Stevia Farming has been gaining popularity in Kenya and around the world as the sweet herb is preferred as an alternative to sugar. It is a native plant of South America and has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener. Stevia contains zero calories, making it an ideal sweetener for people who are looking to reduce their sugar intake. In Kenya, stevia farming is gaining momentum, and many farmers are starting to embrace this crop due to its high demand both locally and internationally. This blog post will delve into stevia farming in Kenya and provide insights of this crop in detail.

stevia farming in kenya

Opportunities and Challenges of Stevia Farming in Kenya

Stevia farming presents several opportunities for Kenyan farmers. The first opportunity is that stevia has a high demand both locally and internationally. The global demand for stevia is expected to reach USD 721 million by 2025, which presents a significant opportunity for Kenyan farmers. Additionally, stevia requires minimal input costs and is a low-maintenance crop, making it an attractive option for small-scale farmers.

However, there are also several challenges that farmers face when cultivating stevia in Kenya. One of the challenges is the lack of knowledge and technical expertise on stevia farming. Since stevia is a relatively new crop in Kenya, many farmers lack the knowledge and expertise needed to cultivate this crop effectively. This lack of knowledge can lead to low yields and poor-quality stevia.

Another challenge is the limited market access for stevia farmers. Stevia is not yet widely recognized as a sweetener in Kenya, and therefore, the market for stevia products is relatively small. This limited market access can make it difficult for farmers to find buyers for their produce, which can result in low prices and reduced profitability.

To support the development of the stevia farming industry in Kenya, both the government and the private sector need to play a role. The government can provide training and education programs for farmers to enhance their knowledge and technical expertise in stevia farming. Additionally, the government can provide subsidies to farmers to help them acquire the necessary inputs, such as cuttings, fertilizers, and pesticides, at an affordable cost.

The private sector can also support the development of the stevia industry by investing in research and development. This can include developing new stevia products and technologies that enhance the efficiency of stevia farming, such as new harvesting equipment or processing technologies. Private companies can also collaborate with farmers to provide them with a guaranteed market for their produce, which can help reduce the risks associated with limited market access.

Sustainability of Stevia Farming

Sustainability is an essential aspect of any agricultural venture, including stevia farming. Farmers need to adopt sustainable farming practices to ensure the long-term viability of the industry. One way of achieving sustainability in stevia farming is through organic farming. Organic farming involves using natural inputs and techniques to manage pests and diseases and enhance soil fertility. Organic farming practices can help reduce the environmental impact of stevia farming and promote soil health.

Stevia Varieties In Kenya

There are several varieties of stevia that can be cultivated in Kenya. These varieties have different characteristics, including their sweetness level, growth habits, and resistance to pests and diseases.

  1. Stevia rebaudiana

Stevia rebaudiana is the most common variety of stevia cultivated in Kenya. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to one meter in height. The plant has green leaves that are oval-shaped and serrated at the edges. The leaves are the main source of steviol glycosides, which are the sweet components of the plant.

Stevia rebaudiana has a high sweetness level, making it an ideal natural sweetener for food and beverages. Additionally, the plant is resistant to pests and diseases, making it an easy crop to grow for small-scale farmers. However, the plant requires well-drained soil and regular watering to grow well.

  1. Stevia dulcis

Stevia dulcis, also known as the “honey leaf,” is another variety of stevia that can be grown in Kenya. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to 60 centimeters in height. The plant has green leaves that are oval-shaped and toothed at the edges.

Stevia dulcis has a unique sweetness level, which is less than that of Stevia rebaudiana. However, it has a pleasant aftertaste that is similar to honey, making it an ideal sweetener for baked goods and desserts. The plant is also resistant to pests and diseases and can grow well in well-drained soil.

  1. Stevia serrata

Stevia serrata is a variety of stevia that is native to the Himalayan region. The plant has green leaves that are lance-shaped and serrated at the edges. The leaves contain steviol glycosides, which are the sweet components of the plant.

Stevia serrata has a sweetness level that is lower than that of Stevia rebaudiana, making it an ideal sweetener for beverages and soups. The plant is resistant to pests and diseases and can grow well in well-drained soil.

  1. Stevia pilosa

Stevia pilosa is a variety of stevia that is native to South America. The plant has green leaves that are lance-shaped and covered in fine hairs. The leaves contain steviol glycosides, which are the sweet components of the plant.

Stevia pilosa has a sweetness level that is lower than that of Stevia rebaudiana, making it an ideal sweetener for teas and herbal infusions. The plant is resistant to pests and diseases and can grow well in well-drained soil.

Finally, there are several varieties of stevia that can be cultivated in Kenya. These varieties have different characteristics, including their sweetness level, growth habits, and resistance to pests and diseases. Stevia rebaudiana is the most common variety of stevia grown in Kenya due to its high sweetness level and resistance to pests and diseases. However, other varieties such as Stevia dulcis, Stevia serrata, and Stevia pilosa can also be grown and used as natural sweeteners in food and beverages.

stevia farmers in kenya
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Stevia Growing Regions In Kenya

The following is a detailed overview of Stevia growing regions in Kenya.

  1. Central region: The central region of Kenya is one of the largest producers of Stevia in the country. The region is home to many small-scale farmers who grow Stevia on their farms. The area has a favorable climate for Stevia growth, with plenty of sunshine and rainfall. Some of the key towns in this region where Stevia is grown include Nyeri, Murang’a, and Kiambu.
  2. Rift Valley region: The Rift Valley region is another key Stevia growing region in Kenya. The region has a diverse climate, ranging from hot and dry to cool and wet. This makes it suitable for growing a variety of crops, including Stevia. The region has many large-scale farms that grow Stevia for export. Some of the key towns in this region where Stevia is grown include Nakuru, Eldoret, and Naivasha.
  3. Western region: The western region of Kenya is also a significant producer of Stevia. The area has a humid and tropical climate, which is ideal for the growth of Stevia. The region is home to many small-scale farmers who grow Stevia on their farms. Some of the key towns in this region where Stevia is grown include Kisumu, Kakamega, and Bungoma.
  4. Coastal region: The coastal region of Kenya is another area where Stevia is grown. The region has a warm and humid climate, which is ideal for the growth of Stevia. The area has many small-scale farmers who grow Stevia on their farms. Some of the key towns in this region where Stevia is grown include Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu.

Stevia is grown in various regions across Kenya, including the central, Rift Valley, western, and coastal regions. The crop is mostly grown by small-scale farmers, although large-scale farms also produce Stevia for export. The ideal climate for Stevia growth is warm and humid, with plenty of sunshine and rainfall.

Suitable Growing Conditions for Stevia in Kenya

Stevia is a tropical plant that requires specific growing conditions to thrive. In Kenya, the plant can be grown in different regions, provided the necessary environmental conditions are met. Here are some of the essential growing conditions that are suitable for stevia cultivation in Kenya:

  1. Climate

Stevia grows best in warm and humid conditions. The ideal temperature range for stevia cultivation is between 20ยฐC and 30ยฐC. The plant is sensitive to frost, and therefore it should not be grown in areas with temperatures below 10ยฐC. Stevia requires an annual rainfall of 600mm to 1200mm, and it can be grown in areas with a well-distributed rainfall pattern.

  1. Soil

Stevia requires well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. The soil should be loamy or sandy loam, with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. The plant can also grow in soils with a slightly acidic or slightly alkaline pH, but the soil should not be too acidic or too alkaline as this can affect the plant’s growth and yield. The soil should be fertile and well-aerated to provide the plant with the necessary nutrients and oxygen.

  1. Sunlight

Stevia requires plenty of sunlight to grow well. The plant should be grown in an area with full sun exposure, which means at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. The plant can also grow in partially shaded areas, but this can affect the plant’s growth and yield.

  1. Water

Stevia requires regular watering to grow well. The plant should be watered twice a week during the dry season and once a week during the rainy season. Overwatering should be avoided as it can lead to waterlogging and root rot.

  1. Altitude

Stevia can be grown in different altitude ranges, provided the necessary environmental conditions are met. In Kenya, stevia can be grown in areas with an altitude range of 600m to 1500m above sea level.

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Stevia requires specific growing conditions to thrive, and these conditions can be met in different regions in Kenya. The plant requires warm and humid conditions, well-drained soil, full sun exposure, regular watering, and an altitude range of 600m to 1500m above sea level. To ensure optimal growth and yield, farmers should maintain the necessary environmental conditions and adopt good agricultural practices such as proper weed control, fertilization, and pest and disease management.

Step-by-Step Guide on Planting Stevia in Kenya

If you are interested in planting stevia in Kenya, here is a step-by-step guide that you can follow:

Step 1: Site Selection

Choose a suitable site for planting stevia. The site should have well-drained soil, full sun exposure, and access to water. Avoid planting stevia in areas prone to frost or strong winds.

Step 2: Soil Preparation

Prepare the soil by removing any weeds, debris, and stones. Stevia requires well-drained soil, so make sure the soil is loosened to a depth of at least 20cm. You can also add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility.

Step 3: Planting Material

Choose high-quality planting material. You can obtain stevia cuttings from a reputable nursery or from an established stevia farmer. The cuttings should be healthy and disease-free. Stevia can also be propagated through seeds, but this method is less common.

Step 4: Planting

Plant the stevia cuttings at a spacing of 50cm to 60cm between rows and 30cm to 40cm between plants. Make a small hole in the soil, insert the cutting, and cover it with soil. Firm the soil around the cutting to ensure good soil contact.

Step 5: Irrigation

Water the newly planted stevia cuttings immediately after planting. Stevia requires regular watering, especially during the first few weeks after planting. Water the plants twice a week during the dry season and once a week during the rainy season.

Step 6: Fertilization

Apply fertilizers according to the soil test recommendations. Stevia requires nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but excess nitrogen can lead to poor quality stevia leaves. Apply organic fertilizers such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and promote healthy plant growth.

Step 7: Weed Control

Weeds can compete with stevia for nutrients and water, so it’s essential to control them. Hand weeding or mechanical weeding can be used to remove weeds. Mulching can also be used to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Step 8: Pest and Disease Control

Stevia can be affected by pests and diseases such as aphids, whiteflies, and leaf spot. Monitor the plants regularly and take appropriate measures to control pests and diseases. Use pesticides and fungicides according to the recommended dosage and safety precautions.

Step 9: Harvesting

Harvest the stevia plants when they reach maturity, which is usually after four to five months. The leaves can be harvested by handpicking or by cutting the stems. Dry the leaves in the sun or using a dehydrator until they are crispy. Store the dried leaves in airtight containers away from direct sunlight.

Planting stevia in Kenya requires proper site selection, soil preparation, high-quality planting material, irrigation, fertilization, weed control, pest and disease control, and harvesting. By following this step-by-step guide, you can successfully grow stevia in Kenya and reap the benefits of this versatile and profitable crop.

Cost Of Stevia Production Per Acre

The cost of stevia production per acre in Kenya can vary depending on several factors such as the cost of land, labor, planting material, irrigation, fertilizers, pest and disease control, and harvesting. Here is a breakdown of the different cost components involved in stevia production:

  1. Land Preparation and Planting

The cost of land preparation can vary depending on the size of the land and the method of preparation. On average, land preparation can cost between Ksh 20,000 to Ksh 50,000 per acre. The cost of planting material (cuttings or seeds) can vary between Ksh 10,000 to Ksh 45,000 per acre.

  1. Irrigation

Stevia requires regular watering, especially during the first few weeks after planting. The cost of irrigation depends on the method of irrigation used. Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigation for stevia and can cost between Ksh 50,000 to Ksh 100,000 per acre.

  1. Fertilizers

Stevia requires nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but excess nitrogen can lead to poor quality stevia leaves. The cost of fertilizers depends on the soil test recommendations and the type of fertilizers used. On average, the cost of fertilizers can range between Ksh 20,000 to Ksh 50,000 per acre.

  1. Pest and Disease Control

Stevia can be affected by pests and diseases such as aphids, whiteflies, and leaf spot. The cost of pest and disease control depends on the severity of the infestation and the type of pesticides and fungicides used. On average, the cost of pest and disease control can range between Ksh 5,000 to Ksh 10,000 per acre.

  1. Labor

Stevia requires regular maintenance such as weeding, pruning, and harvesting. The cost of labor depends on the size of the farm and the prevailing wage rates in the area. On average, the cost of labor can range between Ksh 30,000 to Ksh 50,000 per acre.

  1. Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling

The cost of harvesting and post-harvest handling depends on the method of harvesting and the equipment used. The leaves can be harvested by handpicking or by cutting the stems. On average, the cost of harvesting and post-harvest handling can range between Ksh 10,000 to Ksh 20,000 per acre.

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Total Cost of Stevia Production per Acre

Adding up all the cost components, the total cost of stevia production per acre can range between Ksh 100,000 to Ksh 250,000. This is just an estimate, and the actual cost may vary depending on the farm’s location, the size of the farm, and the level of technology used.

Stevia production in Kenya can be a profitable venture if managed properly. However, it requires careful planning, adequate resources, and regular maintenance. By understanding the different cost components involved in stevia production, farmers can make informed decisions and maximize their returns.

Profitability Of Stevia Farming Per Acre In Kenya

The potential profits for stevia farming in Kenya can vary based on several factors such as the quality of the stevia plants, the market demand, the level of competition, and the cost of production. Here are some of the factors that can affect the expected profits per acre of stevia farming in Kenya:

Stevia seedlings in Kenya: 0724-559286
Stevia seedlings in Kenya: 0724-559286
  1. Quality of Stevia Plants

The quality of stevia plants is a significant determinant of the expected profits per acre of stevia farming in Kenya. High-quality stevia plants have high concentrations of steviol glycosides, which are the sweet compounds in stevia leaves. High concentrations of these sweet compounds translate to higher prices in the market. Therefore, farmers who can produce high-quality stevia plants can expect higher profits.

  1. Market Demand

Market demand is another factor that can affect the expected profits of stevia farming in Kenya. The demand for stevia has been increasing globally due to its natural sweetening properties and low-calorie content. In Kenya, the demand for stevia is still growing, but it has not reached its full potential. As such, farmers who can tap into the growing demand for stevia can expect higher profits.

  1. Level of Competition

The level of competition in the stevia market can also affect the expected profits of stevia farming in Kenya. Currently, there are only a few stevia farmers in Kenya, and the market is not yet saturated. However, as the demand for stevia continues to grow, more farmers are likely to enter the market, increasing competition and potentially reducing profits.

  1. Cost of Production

The cost of production is another crucial factor that can affect the expected profits of stevia farming in Kenya. As discussed earlier, the cost of production can range between Ksh 100,000 to Ksh 250,000 per acre, depending on various factors. Therefore, farmers who can manage their production costs efficiently can expect higher profits.

Expected Profits per Acre

The expected profits per acre of stevia farming in Kenya can range between Ksh 150,000 to Ksh 500,000 per acre, depending on the above factors. However, it is essential to note that these figures are only estimates, and actual profits may vary depending on the individual farm’s production, quality, and market conditions.

Stevia farming in Kenya can be a profitable venture for farmers who can produce high-quality stevia plants, manage their production costs efficiently, and tap into the growing demand for stevia. By considering the above factors, farmers can estimate their expected profits per acre and make informed decisions on whether to invest in stevia farming or not.

Stevia Plant Population Per Acre

The recommended stevia plant population per acre varies depending on the variety, planting method, and growing conditions. Generally, stevia is planted at a high density to maximize yield and minimize weed growth. A typical plant population for stevia can range from 40,000 to 60,000 plants per acre.

However, it’s important to note that the ideal plant population may vary depending on the local climate, soil type, and irrigation practices. Farmers are advised to consult with agricultural experts or extension officers to determine the most appropriate planting density for their specific growing conditions.

Plant spacing is also critical when planting stevia. A spacing of 45cm x 45cm or 60cm x 60cm is recommended, which translates to 10,000 to 16,000 plants per hectare. The spacing should be adjusted depending on the variety and the expected yield.

It’s also important to note that planting too densely can result in overcrowding and poor air circulation, which can increase the risk of diseases and pests. Additionally, planting too sparsely can result in poor yields and increased weed growth.

In summary, the recommended stevia plant population per acre is between 40,000 to 60,000 plants, with a spacing of 45cm x 45cm or 60cm x 60cm. However, farmers are advised to consult with agricultural experts to determine the most appropriate planting density for their specific growing conditions.

Fertilizer and Spray Program On Stevia Farming In Kenya

Fertilizer and spray programs are critical aspects of stevia farming in Kenya, as they play a significant role in determining the yield and quality of the stevia plants. Here is a detailed guide on the recommended fertilizer and spray program for stevia farming in Kenya.

Stevia Fertilizer Program

Stevia plants require specific nutrients to grow healthy and produce high-quality leaves. In general, stevia plants require high levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Here is a recommended fertilizer program for stevia farming in Kenya:

  1. Soil Analysis

Before applying fertilizer, it is essential to conduct a soil analysis to determine the specific nutrient requirements of your soil. A soil analysis will help you understand the pH levels, nutrient deficiencies, and soil texture of your farm. You can collect soil samples and take them to a reputable soil testing laboratory for analysis.

  1. Pre-Planting Fertilizer

Before planting the stevia crop, it is recommended to apply a pre-planting fertilizer to the soil. The pre-planting fertilizer should contain high levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, as well as other micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, and boron. The recommended pre-planting fertilizer rates are 120 kg/ha of NPK 17:17:17 and 50 kg/ha of DAP.

  1. Top-Dressing Fertilizer

After planting the stevia crop, it is recommended to apply top-dressing fertilizer to the soil to supplement the nutrients required by the stevia plants. The recommended top-dressing fertilizer rates are 120 kg/ha of NPK 26:0:0 and 50 kg/ha of CAN. The top-dressing fertilizer should be applied in two equal splits, 30 and 60 days after planting.

Stevia Spray Program

Stevia plants are vulnerable to several pests and diseases that can affect their growth and yield. Therefore, it is crucial to implement a regular spray program to control pests and diseases. Here is a recommended spray program for stevia farming in Kenya:

  1. Pre-Emergence Herbicide

Before planting the stevia crop, it is recommended to apply a pre-emergence herbicide to the soil to control weeds. The recommended pre-emergence herbicides for stevia farming in Kenya are Atrazine or Pendimethalin.

  1. Insecticides

Stevia plants are vulnerable to several insect pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, and thrips, which can cause significant damage to the crop. Therefore, it is recommended to implement an insecticide spray program to control insect pests. The recommended insecticides for stevia farming in Kenya are Diazinon, Imidacloprid, or Dimethoate.

  1. Fungicides

Stevia plants are also vulnerable to several fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and leaf spot, which can reduce the yield and quality of the crop. Therefore, it is recommended to implement a fungicide spray program to control fungal diseases. The recommended fungicides for stevia farming in Kenya are Mancozeb, Carbendazim, or Propiconazole.

  1. Harvest Aid

Finally, it is recommended to apply a harvest aid to the stevia crop before harvesting to facilitate leaf shedding and improve the quality of the leaves. The recommended harvest aids for stevia farming in Kenya are Ethephon or Glyphosate.

Implementing a recommended fertilizer and spray program is critical to the success of stevia farming in Kenya. By following the above recommendations, farmers can improve the yield and quality of their stevia crops, control pests and diseases, and achieve maximum profits from their farming activities. It is also essential to follow the recommended rates and safety precautions when using fertilizers and pesticides

Market Analysis On Stevia Farming In Kenya

The market for stevia in Kenya has been steadily growing over the years, driven by increased awareness of the health benefits of stevia and the growing demand for natural sweeteners. In this section, we will explore the market trends, demand and supply dynamics, and potential opportunities and challenges in the stevia market in Kenya.

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Market Trends

The stevia market in Kenya has been growing at a steady pace, with more farmers adopting the crop and more consumers seeking natural sweeteners. According to a report by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the demand for stevia in Kenya is projected to grow at a rate of 10-15% annually, driven by increasing health consciousness and the growing trend towards natural sweeteners.

The report also indicates that the stevia market in Kenya is still largely untapped, with significant opportunities for growth in both domestic and export markets. Most of the stevia produced in Kenya is consumed domestically, with only a small percentage exported to regional markets such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Demand and Supply Dynamics

The demand for stevia in Kenya is driven by several factors, including the growing health consciousness among consumers, the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and the trend towards natural sweeteners. Stevia is considered a healthier alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar, as it has zero calories and does not cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels.

The supply of stevia in Kenya is still limited, as the crop is relatively new and requires specialized knowledge and skills to cultivate. However, the number of farmers growing stevia in Kenya has been steadily increasing, with more farmers adopting the crop as a lucrative alternative to traditional crops such as maize and beans. Currently, most of the stevia produced in Kenya is concentrated in the Rift Valley region, particularly in areas such as Nakuru, Naivasha, and Gilgil.

Potential Opportunities and Challenges

The stevia market in Kenya presents several opportunities for farmers and investors, including:

  1. Growing demand: With the growing trend towards natural sweeteners and increasing health consciousness among consumers, the demand for stevia in Kenya is expected to continue growing.
  2. Lucrative returns: Stevia farming can be highly profitable, with potential returns of up to Ksh. 1 million per acre per year.
  3. Export potential: The stevia market in Kenya is still largely untapped, with significant opportunities for growth in regional and international markets.

However, the stevia market in Kenya also presents several challenges, including:

  1. Limited knowledge and skills: Stevia farming requires specialized knowledge and skills, which may be a barrier to entry for some farmers.
  2. High production costs: The cost of production for stevia can be relatively high, due to the specialized inputs and equipment required.
  3. Limited processing capacity: Currently, there is limited processing capacity for stevia in Kenya, which may limit the ability of farmers to add value to their crops and access higher-value markets.

The market for stevia in Kenya is growing steadily, driven by increasing health consciousness and the trend towards natural sweeteners. While the market presents several opportunities for farmers and investors, there are also significant challenges that need to be addressed, including limited knowledge and skills, high production costs, and limited processing capacity. By addressing these challenges, stakeholders can unlock the full potential of the stevia market in Kenya and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the country.

Uses Of Stevia

Stevia has various uses in Kenya. Some of the common uses of stevia in Kenya include:

  1. Sweetener: Stevia is used as a natural sweetener in various food and beverage products. It is popular among people who are health-conscious and prefer natural sweeteners to artificial sweeteners. Stevia extract is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, and its sweetness does not cause an increase in blood sugar levels, making it an excellent alternative to sugar for people with diabetes.
  2. Medicine: Stevia has medicinal properties that make it useful in treating various health conditions. For instance, it has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that make it useful in treating skin infections and promoting wound healing. It is also used in traditional medicine to manage hypertension, digestive disorders, and other ailments.
  3. Cosmetics: Stevia extract is used in cosmetic products such as lotions, creams, and shampoos due to its skin-soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
  4. Animal feed: Stevia leaves are used in animal feed as a natural sweetener and a source of nutrients. Its use in animal feed has been found to improve the health and productivity of livestock.
  5. Natural pesticide: Stevia extract contains compounds that have insecticidal properties, making it useful as a natural pesticide to control pests in the garden or farm.

In summary, stevia has various uses in Kenya, including as a natural sweetener, medicine, cosmetics, animal feed, and natural pesticide. Its popularity as a natural sweetener is on the rise due to its health benefits, making it an attractive alternative to artificial sweeteners.

Conclusion

In conclusion, stevia farming presents an excellent opportunity for Kenyan farmers to diversify their income streams and contribute to the country’s economic growth. However, to realize the full potential of this crop, farmers need adequate support, training, and education to enhance their technical expertise in stevia farming. Additionally, the government and private sector need to provide support through subsidies, research and development, and market access. With the right knowledge, support, and sustainable farming practices, stevia farming has the potential to become a thriving industry in Kenya.

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