Dressed in a black overcoat, Kenneth Mutwiri digs the soil around an arrowroot plant using a machete to loosen it. He then uproots the plant, revealing a tuber weighing about a kilo.
The farmer, 29, switched from maize and cabbage farming to arrowroots in search of higher profits.
“I grow the upland variety of the crop, which does not need a swampy area,” says Mutwiri, who farms in Katheri village in Meru County on a quarter-acre.
He started the project in October last year, investing Sh6,000 in buying 3,000 rhizomes of the Eddoe and Dasheen varieties. He also bought organic manure at Sh4,000, which he used to plant the crop.
To grow the crop, he digs trenches and places a polythene sheet at the base and puts in soil, which is mixed with manure at a ratio of 2:1.
Then one plants the rhizomes at a space of 2 feet between the furrows, and one foot from one plant to the other.
According to him, Eddoe variety does especially well in areas with little water while Dasheen has larger tubers.
The seedlings must then be watered well for a full week after planting and every two weeks thereafter.
PREVENT MOISTURE LOSS
“I mulch the crops using twigs to prevent moisture loss. The mulch also enriches the soil when it rots.”
The crop takes about six months to mature. “It’s not easily attacked by diseases and pests,” adds the farmer.
He has harvested the crop once, but the farmer says the Covid-19 pandemic that has seen some open-air markets closed has disrupted market for him.
“I sell a kilo at between Sh50 and Sh80, though some buy the produce per piece. Sometimes prices rise as high as Sh100 per kilo when supply is low,” adds the farmer.
He observes that the upland variety is tastier, compared to those grown in areas with too much water.
The farmer, who also has two timber yards in Meru town, urges those who intend to engage in arrowroot farming to ensure that they have sufficient water.
Arrowroots are prone to leaf spot disease, which can, however, be controlled by fungicides. The tubers are rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper and manganese.
Silus Oduor from the Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University, says arrowroot is a high value crop that does well in soils that contain high moisture.
“This explains why it is mostly grown along the streams for optimum yields. It requires good spacing and is ready for harvest in six months,” says the crops expert