It is early afternoon at Begi village, about seven kilometres from Gilgil town in Nakuru. As you drive around this village, nothing prepares you for serious agriculture.
Most farms are characterised by almost dry grass, some of which is sprouting, thanks to the current rains. Other farms have acacia trees, an indication that this is a rather dry place.
However, when you approach Little Bloomers Ltd farm, things get totally different, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in a different area altogether.
Here, you are welcomed by a cocktail of sweet scents of herbs, especially that of mint and basil.
Regina Mungai, the Director of Little Bloomers Ltd ushers us in. It is a bee-busy day for her as she has been attending to experts who have come to audit her farm.
Regina however spares some minutes and takes us around the farm.
In two greenhouses, she has planted basil, a medicinal herbal spice. Regina explains that she soon will harvesting from the green houses as the crop is ready.
In a vast area of her six-acre piece of land is a nicely greened, mature mint crop.
“I will be harvesting from here tomorrow,” she says, adding, “I am looking forward to a bumper harvest”.
On the opposite side of the farm, a group of about 10 women are bee-busy weeding for a young mint crop.
Beside the mint, is a budding rosemary plantation, while on another side is a thyme crop, which has already been exhaustively harvested.
Regina has beaten the odds of concentrating on traditional maize and beans farming and instead, ventured into the rather not-so-common herbs farming.
“I got an opportunity to export through a an exporting company, with which I do contract farming,” says Regina, who runs the farm with her husband David Mwangai.
Initially, she says, the couple had tried their luck in tomato farming. After all, they had reasoned, tomato is a crop that sells all through the year.
However, as they would discover, tomato was not only labour-intensive, but also gave low income.
From one acre of tomatoes, she would make around Sh350,000 while she makes more than double the amount from mint, for example, on a similar size of land.
But, Regina, who is rather new in the agribusiness along herbs farming line, says she wishes to learn much more on this venture and even explore the export market alone.
This way, she says, she would not only be able to earn more, but also employ more than the current 20 people who works in her farm.
For the next four years, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) will be working with partners in promoting various value chains for local, regional and international markets
The East African Community (EAC)/ European Union (EU) Market Access Upgrade programme (MARKUP) programme will facilitate the enhancement of Market access of EAC partner states products to the EU and enhance inter EAC regional trade.
The project focuses on selected crop value chains in horticulture and nuts subsectors. The programme is implemented at both National and Regional windows.
UNIDO is the implementing partner for Kenya, under the national window, while the ministry of Industries, Trade and Cooperatives (MoITC’s state department for trade is the national coordinator and focal point for implementation of MARKUP in Kenya.
UNIDO, together with the Ministry of Industries, Trade and Cooperatives will officially launch the program, on Tuesday, Oct 29 in Nairobi.
The launch is anticipated to bring together stakeholders from Agriculture Ministry, UNIDO, EU, farmers, exporters among others.
During the launch, stakeholders will be provided with an opportunity to obtain more information on the programme and how each one of them is likely to fit in.
According to experts, herbs farming is a venture that is yet to be exploited, yet it can create employment and income especially for young people.
Ruth Munyoro, an agronomist who specialises in herbs, says that herbs farming is simple, as long as the farmer is well prepared.
She advises those who want to venture into herbs farming to study the market before deciding on which crop to start with.
Besides, Munyoro advises young people to take advantage of development partners like the EU and UNIDO, who are ready to support agriculture locally, regionally and internationally.