Banker quits his job to grow garlic thanks to ready markets

By Malachi Motano

Meet a career banker who quits his lucrative job at the bank, only to venture into garlic farming, in a village several miles away from his rural home. He shares his encouraging story.

“My name is Kennedy Mathenge, a garlic onion farmer in Ramulia area, Kieni west- Nyeri count though I come all the way from Nakuru County. I began my career pursuit as a banker, since I am a banker by profession but worked in different mainstream banks for only eight to nine years before I saw money in the soil and choosing garlic was a complementary, “Mathenge begins his story.

With Kshs. 300,000 as starting capital he leased land, bought seeds, and prepared the land among other requirements that were needed to begin the new venture. I am now about one year old in the garlic onion business and has increased my acreage to three.


Mathenge says production of garlic onions looks tedious since it involves planting, application of manure, watering and praying (done in a week and weeding every month), possible diseases and control.

“For planting, garlic onion is vegetative propagated which means the farmer must plant individual cloves separating them from the main bulb. Farmers are advised to consider planting between 100 and 200kg of cloves on an acre. This would make irrigation and weeding easy. On spacing, they should be planted in double rows if not wide beds of four to six rows with 10 to 20cm between plants however, the best thing to start with is good seedlings.  The size of the crop will determine your spacing,” Mathenge says.

When it comes to manure application, he says well-compost manure should be ploughed in before planting  with topdressing using liquid manure done regularly at the beginning of 6 – 8 weeks but is increased during bulb formation.

Watering is very important though lack of it during growth is the most common stress since the crop doesn’t compensate for drought periods by prolonged growth. “Just a short period of drought affects the yield, more so when bulbs are expanding. Lack of water predisposes the crop to infestation by insects,” he says.

Garlic onions just like any other crop, are exposed to disease but can be controlled. Some of the most common diseases include purple blotch, downey mildew, rust and bulb rot (white rot). “The good thing is that all can be easily controlled through wither long crop rotation, improved drainage or use of copper based fungicides like copper oxydchloride, which is accepted in organic farming, says Mathenge.

He says that unlike other high-value crops, garlic is not hard to grow since it only requires fertile well-drained soil, adequate moisture, and, of course, planting the right seeds to fully grow, unfortunately despite the availability of the above, it is still grown just in small scale. Some of Other areas where the crop can do well are parts of Narok, Nakuru and Meru counties.

Next is harvesting which should always start as soon as the lower leaves begin to yellow and fold and the crop becomes weak at the neck, beginning to fall. Garlic takes four months to be ready after planting. With recommended crop rotation, one can only do two seasons in a year.


Mathenge doesn’t regret quitting his lucrative job at the bank. Although he has just been into garlic farming for one year, he admits that there is indeed a big return if well handled. In his case, he targets 5 tonnes per acres but can always begin from four tonnes, to six.  

For an acre piece of land he requires 100 kilograms of garlic seeds which go for up to Ksh 550 per kilo so, the cost of production would be 55,000 and produces between 4,000 to 6,000 kilograms of the crop. Going with 5000 kilos and selling at Ksh350 per kilo during the peak season Mathenge would make a gross income of about 1,750.

“Minus 55000, production cost, I make a clean 1,695,000 net income, though when it comes to selling, we normally look at the prices in the market that always range from Ksh 150 to Ksh 250 or even Ksh 300. I can remember there is a time prices went up to Ksh. 350, “says Mathenge. Sometime he chooses to sell garlic when fresh to seed producers


“There is more than enough market for garlic locally even before thinking ofexporting the produce. My big markets are in Mombasa,” he says.

The local market according to the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), requires 1,000mt of garlic every year. That although Kenya produces around 2,000 metric tonnes of the crop every year, the demand is still high, giving room for importation of large quantity almost  half of its produce.

Data with HCD indicates that half of the garlic imports the country requested last year were from China in the attempts by traders and suppliers outside Kenya to reduce the supply gap.  Surprisingly, even after packaging and importation, garlic is still sold at a wholesale price of about Sh200 per kilo. Experts maintain that the crop can grow well in the country hence doesn’t need.

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