In Summary
  • A majority of them opted to grow sweet potatoes and sorghum on large-scale in the quest to earn from the soil.
  • With odds stuck against farmers, a number of them like Esese are returning to tobacco after new buyers — Platinum Tobacco and East Africa Tobacco — emerged. Mastermind also buys tobacco in the area.
  • Generally, farmers grow two types of tobacco namely Flue-STV or Fire-DSP, which are categorised depending on how they are dried/cured after harvest.
  • The company also supplies them with fertiliser, fire boxes and pesticides. While seeds are free, farmers pay for the rest of the inputs from their earnings.

Daniel Esese stands on his farm in Getongoroma, Kuria East, Migori County, surrounded by a leafy green crop about a metre high.

Esese smiles as he picks some of the leaves and places them in a basket. Three years ago, anyone visiting the area could not see such activities because most farmers had abandoned growing the crop — tobacco — due to lack of steady market.

But farmers are now back to tobacco farming after the hiatus, with many once again reaping from the crop as they had done decades ago.

“We stopped growing the crop after the biggest tobacco leaf buyer Alliance One closed shop in Migori County and relocated to Tanzania,” recounts Esese, adding that many farmers were left stranded with the crop making some uproot it.

A majority of them opted to grow sweet potatoes and sorghum on large-scale in the quest to earn from the soil.

“But the returns from sweet potatoes were not impressive since we also lacked proper market. Brokers would come from Nairobi and buy an extended 90kg sack at Sh500 and go and sell at seven times more,” says Esese, adding that a promise by the county government to set up a processing plant in the area has not materialised.

With odds stuck against farmers, a number of them like Esese are returning to tobacco after new buyers — Platinum Tobacco and East Africa Tobacco — emerged. Mastermind also buys tobacco in the area.

“I would rather grow tobacco because it pays more than sweet potatoes. With tobacco, I am assured of making even Sh300,000 from my two acres when prices are good but the much I can make from potatoes is Sh30,000.”

Generally, farmers grow two types of tobacco namely Flue-STV or Fire-DSP, which are categorised depending on how they are dried/cured after harvest.

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