While visiting Kithoka area in Imenti North sub-county of Meru county, one comes across a unique piece of land at Ciomburu village, unique because of its unique color of purple that is not seen anywhere else in the region.
Kithoka farmers are known for the cultivation of maize and beans that are the local staple food. Other commercial farmers who have the energy to wait for perennial crops concentrate on bananas and coffee.
This land is covered by a seasonal crop that resembles wild bushes.
The owner of this half-acre piece of land is a 73-year-old Kaburu Ikunyua, a retired public servant who worked with many Government agencies among them Kenya Wildlife Service where he retired. He now cultivates chia crop.
Mr. Ikunyua told, The Mashariki News, that he ventured in the farming of Chia crop after he was introduced to it by a friend at an Agriculture Society of Kenya show sometimes back.
Chia crop is new in Meru just like many other areas of Kenya, the crop is known for its high content of elements that support the human immune system. Scientists say that Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, iron, calcium among other elements.
Ikunyua believes that Chia crop is the solution to many ailments that are killing the people in Meru and other parts of the country. He says diseases like cancer will be fought if further support on the activities of cultivating and consuming Chia is enhanced by the government and other stakeholders. He adds that cultivation of the crop is easy and the products are high’
‘One kilogram of Chia seed covers approximately half an acre, one seed of the same produces approximately one thousand seeds during harvesting clear evidence that whole business of cultivating the crop is good.
The crop is organically grown to maximize its health benefits. Chia seed is hard harvested, then dried, threshed and used in various foods like tea, the crop is also used to produce Chia oil that is quite expensive in the local market, a liter going for more than thirty thousand Kenya shillings.
Chia seeds can also be eaten raw or cooked but they should be added to other foods or soaked before eating.
This crop originated from South America and it is now making inroads in Africa and Asia.
According to Garden Guides journal, the best growing conditions for chia seeds vary depending upon the manner in which you plan to use the seeds.
It is recommended soaking of two teaspoons of seed in a quarter cup of water for 24 hours before planting. The crops take approximately five days to germinate.