Dolichos is a type of legume that is commonly grown in Kenya for its edible beans and leaves. Dolichos farming is popular in many parts of the country, particularly in the Western, Central and Eastern regions.

Njahi Dolichos Farmer In Kenya
Njahi Dolichos Farmer In Kenya – Photo Courtesy

Njahi (Dolichos lablab) grow and perform optimally in a wide range of temperatures since it’s drought tolerant pulse crop even hot temperatures as 28ยฐc-35ยฐc, with a low altitudes range of 500- 1800. in slightly acidic soils PH 5-7 well drained soils.

Despite its importance, dolichos bean is still a neglected crop with unexploited potential. But now farmers in marginal areas have been looking forward to low-input drought tolerant crop that mature within short period.
โ€œIts short maturity period of 5 months and its regeneration potential has endeared local farmers to the crop. The crop does not require large space and has the potential to creep like sweet potatoes โ€œ
Unlike other beans that are uprooted during harvesting, dolichos continue to produce pods even after the initial harvesting.. They resprout and can continue to produce new pods from the fifth month to eight months when they are uprooted. Demand for the bean is quite high locally and internationally though prices per 90 kg bag can sometimes be erratic
  1. Climate and soil requirements: Dolichos grows best in areas with a warm and humid climate, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 28ยฐC. The crop also requires well-drained soils with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.
  2. Planting: Dolichos can be planted directly in the field or started in a nursery before transplanting. Planting should be done at the onset of the rainy season, and the crop requires regular watering throughout its growth period.
  3. Crop management: Dolichos requires regular weeding to minimize competition for nutrients and water. The crop also benefits from the application of organic fertilizer such as farmyard manure, which helps to improve soil fertility.
  4. Harvesting: Dolichos is ready for harvest about three to four months after planting, when the pods are fully mature and dry. The pods should be harvested by hand and allowed to dry further in a well-ventilated area before threshing to remove the beans.
  5. Uses: Dolichos beans can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, or ground into flour to make a variety of dishes. The leaves can also be eaten as a nutritious vegetable, and the crop is sometimes used as animal feed.

Profitability of dolichos farming in Kenya

Dolichos, also known as njahi, are a type of legume crop that is popularly grown in Kenya. Dolichos farming has the potential to be profitable in Kenya if managed effectively. Here are some factors that can influence the profitability of dolichos farming in Kenya:
  1. Market demand: The demand for dolichos in local and international markets will determine the profitability of farming. Farmers should research the market to understand the current and future demand for the crop and the prices that buyers are willing to pay.
  2. Soil fertility: Dolichos grow well in fertile soils with good drainage. Farmers should ensure that their land is prepared properly and that they use appropriate fertilizers to maintain soil fertility.
  3. Pest and disease control: Dolichos are susceptible to pests and diseases, which can reduce yields and lower profitability. Farmers should monitor their crops for pests and diseases and use appropriate control measures.
  4. Climate: Dolichos prefer warm, moist conditions and do not do well in cold or dry weather. Farmers should plant during the rainy season and irrigate during the dry season.
  5. Labour costs: The labour costs involved in dolichos farming can affect profitability. Farmers should ensure that they have enough labour to plant, weed, harvest and process the crop.
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Overall, if managed effectively, dolichos farming can be profitable in Kenya. However, farmers should be aware of the risks and challenges involved and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Dolichos farming can be a profitable enterprise for farmers in Kenya, as the crop is in high demand both locally and internationally. With proper crop management practices, farmers can achieve high yields and improve their incomes.

Success Story Of A Njahi (Dolichos) Farmer In Kenya

Credit

While demand for dolichos beans in the United States and Europe continues to rise, local farmers in dry part of the country where the crop thrives perpetually suffer poor from farm gate prices.
Farmers in Laikipia have hoarded their harvested beans awaiting good prices expected in December and early next year.
โ€œI have threshed 5 bags each weighing 90 kg and I am waiting for better prices later in the year. At the current farm gate price of Ksh 70 per kg, we will be making losses. We anticipate that the prices per kilo will peak Ksh 150 by December when we will sell and make a handsome profitโ€, said Margaret Warukira Mwangi, a dolichos farmers in Wangwaci, area of Sipili in Laikipia East.
Hardy and tolerant to harsh environmental conditions, dolichos are rich in proteins and provide value addition to land use in marginal areas of the country.
The beans are black eyed and come as the black or brown seeds.ย The beans are rich in proteins, vitamins C, mineral salts such as copper, potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. They are also rich in fibre.
Known asย Njahi-ย they have a special place in Kenyan local diets and are usually cooked when there are dowry ceremonies or when a new born child arrives.
It is also used as animal fodder and green manure in mixed crop-livestock systems. Bean plant is an excellent nitrogen fixer and is sometimes grown as a cover crop or for livestock fodder.
Despite its importance, dolichos bean is still a neglected crop with unexploited potential. But now farmers in marginal areas have been looking forward to low-input drought tolerant crop that mature within short period.
โ€œIts short maturity period of 5 months and its regeneration potential has endeared local farmers to the crop. The crop does not require large space and has the potential to creep like sweet potatoes โ€œ, notes George Kamau, a field officer with Tree is Life Project, a Nyahururu based non-governmental organisation that works closely with farmers in arid parts of Laikipia and Nyandarua.
Kamau says that a new Katumani variety recently introduced in the areas has interested farmers though some challenges of raising the crop persist.
To obtain maximum benefits in terms of input and extension services, local farmers have formed Kauka Livestock Keepers Group which has become the focal point of exchanging ideas on emerging issues such as dolichos growing.
โ€œUnlike other beans that are uprooted during harvesting, dolichos continue to produce pods even after the initial harvesting.. They resprout and can continue to produce new pods from the fifth month to eight months when they are uprooted. Demand for the bean is quite high locally and internationally though prices per 90 kg bag can sometimes be erraticโ€, said Peter Chege, the treasurer of the 16- member Kauka Livestock Keepers Group.
At present, a least 14 members of the group have planted dolichos in their farms with about 14 acres under the crop.
Most farmers in the region have pure stands under dolichos which are planted at a spacing of 3 feet by 2 feet.
โ€œAt Ksh 225 per kg of seeds, no fertilizer application, the cost of production in quit low initially. But regular spraying against pest and blight presents the biggest challenge to local producers. As a new crop variety, farmers are quickly learning the challenges associated with raising the crop, whose yields are high compared to indigenous varietiesโ€, observes Kamau.
According to the extension officer, spraying against pest โ€“mainly mites, thrips and cut worms has to be done every ten days especially at the flowering stage. This has led to high overhead cost for the farmers as the majority are spraying crops for the first time.
โ€œToo much rain during flowering promotes blight and farmers have to spend huge amounts on spraying to save the crop. Otherwise, with minimal rainfall, the crop will earn the farmers huge profits as happened a few years ago when prices hit Ksh 150 per 90 kg bag fetching farmers Ksh 13,500 for the bagโ€.
With her crop awaiting second harvesting period, Mrs. Mwangi- who has already harvested and stored 5 bags from her one-and-a-half plot under dolichos- expects to get another 15 bags.
โ€œIf favourable prices of Ksh 150 per kg are attainable by early next year, I will be able to cover all my overheads and still earn some good profit. Considering that ours is mixed farming where we keep chicken, goats and grow other crops like maize, dolichos add value to our farming and cushions us from dire time when other crops failโ€, she says.
Another challenge that dolichos farmers have to content with is threshing. While the maize thresher has in the past been used to thresh crops like indigenous dolichos, the Katumani variety has to be shelled manually to minimize loss of the beans.
While little marketing information of dolichos is available , reports from the internet indicate that dolichos has in high demand in the developed world as consumers become choosy โ€“looking for food that have grown with low inputs.
In the West however, the beans are cooked as pods.ย Young immature pods have a strong flavor and are cooked and eaten like green beans.
ย Young leaves are eaten raw in salads and older leaves are cooked like spinach.
Flowers are eaten raw or steamed. The large starchy root tubers can be boiled and baked. The immature seeds can be boiled and eaten like any shelly bean.
โ€œIf local farmers could be linked with the huge markets in the West โ€“particularly in the US and Europe, they will be able to get better prices for their crop with a bigger impact on their socio-economic status. The acreage will also increase as more farmers get interested in the cropโ€, observes Kamau, an extension officer with expansive knowledge on dryland farming.
The World Banks notes that increased access to better markets for the mainly rural based smallholder farmers will boost food production, reduce poverty and improve local income levels. It will also reduce food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia- two regions that occasionally require food aid.

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