A murram road leads to a massive steel gate in Kathienge village in Giaki sub-location, Meru County. Fridah Meme, clad in black jeans and a marching T-shirt, opens the gate to usher the team into her eight-acre farm, on which farms indigenous chickens as well as groundnuts and maize.

“Groundnuts are my main crop because of their higher returns,” says the MSc in Crop Protection student at the University of Nairobi.

“I intercrop the groundnuts with maize. This has enabled me to earn more and through this project I have been able to pay for education comfortably,” adds the 40-year-old.

With groundnuts, she says, one does not need a big farm to earn big from the soil. A 2kg tin of groundnuts is currently going for Sh250 and a 90kg at an average of Sh10,000.

When it comes to planting groundnuts, she says, timing is key for maximum returns.

“Just like maize, groundnut is an early-season crop thus must be grown at the onset of rains. A space of 30-45cm is needed between rows and 15-20cm between plants.”

“This means an acre accommodates about 30,000 plants, which is equivalent to at least 16-20kg of seeds that are sowed to a depth of 5-6cm,” explains Fridah.

Weeding commences two to three weeks after germination and mounding should be done while weeding to encourage growing of bigger nuts.

“I normally do hand-weeding after the start of the penetration of young nuts in the soil to avoid disturbing them or damaging the flowers. Weeding using hoes should take place for six weeks after which only hand weeding should be done.”

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To ensure maximum yields, she applies fertiliser with calcium to the crop when pods are forming.

“I also use about 20kg of phosphate fertiliser to boost the firmness of the crop,” says Fridah, who notes she buys groundnut seeds worth Sh7,000.

To manage diseases like leaf spot, crown rot and pests like termites, aphids, and millipedes which attack roots, stem base, leaves and pods, she plants at the onset of rains.

“I also practice crop rotation and observe farm hygiene by planting certified seeds.” She harvests 1,000kg of nuts from her farm and sells a kilo at between Sh100 and Sh150.

Good harvesting of groundnuts is critical to avoid breaking of pods and seeds, which should be well-dried after shelling to avoid aflatoxin contamination.

Harun Mbogo, an agronomist, says that many farmers end up with aflatoxin-contaminated nuts because of failing to adhere to best practices from planting to harvesting and after harvesting.

“Farmers should do proper mounding of soil during first and second weeding.”

They should also harvest the crop when mature, remove pods and dry them on a canvas for five days followed by winnowing to remove dirt.

Prof Paul Kimurto, a crop scientist at Egerton University, notes that intercropping groundnuts with maize is highly recommended for farmers to break even.

“Intercropping leads to higher returns as total production per hectare increases and ensures more efficiency in land use. It also reduces usage of inputs like nitrogen fertiliser, builds soil organic matter, helps in the suppression of insect pests, weeds and diseases. The need for chemical inputs also goes down.”

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Besides groundnuts, Fridah also farms tangerines that she sells at Sh1,500 per crate, keeps 50 chickens selling a tray of eggs at Sh450 and a dairy cow that produces 20 litres a day.

She has also planted green grams, cowpeas and beans on half-acre each.

“I sell green grams and cowpeas at Sh70 per kilo. I sold five 90bags of beans at Sh6,000 and groundnuts earn me at least Sh60,000 a season.”

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