In Summary
  • As a natural sweetener, it is very healthy because it contains no calories.
  • It is recommended for diabetic individuals and used in preventing lifestyle diseases and controlling obesity because one gets the sweetness without gaining calories.
  • Carol Mutua, an expert from the Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils at Egerton University, advises that stevia should be planted on raised beds at a spacing of 30cm between rows and 20cm between plants.
  • On each acre, a farmer needs between 8,000 to 10,000 seedlings.

For six years, Joseph Siango’s life had been held back by the shackles of type 2 diabetes.

He was then advised to use stevia leaves in his tea and porridge daily, a step that he says helped him manage the disease.

It is the relief he got from the sweet leaf herb in 2009 that nudged him to start growing the crop.

Stevia leaves have a long history of use as sweeteners, due to presence of sweet crystalline glycosides called steviosides, which are 200 to 300 times sweeter than sucrose.

As a natural sweetener, it is very healthy because it contains no calories. Therefore, it is recommended for diabetic individuals and used in preventing lifestyle diseases and controlling obesity because one gets the sweetness without gaining calories.

“I was diabetic from 2003 to 2008 and could not take any sugary foods or drinks. But stevia leaves helped me,” says Siango, a resident of Gachuba village, Nyamira County.

To begin the venture, he leased a quarter acre of land after getting certified seeds from an international organisation, which buys the produce, says the 59-year-old.

For every kilo of harvested stevia, the organisation pays him Sh140, with an acre producing around 200kg.

Besides the sale of the leaves, he has now moved to growing the seedlings where buyers have to part with Sh50 for each.

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