Mchicha or Amaranth is a traditional vegetable that is quite popular in Kenya. This vegetable crop is very easy to cultivate and has a good market size therefore, reaping profit from it is relatively easy. This article will, therefore, take you through how to farm Mchicha for business in Kenya. We will also carefully analyze the requirements i.e., nutritional and physical requirements and include harvesting and selling your products in the Kenyan Market.
Let’s dive in
What is Mchicha?
Mchicha is a Swahili word that refers to a type of leafy vegetable commonly known as “amaranth greens” in English. It is a nutritious vegetable that is popular in East Africa and is often used in stews, soups, and other traditional dishes. Mchicha is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and other important nutrients, making it an important part of the local diet. It is also a good source of dietary fibre and has been linked to various health benefits, including improved digestion, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of certain chronic diseases.
What are the main Varieties of Mchicha?
In Kenya, there are several different varieties of Mchicha/Amaranth. However, here is a list of the three most popular varieties:
- Amaranthus cruentus: This is the most widely cultivated variety of amaranth. It is also known as red amaranth or African spinach. The leaves are dark green or purplish-red and have a slightly sweet taste.
- Amaranthus hybridus: This variety is also known as slim amaranth or smooth amaranth. The leaves are smaller and more tender than those of A. cruentus and have a milder flavour.
- Amaranthus tricolour: This variety is also known as Chinese spinach or edible amaranth. The leaves are green, red, and yellow and have a slightly tangy taste. They are commonly used in Asian cuisine, particularly in stir-fries and soups.
So how do you choose the right variety of Mchicha to grow in Kenya?
Choosing the right variety entirely depends on your needs and those of the buyers.
For business purposes, you will need to do a local investigation into the variety that people prefer. Assuming that you will be planting and whole-selling to brokers or other traders, you will need to inquire about which varieties they want.
If you still find it difficult to settle on a good variety, visit your local Agro-vet shop and let the owner of the shop give you some insight on the best variety for your area.
However, red amaranth is the most popular variety in Kenya.
Also, read: Irish Potato Farming in Kenya (Expert Guide)
Land preparation and planting process for Mchicha
Amaranth/Mchicha is first planted in seedbeds for transplant. These seedlings are produced after a month and they are then transferred to furrows on land.
Before planting, you will need to purchase seeds depending on the size of the land you want to cultivate. For instance, for half an acre of land in Kenya, you will need about 50g of Amaranth which is priced at around Ksh.250 – Ksh.400. Organic manure is more advisable as it is more affordable.
For your seedbed preparation, follow the steps listed below;
- Choose a sunny, well-drained area and remove any weeds or debris.
- Loosen the soil to a depth of 15-20 cm and add organic matter such as compost.
- Rake the soil to create a smooth surface and make shallow furrows spaced 30 cm apart.
- Sow the mchicha seeds thinly in the furrows and cover lightly with soil.
- Water gently, cover with a thin layer of mulch, and water regularly to keep the soil moist.
- Thin out seedlings when they reach 10-15 cm in height, leaving only the strongest plants spaced 15-20 cm apart.
After one month of growth, your mchicha seedlings will be ready for transplanting. You will need to have prepared furrows for this.
Make sure to:
- Choose a well-drained planting area that receives plenty of sunlight.
- Dig furrows that are spaced 50-60 cm apart, and deep enough (15cm+) to accommodate the root ball of the seedlings.
- Improve your soil nutrient content by using manure. The manure should be filling the furrow and then be mixed with soil, in a ratio of 1:3 respectively.
- Water the furrows to ensure the soil is moist. Do this mainly in the evening.
- Gently remove the mchicha seedlings from the seedbeds, being careful not to damage the roots.
- Transplant the seedlings into the furrows, spacing them about 10cm apart.
- Firm the soil around the seedlings to eliminate any air pockets.
- Water the transplanted seedlings immediately, and continue to water regularly to keep the soil moist.
- Mulch around the seedlings to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
- Monitor the seedlings regularly for any signs of pests or diseases, and take appropriate action as needed.
These seedlings will grow on your farm for one month, and you will then start to harvest your suckers every week for the next four months.
For a successful four-month harvesting period, you will need to consistently irrigate the Mchicha crop with a lot of water, and use a lot of manure.
As you do your first harvest, you will need to check and do weeding and continue with this regularly. Weeds compete with plants for sunlight, nutrients and water and this will lower your produce, and consequently, your profit margins.
After four months of weekly harvesting, you will need to do a fresh transplanting process. However, if you have no intention of repeating this procedure, you can opt to cut off the heads of your mchicha crops and they will shoot out again.
Note that for healthy shoots, you will need to put in more feeds and manure and fertilizer.
Pests and disease control for mchicha/amaranth
Here’s a summary of common pests and diseases that affect mchicha, along with their symptoms and control measures:
|Aphids||Spray with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Encourage natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings.|
|Cutworms||Apply a barrier of diatomaceous earth or copper tape around the base of the plants. Handpick and remove larvae.|
|Downy mildew||Apply a copper-based fungicide. Remove and dispose of infected plants. Ensure adequate spacing and ventilation between plants.|
|Fusarium wilt||Remove and dispose of infected plants. Ensure good drainage and avoid overwatering. Rotate crops.|
|Leaf spot||Apply a copper-based fungicide. Remove and dispose of infected leaves. Avoid overhead watering.|
|Spider mites||Spray with water or insecticidal soap to dislodge mites. Encourage natural predators such as predatory mites and ladybugs.|
|Whiteflies||Spray with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Encourage natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings.|
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Market and sale of Mchicha
The Mchicha market is greatly affected by the manager market as they are complementary goods. So, if you have more land to spare, you can choose to plant managu and sell both products.
Mchicha sells at around Ksh.10 to Ksh.40 per kilogram in Kenya. This margin may shift depending on your location and agreement with your buyer.
For half an acre of mchicha, you should expect a minimum of 800kg of mchicha harvest a month, assuming you harvest every week.
Let’s break down your income margins:
If you choose to sell at Ksh.10 per kilogram;
Ksh.10/1kg × 800kg = KSh.8,000
However, selling at Ksh.40 per kilogram;
Ksh.40/1kg × 800kg = KSh32,000
In conclusion, mchicha (amaranth greens) is a nutritious and versatile crop that can be grown in a variety of conditions. Whether you’re a small-scale farmer or a home gardener, with a little bit of care and attention, you can successfully grow mchicha and enjoy its numerous health benefits.
By following the steps outlined in this article, from preparing the seedbeds to transplanting the seedlings and implementing pest and disease control measures, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of this delicious and nutritious vegetable.