Groundnuts also known as peanuts are leguminous plants that Solomon Othira of Kabondo village, Homabay County ventured into immediately after retiring from teaching in 2006. His teaching career spaned to thirty years.
At his age when most of his fellow retirees are catching a breath from a tiresome career, he is busy in the field carrying out his daily farming chores. ‘’Every morning when I wake up, I feed my cows and head straight to the farm. It is my daily routine; the farm has also enabled me to stay physically fit at this age,’’ said Othira joyfully.
In the past, he reveals that maize and beans were the main crops he solely cultivated as they are the core food crops that are cultivated by the locals in the region. ‘’After retiring, I decided to venture into a crop that could add a few more coins into my pocket. I did a lot of research on crops in this area and I found out that groundnuts are very marketable and are not labor intensive,’’ he averred.
Othira sourced for the improved variety seeds from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO), Kisumu branch where a kilogram was retailing at 150 shillings.
Through his experience in growing the legumes, he narrates that one does not require technical expertise rather basic Knowledge is necessary. “Provided the land is well dug, aerated and is rid of weeds, the crop are likely to sprout well”, he elucidated.
While growing groundnuts, moderate rainfall, warm climate coupled with fertile soils are ideal. ‘’I do deep tilling of the land to achieve loose soils which make water to easily penetrate underneath as this ensures the developing pods are well watered,’’ Othira said.
Afterwards he does a second digging whose primary role is to turn around the soil and to ensure enough air is circulated to the soils.
During the planting period, Othira narrated he considers a spacing of one and a half feet between the rows and eight inches between the plants. This positioning according to him enables him to have more space to create molds around the plants.
He plants using well decomposed manure. He weeds twice to remove weeds. Moreover the second weeding is the most tedious as the leguminous crops usually have developed the peapods. ‘’This is very risky as pulling the weeds one end up extracting the plant themselves; a lot of care is actually needed,’’ he explained.
Early detentions of diseases; Othira considers it as crucial in the farming of groundnuts. He sprays pesticides and fungicides to prevent diseases like botrytis blight, alternaria leaf spot and groundnut eyespot. Uprooting of the affected peanuts is another way he uses to prevent diseases.
‘’Squirrels always uproot the groundnuts when mature, I use effigies to keep them at bay; but they usually have a way of dogging. I have developed special traps to trap them and also watching over the crop day long,’’ he said
Harvesting period is the most exciting moment as he is able to reap what he has sowed for the four months. The period lasts close to a month as he takes care not to leave any of his produce to go as a waste in the farm. Once harvested, he dries them to remove the moisture contents before peeling to remove the nuts from the pods. ’’In the past I used to sell them before drying to the ‘mamas’ who sell them boiled as ‘guardian fresh’, Othira uttered.
During the just concluded harvesting months, he harvested ten bags which he usually sell at 6,000 shillings per bag. ‘’This season has not been the best due to fungal diseases,” he said.
On a good season he reveals he usually harvests, fifteen bags selling them for 90,000 shillings. In his final remarks, he urges his fellow retirees to venture into farming and stop over relying on their children for assistance.