It is seen as cheap and of less value but the vegetable is a potential goldmine
The cabbage is considered the cheapest and most easily available vegetable one can serve as part of a meal. Interestingly, in many restaurants and hotels around the country, ordering a meal of ugali and the vegetable is considered as a sign of bad financial times.
Though often compared to the kale, the cabbage is less valued than some traditional vegetables, which do not need a lot of care and attention in growing. The market price of the vegetable, at about Sh20 a kilo, is also low compared to what one pays for other greens, including kales.
Yet, for Nimrod Kibet Mengich, a 29-year-old farmer from Uasin Gishu, the cabbage is a gold mine that he has reaped from. He has taken to growing it with a passion, after realizing the great potential, which many people in the region are unaware of.
He grows the Quisor F1 variety of cabbages on his two-acre piece of land.
The farmer harvests up to 37,000 heads of cabbage and sells each at Sh30, fetching over Sh1 million. His investment in the whole venture is about Sh50,000.
But the cost does not include a drip irrigation system purchased earlier at Sh350,000, including installation. The irrigation system is a fixed asset purchase he had made when he ventured into horticulture farming. He says the remaining half of the farm will also soon be fitted with pipes. The farmer gets his water from a community borehole.
His long-term plan is to put 10 acres under drip irrigation and horticulture. He bought the cabbage seeds at Sh10,000 and fertiliser for a similar amount. Tillage cost him Sh5,000, chemicals, Sh6,000 and labour, Sh18,000 for the 75 days the crop is on the farm, from planting to harvesting.
But how did Mr Mengich get into farming?
“I had tried out some retail businesses but quit as I always had confrontations with my customers, which is not healthy for any business.” In 2008, he decided to try his hand at horticulture and has never looked back.
With an initial capital of Sh290,000, which he borrowed from the Youth Enterprise Fund, Mr Mengich started farming on a quarter acre in Kipsenende Village on the outskirts of Eldoret Town, off the Eldoret – Eldama Ravine highway. Part of the money went into buying an extra half an acre.
Today, he has two acres and plans an additional half an acre when he plants next. The farmer, who started by growing baby corn, snow peas, sugar snaps, French beans and carrots, says he chose horticulture because the crops mature within a short time and can be grown up to four times a year.
“Baby-corn takes 65 days to mature, snow peas, 55 days, French beans, 45 days and Quisor cabbages, 75 days,” Mr Mengich said during an interview on his farm.
“There are many problems in the cereals sector and to get any tangible returns, one should be a large-scale farmer,” he adds. “I have been planting carrots and after this harvest, I will plant potatoes. I keep changing the crops because of market demand.”
With the drip irrigation, one can use the farm throughout the year. He has been growing vegetables mostly for export, having been contracted by a private firm.
However, he has since registered his own company, White Highlands Horticulture. “The only ones that I sell locally are those which may not meet export standards, but are good for the local market. In the export market, even a tiny black spot on produce is an issue,” he adds.
Despite the interest already shown by a local university in the crop, his first consignment, which he exported under his company went to Seychelles. The consignment was exported through Eldoret International Airport.