Farmer spices up his income growing garlic
Immediately after completing high school in 2011, David Murage moved to his home town in Nyeri, where he started living with his uncle who practiced subsistence and commercial farming.
Murage would over time get interested in agriculture as he helped his uncle around the farm. He eventually started farming by himself, something that he has been doing for close to five years now.
“I have a garlic farming consultancy firm which offers free consultancy, market linkages and agronomical support. This is the vessel I use to teach other farmers how to grow garlic and get profits from it,” he begins.
“I have several garlic farms in Nakuru, Nyeri and Mtwapa in Kilifi counties. Other than farming, I also sell quality germinated garlic seeds to farmers who in turn grow them into garlic bulbs. I have never been employed and solely rely on garlic farming for all my needs. Farming garlic is my passion,” he continues.
Why the bulbous plant?
He shares that he has been farming multiple crops since 2012 and only settled on garlic in 2017. The decision was in part due to the fact that garlic only takes four months to mature in warm areas and around five months in wet areas. Moreover, garlic does not require much care.
To start garlic farming, David explains, one needs to settle on what seedlings they will plant. Different garlic varieties require different labour outputs. Garlic grows in fertile loam soils. However, it cannot grow in waterlogged soils as the garlic bulbs will rot.
The garlic plant, however, still needs water to grow.
“If there are rains, one will have to water the plants once every 10 days. If there are no rains, one can water the garlic twice a week. For ease of irrigation, one can dig deep trenches next to the garlic. You then pour water into the trenches thereby easily irrigating the garlic tuber,” he offers.
It is important to plant the seedlings four centimetres from each other as this gives room for the garlic to fully grow.
But does one need to weed?
“One needs to weed their garlic farm three times. The first time is after two weeks when you spray a herbicide to kill all weeds. This is because some garlic bulbs may not have fully grown and one might cut them accidentally if they weed with a panga. The second time is at two months, when one weeds with a panga. The third time is by hand as there are fewer weeds to contend with,” David explains.
Other than weeding, one needs to monitor the garlic plants for signs of disease or pests.
There are two main diseases that attack garlic crops. These are, rust which manifests as brownish spots on the garlic leaves, and blight, which manifests as yellowing of the tips of the garlic leaves.
“These diseases can be easily treated by spraying Folicur and Ridomil respectively on the entire farm. While garlic does not have many pests, a yellowish threadlike insect called thrips normally attacks garlic leaves. Spraying the entire farm with pesticide will both kill the insect and prevent further destruction of your crop,” he says.
When the garlic leaves start falling off at around the fourth or fifth month, the garlic is ready for harvesting.
Once the garlic is fully mature, it is uprooted and the leaves cut off, the the bulbs are left in the sun to dry for a week.
“One can use the cut-off garlic leaves as manure. Supermarkets, local markets, restaurants and schools make the main buyers for garlic bulbs.
“In case a farmer has more than three million kilogrammes of produce, one can sell to external markets such as Congo,” he says.
David shares that garlic farming is lucrative as one can harvest 5,000 kilogrammes per acre with each kilogramme going for between Sh220 to Sh350 depending on demand.
Other than selling it as it is, farmers can do value addition along the supply chain by making garlic paste and selling that.
As to what he would tell farmers who want to get into garlic farming, he insists on research and being armed with knowledge first even before one can lease land or begin to farm.
“Being a knowledgeable farmer is the difference between profit and loss. This is the reason why I started Murage Garlic Consulting. I wanted to empower farmers so they do not have to learn from costly mistakes like I did,” he says.