Okra, the new cash crop in Manafwa
Posted Wednesday, January 30 2013 at 00:00
Since okra was introduced to farmers in Manafwa District with the assurance of a market, there is more income to earn.
For a long time, farmers in Manafwa District have always grown the traditional crops; maize, coffee, beans and other vegetables like sukuma wiki (collard) for both subsistence and economic reasons. On the latter, the surplus is what is sold after the food requirements have been met.
Enter into the equation, okra which is known here as kumurere/mulerere/mulere.
Three years ago, a local NGO called Elimination of Hardcore Poverty Foundation (Elohacopo) introduced okra as an alternative crop but many farmers were reluctant to adopt it for various reasons including the fear that it had no ready market.
Although many may know that okra as a plant grows naturally in gardens as a weed, it is now planted all over the world as a commercial crop that is highly priced.
Okra grows best in full sunlight and in the soils that are fertile, moist and well drained.
“It likes hot growing conditions, so plant it in the hottest part of your garden, and use plenty of mulch to conserve water and this is the reason why we chose Namisindwa for its hot season throughout the year,” says Ms Kanae Wakasugi, a volunteer who assists the farmers in growing the crop.
Under a new partnership between Namisindwa Rural Farmers Association (Narfa) and Elohacopo, 10 acres of land were set aside for growing okra with an assured market of Shs 1,600 per kilogramme to encourage farmers to take up the crop.
And they have done so alongside other crops like maize, beans and coffee in Bubutu, Bumoni, Lwakhakha and Magale Sub-counties as pioneer groups. In Bumoni Sub-county, the farmers were preparing for the third harvest this year.
According to NARFA chairman, Mr John Walukano although they have been growing crops like maize, beans and sukuma wiki, they have only been consuming these domestically because they could not market them due to low prices. For okra, the market opportunity exists.
“And under a new generation of farmers assisted by Elohacopo, we are determined to grow this crop for international markets,” said Walukano, who is also farmer in Bumusomi village, Butemulani parish in Bumoni Sub-county.
“It is now not viable to grow maize being sold at Shs 800 a kilogramme, we have changed from maize to okra. We also encouraged local farmers to come on board because we have a marketing officer and an adviser from Japan,” he says.
Many farmers who have been growing crops such as maize and beans were being frustrated by low prices of the two food crops.
But with the presence of an international company, Icemark, that purchases okra at Shs2,000 to Shs2,500 per kg, the picture is different.
Wolukano revealed that they were initially hesitant about the crop. In two years since, some of the farmers who started at the time are already earning a good income from okra.
Currently, there about 300 registered farmers willing to start growing okra for both local and international markets.