Chickpea, also referred to as chicken pea or garbanzo beans, originated in Turkey and Syria as one of the first grain crop to be domesticated as a legume during the old war.
This plant-based protein has since gained traction in Kenyan homesteads and restaurants, as more people are looking for alternate protein options and indulging in healthy habits. Its high nutritional composition in fiber, calcium and magnesium aids in improving digestion, weight management, strengthening bones and boosting mental health.
In Kenya, there has been at least an annual recording of 10% increase of production of chickpea since 2017, when 550 tons of chicken pea was produced. Its variety of use in Kenya includes;
- Consumption of its green leaves as a vegetable. The leaves have a high mineral content as compared to spinach
- Its green immature seeds are used as a snack or vegetable
- The dry seeds can be grounded into flour
A market analysis of the crop shows that in Kenya 100g of chickpea powder goes for Ksh.500 while a 1kg of dry chickpea will retail at Ksh. 160. In international markets, the equivalent will range between Ksh. 600-Ksh. 900.
So what does a farmer need to know about growing the crop?
- It takes 90-100 days for the crop to mature. It can then be harvested continuously up to 3 times a week.
- The crop is manually harvested and sun dried. Seed color is a big deal in deciding the attractiveness of the crop so, a light yellowish cream shade is highly favored in markets.
- Chick peas should not be stored in damp spaces as dampness makes the crop decay. The ideal moisture level is 12-15%.
- It thrives in temperatures of 21-26ºC during the day, and 18 ºC during the night with optimum rainfall of 250-500mm.
- Chicken peas can be grown alongside other crops such as potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, and celery. NB: Do not plant chickpeas with garlic.
- The crop grows in well-drained loam and clay loam soils (soils that have great water holding capacity) with a pH value 6.0-9.0.
- International markets are best for profit booster crops and for local markets, chickpea has higher yields as compared to seasonal crops such as maize. Either way, you cannot go wrong with this crop.