Feasibility of commercial production of amaranth leaf vegetable by smallscale farmers in Kenya
Kooten, Olaf Van
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Vegetable amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) was grown under a range of fertiliser treatments (manure and a range of diammonium phosphate (DAP) applications) to determine the potential profitability under commercial production conditions. These trials were carried out at the University of Nairobi Field Station in the Upper Kabete Campus during the long rains of March – May 2008. Trials were laid out as complete randomized block design on plots measuring 2m x 2m, with four fertilization treatments: 20, 40, and 60kg N ha-1 of DAP (18:46:0), 40kg N ha-1 from cattle manure, and an unfertilized control. The vegetables were harvested at 6, 7 and 8 weeks after planting. Gross margins were calculated based on a range of the possible choices; hired or family labour, rented or owned land, and purchased manure or that produced by cattle on the farm. A sensitivity analysis was performed on the possible effects of changes in fertilizer cost and the price of vegetables on the resulting revenue. The week 8 harvests resulted in the maximum yields for all treatments. The highest yield, which was obtained from the plots receiving 40kg N/ha DAP, was equivalent to 29,925 kg/ha. The yield from the manured plots was equivalent to 3,700kg/ha. Based on use of manure alone and the different options the predicted gross income per hectare ranged between KSh 53,107 with purchased manure, and hired land and labour, to KSh 81,780 with own land, labour and manure. Using DAP, on the other hand, the predicted income ranged from KSh 483,273 with hired land and labour to KSh 498,140 with own land and labour. The change in the gross income to the farmer was more sensitive to the change in the price of the vegetables than to the cost of fertilizer. These results show that small farmers can make money from commercial production of amaranth vegetables. This conclusion is based on the farmer judging the opportunity costs of his own land, family labour and manure from his own farm as net income. The results make it clear that at current market prices the revenue from growing Amaranth can be increased by using artificial fertilizer rather than manure.