Coping with COVID-19: Teacher Turns to Onion Farming
Jonathan Mbuvi is a primary school teacher in Kitui county who in May 2020 found himself at home after the closure of schools due to COVID-19. After listening to a radio programme by Benedict Mathitu on Wikwatyo FM, a radio station partnering with KiMI, and having nothing much to do he considered the idea of venturing into onion farming. Mr. Mbuvi requested to meet Mr. Mathitu, an extension officer with the Ministry of Agriculture, for further advice. The extension officer gave Mr Mbuvi’s idea impetus and linked him up with an expert from an agrochemicals, seeds and farm equipment’s company based in Kitui County, who advised him on the recommended variety of onion seed to plant. The expert also assisted Mr. Mbuvi in establishing an onion nursery on his one-acre farm. Benedict and the expert from the agrochemical company advised the teacher every step of the way, enabling him to grow the onions using recommended methods. He was able to purchase and install irrigation equipment for the onions and carry out proper land preparation for transplanting. Mr. Mbuvi harvested 10 tons of onions from his one-acre farm.
Onion farming is profitable if a farmer follows instructions by agronomists. However, Mr. Mbuvi adds that it is a costly affair and labour intensive. This venture cost him Kshs. 200,000. He expects to make a profit of Kshs. 300,000 if he sells the crop at Kshs.50 per kilo. He says a farmer must have the finances needed to make the venture a success as well as be patient and willing to follow the advice given by experts. His neighbours who followed in his footsteps and decided to also grow onions failed because they did not use fertilizer as they believed their land is fertile and they did not buy some farm inputs as they found them too expensive.
Mr. Mbuvi concludes by stating that the stay-at-home situation occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic has given him another perspective to life. He says “There are other avenues of making a living without depending so much on a monthly salary”. Mr. Mathitu the extension officer visited his farm and was challenged to start growing onions (teacher learning from student!). Mr. Mbuvi is a young man with a wife and two small children. He has been recently posted to Makueni county and plans to move with his irrigation equipment in order to continue farming on leased land.