions, space them 2 inches apart and pull every other onion during the growing season, leaving the rest to grow to maturity.

When the ground starts to crack as the onions push the soil away, the bulbing process has begun. Stop fertilizing at this point. Do not heap soil up around the bulbing onions; it’s normal and beneficial for much of the onion bulb to be above the ground as they mature.

Onion Farming in Kenya: Watering

Water thoroughly after planting and regularly thereafter – onions require about 1 inch of water per week and the closer to harvest, the greater the need for regular watering. They have shallow roots, so don’t let the soil at the base of the plants become dry and cracked. If an onion plant fails to receive enough water, it will not make a large bulb. Overwatering is equally problematic – if leaves develop a yellow tinge, cut back on watering. Drip irrigation is a good way to stay on top of onions water needs and helps discourage foliar diseases. When bulbs are mature, the onion tops will begin to fall over. At this point, stop watering and let the soil dry out before harvesting.

Onion Farming In Kenya: Weeding

Weed control is especially important early in the growing season to prevent competition for nutrients. When the onions start to bulb up, push the mulch back so that they get good air circulation.

Also Read: How to establish the type of irrigation needed in your farm

Onion Farming in Kenya: Pest and disease control

The most common conditions that affect onions are blight, purple blotch and thrips. They are caused by fungus and are more common during periods of high moisture. Blight appears as small white spots surrounded by a greenish halo. Purple blotch causes a purplish discoloration of leaves. Proper plant spacing helps increase air flow and reduces both blight and purple blotch. Thrips are sucking insects that sometimes attack onion plants, causing the leaves to turn grey or silvery. Thrips are barely visible as tiny yellow or dark specks about 1 mm long. Organic controls for thrips include safer soap or Pyrethrin. They can hide in weeds, so be sure to weed your garden patch after harvest and control weeds in the onion bed throughout the growing season.

Onion Farming in Kenya: Harvesting

Proper treatment at harvest maximizes the amount of time you’ll be able to store your onions. When the tops of the onions turn brown or yellow and fall over, it’s time to harvest. Ideally, the plant will have about 13 leaves at this point. Pull the onions early in the morning on a sunny day and shake off excess soil. Dry the onions in the sun for two days. To prevent sunscald, lay the tops of one row over the bulbs of another.

Do the right thing, visit the experts!

Also Read: How Do I Monetize My Passion On Farming?

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Lucrative onion farming in Kenya

According to Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, half of red onions sold in Kenyan markets are grown in Tanzania. Local farmers are trying their best to address the demand and close the gap, although the demand is always higher than the supply. This demand makes the red bulb onion investment a very attractive commercial investment.

There are two main onions grown in Kenya, bulb onions and spring onions. The best suited areas to grow onions include, Nyeri, Nakuru, Narok, Maimahiu, Kieni and Nyandarua.

Bulb onions take 3 to 4 months to reach maturity. Short rains are great for bulb onions since they can be harvested between January and February. Local farmers can benefit during this time, since there is low supply of onions from Tanzania at this time of the year. After the long rains of March, the price of these onions hike and farmers who harvest after these periods make good profit margins.

Spring onions are easy to plant. You can even plant them at your kitchen garden. They are commonly used in vegetable salads or as seasoning in soups. Some of the health benefits of spring onions include lower blood sugar and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Of the two types, bulb onions are more popular than the spring ones due to their long shelf life and sweet taste. Currently, there are two different varieties of bulb onions in the market. There is the small, thin and firmly layered onion that has a strong pungent smell from Tanzania. The second one is the big loosely held variety that is grown locally, in Kenya.

Read Also: 11 Ways to Succeed In Agri-Business Even After Failing Several Times In The Past

Challenges facing Onion Farming in Kenya

Rains or Excess Watering: Too much rains or excess watering can water log the crop. If the rain in your area is too much, focus on growing the crop during the short rains. You can also raise the beds to ensure the water flows out of the field. Avoid excessive watering of your onions. The best type of irrigation on onions is drip irrigation. Overhead irrigation should be avoided as it causes fungal diseases.

Diseases: Common diseases that affect onions include Downy Mildew, Bacterial Soft Rots, Pink/White Root, Botrytis, and Rusts. Use herbicides to get rid of the diseases.

Pests: Common pests that attack onions include maggots, thrips, nematodes and the leaf miner. Use pesticides from accredited brands to get rid of the pests.

Weeds: Weeds can also destroy your crop and should be removed occasionally either physically or through the use of herbicides. In one season, there should be at least 2 – 3 weeding sessions.

Conditions for Onion Farming

Onions perform well in well drained, fertile, sandy loam, non-compacted soils. The ideal pH is 5.8 to 6.8. Onion farming is a worthy venture since it’s possible to grow onions throughout the year via irrigation. Soil test with accredited laboratories is advised.

The ideal temperatures onions need to grow are between 13 – 35 degrees centigrade. This means that onions can grow in most parts of Kenya. However, to maximize production in areas such as Ukambani and some parts in the Coastal area, one needs to invest in a greenhouse and drip irrigation. This is because greenhouses will optimize the temperatures since these areas are hot and irrigation will provide the much-needed water. Onions are a cool season crop. Most areas in Ukambani and the Coastal region are extremely dry.

In terms of requirements, apart from land that is an obvious fact, other requirements are DAP Fertilizer and seedlings. 1 kg of seedlings can be used in 1 acre while 20 grams of DAP Fertilizer is applied per square meter.

You should note that there are different seed varieties and they perform differently under different conditions. Common hybrid varieties available in Kenya include Red Creole, Red Pinnoy, Jambar 1 and Red Bombay. The most popular seed variety in Kenya is the Jambar F1 since it produces high yield and the size of its onions are bigger.

Planting Onions from Seeds

  • Make a raised nursery bed 1m wide and any desired length. Apply well decomposed manure at a rate of 15kg per square meter.
  • Mix and apply DAP fertilizer at a rate of 20grams per meter square
  • Make shallow furrows 15cm apart. Mix the seeds with dry ash, sand or soil at a ratio of 1;3 to help spread the small seeds. Plant the seeds and cover lightly with soil and apply mulches (Grass or polythene cover spread over the soil on the nursery bed) After planting irrigate the nursery bed liberally for the first 10 days and continue watering regularly.
  • Normally, germination takes 7-10 days after which the mulches are removed and used to make a shade above the tender plants which have not fully developed.
  • Transplanting of the seedlings takes place 6 weeks after planting seeds in the nursery. Transplant when the seedlings have pencil thick base and a height of approximately 15cm. Seedlings should have 3-5 well-formed leaves at transplanting time. Two weeks before transplanting reduce the shade to improve seedling survival rate in the field.
  • In about 4 months your onions should be mature.
  • Expected Yield per acre is 20,000kg

Harvesting onions

The best time to do the harvesting is during the dry season. Keep a calendar and record the essential dates to ensure you harvest at the right time. Bulb onions are ready for harvesting once they form a shiny membranous cover around the bulbs or when the foliage withers. Spring onions are ready for harvesting when they are 15 centimeters tall and 1.5 centimeters thick.

Harvesting is done by pulling the bulbs and then chopping off the leaves. You then dry the bulbs in the sun before storing the produce.

Expected Income

Market price: KSh 40 (at the farm)

Production Cost: KSh 150,000

Average yield/acre: 20,000 kg

40 x 20000 = KSh 800,000

800,000 – 150, 000 (Production cost) = KSh 650,000 Profit