There is a kale variety in the market. Folks have nicknamed it Sukuma Matumbo; Matumbo being the Swahili word for intestines and Sukuma being kales. The reason it may have been called so is because of its physical appearance that resembles that of Matumbo. Its official name is Sukuma Malkia.
Sukuma Matumbo is an early maturing kale variety that produces large sized, excellent leaves which are of good quality. It does well on virgin lands but for farmers beginning to grow it, it’s recommended to do a soil test to establish which nutrients are lacking in the soil. Malkia matures in 40 days from the date of transplanting unlike ordinary varieties that mature after 50 days.
“They are also high yielding. The leaves are tender and tastier and takes a shorter time to cook hence saving on energy,” Charles Mungai said. Research shows that this variety of kales has been around for quite some time but they have rarely been grown.
For the 25 members of Gatanga Self Help group, delving into farming of Sukuma Matumbo and other array of horticultural crops has been the best decision they made. Having entered into numerous contracts with buyers at local markets purchasing their produce at farm gate price some years back, they have also penetrated the Asian Market with Sukuma Matumbo being one of their favorite and fetching relatively good price.
The idea to engage into the cultivation of ‘Sukuma Matumbo’ came about while supplying other food crops that they were delivering to the market. They came across this type of vegetable that was a delicacy for the Asians. They enquired more about the crop and purchased seeds for planting.
At a time when studies show that over 40 percent of Kenyan small scale farmers continue being buffeted by market vagaries like over supply and lack of markets for their produces, Charles Mungai reveals that as a group they are struggling to meet the market demand thanks to an emerging trend where Asians are buying directly from farmers and sometimes they collect from the farm but the produce must be of high quality.
Under the guidance of Murang’a Co-operative Society, an agricultural organization that is helping young farming groups in Murang’a to find a footing in farming, the group has benefitted from support of research that includes information on better farming practices to increase yields and how to avoid post-harvest losses. They have also been helping them to connect to markets. “The society has been of good help teaching us how to be able to craft our own organic compost which we are using while growing our crops,” Mungai said.
The group makes organic fertilizers and organic foliar feeds that they apply on their crops. The fertilizer helps in reducing soil acidity and also in improving moisture contents by enhancing soil texture, making it compact thus reducing soil erosion.
“We usually buy Malkia seeds from agrovert and raise the seedlings on our own. The seeds are quite expensive considering that they are not grown by many people and there are few companies like Syngenta EA selling the seeds. Those interested in farming Sukuma Matumbo should ensure they have reliable source of water since the kales require sufficient water. For us we use overflow, dam harvested water,” he said.
Vegetables are increasingly recognized as essential for food and nutrition security. They are providing a promising economic opportunity for reducing rural poverty and unemployment in developing countries. They are key components of farm diversification.
They are mankind’s most affordable source of vitamins and minerals needed for good health. Today, neither the economic nor nutritional power of vegetables is sufficiently realized.
To tap the economic power of the vegetables, farmers need to increase their investment in farm productivity including improved varieties, alternatives to chemical pesticides, and the use of protected cultivation, good postharvest management, food safety and market access.
To tap the nutritional power of vegetables, consumers need to understand how vegetables contribute to good health, and be able to grow them.
To fully tap the economical and nutritional power of vegetables, governments and donors will need to give vegetables much greater priority. Now is the time to prioritize investments in vegetables, providing increased economic opportunities for smallholder farmers and providing healthy diets for all.