This article focuses on cash crops grown in Kenya. A cash crop or profit crop is an agricultural crop which is grown to sell for profit. It is typically purchased by parties separate from a farm. The term is used to differentiate marketed crops from staple crop (or “subsistence crop”) in subsistence agriculture, which are those fed to the producer’s own livestock or grown as food for the producer’s family.
In earlier times, cash crops were usually only a small (but vital) part of a farm’s total yield, while today, especially in developed countries and among smallholders almost all crops are mainly grown for revenue. In the least developed countries, cash crops are usually crops which attract demand in more developed nations, and hence have some export value.
Prices for major cash crops are set in international trade markets with global scope, with some local variation (termed as “basis”) based on freight costs and local supply and demand balance. A consequence of this is that a nation, region, or individual producer relying on such a crop may suffer low prices should a bumper crop elsewhere lead to excess supply on the global markets. This system has been criticized by traditional farmers. Coffee is an example of a product that has been susceptible to significant commodity futures price variations.
– Cash crop farming is the growing of crops for sale.
– Most of the crops are exported outside the country.
– Some of the main cash crops grown in Kenya are:
- Cashew nuts
Areas where main cash crops are grown in Kenya.
Here is a list of cash crops grown in Kenya
Tea farming in Kenya
Kenya is very suitable for growing tea because of the type of land that can be found in Kenya. This includes;
- Highland areas
- Gently sloping land to help drainage
- Temperatures of about 21ºC during the growing seasons and warmer temperatures during harvesting.
- High rainfall throughout the year.
- Large tea plantation in Kenya are mainly found in : Kericho Nandi Hills, Kiambu, Bomet, Murang’a
- Small- scale farms are found in Kisii, Limuru, Vihiga, Nyamira and Meru areas.
Flower farming in Kenya
Flowers are grown in Kenya under horticultural farming.
Many of the flowers are grown in greenhouses where water and temperatures are easily controlled.
Heaters are used to blow in warm air when temperatures are very low. When the weather is warm, air is allowed into the greenhouses.
The ground has water pipes that are turned on to supply water to the plants when the weather is dry. Here is an image of the inside of a greenhouse in Kenya.
Where they are grown
Flowers are grown mainly for export. Therefore, the farms are located next to main roads and railways to ensure that they are quickly transported to the airport for export.
The main areas where fl owers are grown in Kenya are;
a) Around Eldoret, Nandi Hills and Trans-Nzoia. This is close to the Eldoret
International Airport for quick transport to Europe.
b) Around Lake Naivasha which is an important source of irrigation water. Naivasha is on the highway to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
c) In Central Province around; Kiambu, Limuru, Thika and Juja.
d) In parts of Kajiado district along the Mombasa highway, near the Jomo
Kenyatta International airport.
Uses of flowers
a) Flowers are sold to earn the country foreign exchange.
b) Flowers are used to decorate homes, hotels, offi ces and hospitals. Some of them have a nice fragrance which is pleasant to people.
c) Flower farming provides employment opportunities to people in the farming areas.
d) Flowers sold abroad help to advertise the country and promote tourism.
Wheat farming in Kenya
Wheat is an important cereal crop, which is grown in very few parts of Kenya.
Conditions necessary for growing wheat;
- An average rainfall of about 400 mm.
- Temperatures of between 15ºC – 21ºC.
- Cool conditions within the highlands regions of Kenya.
- Rich fertile soils that do not retain water.
- Money to buy farm machinery.
- A large area of land. It is not profitable to grow wheat on small farms.
- Gently sloping land that can allow the use of machinery and drain the soil.
- A short dry season to allow the grains to ripen.
Wheat is harvested with large machinery, and is not done on a small scale.
Where it is grown
Wheat is mainly grown on plantations in highland areas especially in the Rift Valley Province. Large farms are found in Uasin Gishu District as well as parts of Nakuru, Laikipia, and Narok districts. Wheat is not commonly grown on small farms.
Uses of wheat
Wheat flour is used to make cakes, bread, mandazi and biscuits.
Pyrethrum farming in Kenya
Pyrethrum is a small flowering plant, which grows to a maximum height of about half a metre. After it matures, it produces white flowers. Farmers pick the fl owers and sell them to the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya which has a big factory in Nakuru. Pyrethrum is mainly grown on small farms. Kenya is the leading producer of pyrethrum in the world. Pyrethrum farming has declined due to competition from chemically made insecticides.
Conditions necessary for growing pyrethrum
a) It does well at an altitude of between 1 800 and 2 800 metres above sea level.
b) It requires low temperatures of between 15oC – 20oC. Under warmer temperatures, the pyrethrum plant produces more leaves and fewer flowers.
c) It requires an average rainfall of about 1 500 mm per year.
d) It requires a lot of labour, especially during the flower picking period.
e) It requires rich, deep and well drained volcanic soil.
Where it is grown
Pyrethrum is mainly grown around Limuru, Molo, Kinangop, Nyamira, Kisii, Ol Joro Orok and Sotik. It is mostly grown by small scale farmers.
Uses of pyrethrum
Pyrethrum flowers contain a chemical called pyrethrin. This chemical is used to make insecticides used to kill insects. Because pyrethrum is natural, it does not cause pollution in the atmosphere.
Importance of pyrethrum to the economy of Kenya
a) It earns the country foreign exchange.
b) It earns farmers a regular income thus improving their living standards.
c) Pyrethrum farming as resulted in the development of infrastructure and social amenities in the country.
d) Pyrethrum flowers are raw materials used in industries. This leads to industrial development.
Cotton growing in Kenya
Cotton is grown to produce cotton balls. Conditions necessary for growing cotton;
- Moderate rainfall.
- An average temperature of 27ºC.
- Fertile and well drained black cotton soil.
- A dry spell for ripening and harvesting. A lot of rain destroys the cotton balls.
The main cotton growing areas in Kenya are Siaya, Homa Bay, Tana river and Machakos.
Uses of cotton
a) It is used in textile industries to make clothes, blankets and towels.
b) It is used in hospitals when dressing wounds.
c) Cotton stalks are used as fi rewood.
d) Cotton stalks and leaves are used in compost heaps to make manure.
Factors influencing the growing of cash crops
- The type of soil.
- Availability of labour.
- A,mount of rainfall received
- Temperatures of a place
- Absence of pests and diseases.
- Availability of capital
- Good transport network.
Maize growing in Kenya and Tanzania
Maize is an important food crop in Eastern Africa. However, in some areas, it is grown as a cash crop. Maize was introduced to Kenya by Portuguese. It is mainly produced on small farms, which vary in size from a quarter hectare to about five hectares. In some cases it is grown on large plantations.
Conditions necessary for growing maize
a) Over 500 mm of rainfall. Therefore, it does not do well in desert and semi-desert
b) Maize does not do well in highland areas above 2 200 metres where temperatures are very low. In such areas, maize grows very slowly and takes more than six months to mature. It also produces poor yields.
c) It requires fertile soils. Where soils are poor, it requires manure or fertiliser to be
d) It requires a short dry season for the maize to ripen and be harvested.
e) It needs plenty of labour during planting, weeding and harvesting.
f) On large plantations, farmers need machinery for ploughing, and spraying the crop.
Maize growing in Kenya
i) Most Kenyans grow maize as small scale farmers. The largest plantations are found in Nandi, Trans-Nzoia and Uasin Gishu Districts. This area is sometimes called the granary of Kenya because it produces maize that feeds people in other parts of the country, especially in urban areas. Other important large-scale maize farming areas are Sotik, Kipkelion and Londiani.
ii) In Embu, Machakos and Kitui counties, maize is grown on small farms. They grow Katumaini, a drought resistant variety of maize.
iii) The National Cereals and produce Board (NCPB) buys, stores and distributes maize on behalf of the government.
Maize growing in Tanzania
Almost every family in Tanzania grows maize. Maize is an important staple food for many communities in Tanzania. The country has similar climate to that of Kenya. Large-scale maize plantations are found around Arusha, Morogoro, Dodoma and along the shores of Lake Victoria. In these areas, maize is grown for food as well as for export to neighbouring countries like Zambia and DRC.
Uses of maize
a) Maize is an important food crop. It is ground into fl our and used to make ugali and porridge. It is also boiled together with beans and eaten as a whole meal.
b) Maize is used to feed chicken.
c) Maize is used to make cattle feed.
d) Dry maize cobs and stems are used as fuel.
e) Maize stems are fed to animals.
f) Maize earns farmers money. In Kenya, maize is sold to the National Cereals and Produ
Bananas are a food crop as well as a cash crop grown in Eastern Africa. The banana plants are grown from suckers or parts of a stem removed from the mother plant.
Conditions necessary for growing bananas
- High temperatures throughout the year.
- Annual rainfall of about 1250 mm.
- Rain well distributed throughout the year.
- Deep, fertile and well-drained soils.
- Shelter from strong winds especially when they have heavy fruit
East Africa has conditions which are very suited to banana growing.
Where they are grown in Kenya
In Kenya bananas are mainly grown on small scale farms in Kisii, Vihiga, Kakamega, Kiambu, Murang’a, Meru, Kilifi and Taita Taveta Districts. Most of them are grown to feed the family and the surplus is sold to major urban centres like Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa.
Banana growing in Uganda
In Uganda, bananas are the main food crop of many communities in the country. However, there are areas where maize is also eaten as staple food. In Uganda, bananas are locally called matoke. The cooking type is the main variety grown there. Some areas grow the variety that is ripened and eaten as fruit.
Areas where they are grown in Uganda.
The main growing areas are around Lake Victoria. Bananas are also grown on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon, as well as on the lower slopes of the Toro, Bunyoro and Kigazi highlands in the west where there is heavy rain.
Uses of bananas
a) Bananas are an important source of food. Some are cooked while others are ripened and eaten as fruit.
b) Banana trees are planted in farms to shade crops like tea and coffee when they are young.
c) Dry banana fi bres are used to make baskets and mats.
d) Banana stems and leaves are used as animal feed.
Coffee growing in Kenya and Ethiopia
Coffee is an important cash crop grown in Eastern Africa.
However, Kenya and Ethiopia are the leading producers of the crop. Other important producers are Tanzania and Uganda. Robusta coffee and Arabica coffee are the two kinds of coffee grown in the region. Robusta coffee is mainly grown on small farms while Arabica is mainly grown on plantations.
a) Light soils, which can retain moisture.
b) Altitude of about 1 100 – 1 500 metres above sea level.
c) Temperatures of between 20o C – 26o C.
d) Rainfall amount of about 1 000 mm per year.
e) Shade from direct sunshine for young plants.
a) Deep well-drained volcanic soils.
b) Altitude of between 1 500 – 2 300 metres above sea level.
c) Temperatures of between 19o C and 23o C.
d) Rainfall of 800 – 1 500 mm per year.
e) Shade from direct sunshine for young plants.
f) Arabica coffee grows at a higher altitude and under cooler conditions. It produces better quality coffee than robusta which grows mainly in warmer areas.
Where it is grown in Kenya
Coffee was fi rst planted around Limuru in 1908by white settlers. African workers provided labour on the settler farms. Today, Arabica variety is grown in the highlands while robusta coffee is grown in lower altitude areas where the conditions are suitable. The main growing areas for arabica coffee are Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri and the Meru Districts. Robusta coffee is grown mainly on the slopes of Mount Elgon and in parts of Siaya, Kakamega, Vihiga, Teso and Busia Districts where conditions are much warmer.
Where it is grown in Ethiopia
Coffee grew as a wild plant in the Ethiopian highlands.
Ethiopia is famous for its production of high quality arabica coffee. The main producing areas are in the South-Western part of the country, especially on the slopes of the Kaffa and Hara Highlands. Here, it is grown both on large scale and on small scales farms.
Sisal growing in Kenya and Tanzania
Sisal is a plant that grows to about one metre high. It has thick leaves that produce white fi bres. Today, many people prefer to use nylon or synthetic fi bres like manila because they are cheaper. They are also readily available. Therefore, sisal is no longer an important cash crop like it used to be.
Conditions necessary for growing sisal
a) It grows best in areas with 1 000 – 1 250 mm of rainfall every year. However, sisal can grow in areas that receive 730 mm of rain per year.
b) Sisal grows under different climatic conditions. However, it grows best in areas where the average temperature is 20oC to over 30oC.
c) It does not do well in areas where the temperatures are very cold. Therefore, grows well between 0 – 1 800 metres above sea level.
d) It grows well on sandy and loamy soils. These soils do not have to be very fertile.
e) Sisal is often grown on plantations.
f) It requires machinery if it is grown on plantations.
g) The leaves are cut by hand, therefore, it needs many workers.
h) It needs a lot of water during processing.
i) It is heavy to transport. Therefore, the farms should be close to roads and railway lines, for easy transportation.
Where it is grown in Kenya
Sisal is mainly grown in the following areas:
a) Around Voi, in Taita Taveta District and along the Thika – Nairobi Highway. Here most of the crop has now been uprooted and replaced with pineapple plantations.
b) In the past sisal was also grown in Trans- Nzoia and Uasin Gishu Districts although most of the plantations have been replaced with maize plantations.
c) Sisal plantations are found along the Coast around Vipingo in Kilifi District.
Where it is grown in Tanzania
Tanzania is the leading producer of sisal in the world. Sisal growing in Tanzania has decreased. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, sisal was the second largest export of Tanzania. Today, only few farmers and companies grow it. Most of it has been uprooted and replaced with other crops like maize. The main growing areas are along the Tanga – Dar-es-Salaam road and railway line. It is also grown in the Morogoro and Kilosa areas.
Uses of sisal
a) Sisal is used to make ropes, sacks, strings and cords.
b) Sisal is used to make paper.
c) It is possible that the poisonous sap from sisal leaves could be used to make insecticides. However, research is still going on to establish this.
Sugar cane growing in Kenya and Sudan
Sugar cane is a tall plant similar to maize in appearance. It does well in hot, wet areas and is an important cash crop in the Eastern African region.
Conditions necessary for growing sugar cane
a) It does well in hot areas where the average temperature is 20oC. Therefore, it does well in lowland areas near the Equator
b) It needs heavy rainfall that is above 1,000 mm per year.
c) In areas where rainfall is less and the temperature and soil are suitable, it can be grown under irrigation.
d) It needs fertile soils that are well drained. It can also do well on black cotton soils found in river valleys. However, these soils must be on a gently sloping land to ensure that they are not water-logged.
e) Sugar cane is a bulky crop. Therefore, it must be grown in areas with good roads or railways for easy transport to the factory.
f) Factories should be located close to the growing areas in order to reduce the cost of transport.
g) On sugar cane plantations, machinery is needed for ploughing the land.
h) Plenty of labour is needed during harvesting.
Where it is grown in Kenya
Sugar cane in Kenya is grown both on small scale and large scale. Most farmers grow sugar cane on small scale. These farmers are called outgrowers. Sugar cane plantations were set up at Mumias, Chemelil, Muhoroni, Tana river, Ramisi, South Nyanza, Busia, Bungoma and Nzoia. Sugar companies own large plantations around their factories. These plantations are called nucleus estate. Main sugar companies in Kenya are Mumias, Muhoroni, Chemelil, Nzoia, Kibos, Western Kenya Sugar, South Nyanza Sugar Company (Sony) Miwani and Ramisi.
Where it is grown in Sudan
Sugar cane in Sudan is mainly grown in a large scheme called Kenana which is owned and managed by the government. The scheme which is called Kenana sugar scheme is set in a dry area between the Blue and White Nile. The crop is grown under irrigation and the water is supplied by River Nile and its tributaries. The land is gently sloping. Therefore, the water fl ows gently under gravity into the fi elds without pumping. Sudan has the largest sugar plantations under irrigation in Africa and probably in the world. The scheme has a total of seven big factories. The main ones are shown in table 4.3 below together with the years each of them was completed. This table also shows how much sugar each factory is able to produce. Kenana factory is the largest.
Uses of sugar cane
Sugar cane is used to manufacture sugar which is used in the following ways:
a) To sweeten foods, drinks and beverages.
b) To preserve food.
c) For baking cakes, cookies and biscuits.
d) For making sweets, candies and ice-cream.
e) To manufacture medicines like cough syrups.
f) To manufacture alcohol.
g) To manufacture electricity from molasses.
Cloves growing in Tanzania
Cloves are famous because they were important items of trade along the Indian Ocean coast during the Arab trade. The crop was introduced into East Africa by an Arab Sultan called Seyyid Said who brought it from the East Indies. The main workers on the clove farms were slaves, but today, workers on the farms migrate from different parts of the Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba as well as from the mainland Tanzania.
Conditions necessary for growing cloves
a) Average rainfall of between 750 – 1 500 mm. This rainfall should be evenly spread throughout the year.
b) High temperatures of about 26oC – 29oC.
c) High humidity throughout the year. Therefore, it does well in equatorial lowlands.
d) Fertile sandy soils which do not retain water.
e) Picking cloves is done by hand. Therefore, it needs plenty of labour during harvesting. At this time, the buds are picked before they open into fl owers. These buds appear in clusters called sprays. They are then spread out on mats and turned regularly to dry.
The quality of cloves is highest when they dry quickly and well.
Where it is grown in Tanzania
Cloves are mainly grown on plantations in Tanzania. The main growing areas are on the Eastern side of Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. These areas have fertile soils and the land slopes gently to the sea. They also receive heavier rainfall.
Uses of cloves
Cloves are used for the following purposes:
a) They are exported to earn Tanzania foreign exchange. Tanzania is the world’s leading producer of cloves. It produces more than 75% of the world’s cloves.
b) When farmers sell cloves, they earn money which they use to improve their standards of living.
c) It is used in the preparation of sweet- smelling perfumes.
d) It is used in making different kinds of medicine.
e) It is used to fl avour cakes, sweets and cookies.
f) It has encouraged trade between Tanzania and other countries in the world.
Cocoa growing in Ghana
Cocoa is a tree crop that does well under equatorial climate. As a result, it does well in the Southern part of Ghana which experiences this climate. The tree which produces cocoa is called cacao. It takes fi ve years to mature before it produces cocoa pods. Although cocoa in Ghana is mainly grown by small scale farmers, there are large cacao plantations as well. These are mainly owned by large international companies.
Conditions necessary for growing cacao trees
a) It requires hot and wet conditions experienced under equatorial climate. For best harvest, the rainfall should range between 2 000 – 3 500 mm per year. However, the tree can survive in areas that receive as low as 1 200 mm of rainfall. The rainfall should be well distributed throughout the year.
b) It requires temperatures of above 23o C. Therefore, it does well in lowland areas near the equator which are hot throughout the year.
c) Cacao trees require deep fertile soils which are well drained. Trees grow best on farms in freshly cleared forest areas. This is because the soils are rich in humus.
d) When cacao trees are young, they need shade from direct sunshine. Plantain trees are planted on the farms to provide this shade.
e) Cacao trees cannot grow in areas that experience strong winds. This is because winds blow young pods off the trees before they mature. This causes crop failure.
f) The Harmattan wind in West Africa which is bad for young plants is useful during harvesting. It helps to dry the cocoa beans well. The quality of cocoa depends on how quickly and thoroughly the cocoa beans are dried.
g) If it is grown near the coast, it makes transportation of the beans cheaper. Since most of the cocoa grown in Ghana is for export, the farmers do not spend much money transporting their produce to the coast.
h) During harvesting, cocoa requires plenty of labour to cut the pods from trees. Pods form on trees throughout the year but most farmers prefer to harvest them during the dry season. This is usually between September and February. Once the pods are cut from trees, they are split open and the beans scooped out fermented and spread on mats to dry. Farmers need many workers to turn the beans constantly so that they can dry properly.
Uses of cocoa: Importance of cocoa to the economy of Ghana
a) Cocoa is a major export crop for Ghana, it earns the country foreign exchange.
b) Cocoa is used to make a hot beverage which is drunk in form of chocolate or cocoa.
c) Cocoa growing provides jobs for people in the growing areas or in related industries. For example, companies that make chacolate and sweets.
d) Cocoa is used in making body oils and lotion.
e) It is used in fl avouring cakes, biscuits, ice creams and sweets.
f) Sale of cocoa improves the living standards of people in Ghana.
g) Cocoa is used as a raw material in the manufacturing of confectionaries (Food items that are rich in sugar and carbohydrates).