Moshi. More and more farmers in Kilimanjaro region are embracing cultivation of vanilla, thanks to high producer price compared to coffee, the traditional cash crop in the region.
"Until recently I fared badly in agricultural production because of low prices. But the moment I engaged in vanilla growing, I have been able to send my children to school and build a modest house", said Invocavith Munisi, a vanilla farmer at Machame.
Currently, the newly introduced crop fetches Sh. 60,000 a kilogramme compared to Sh3,500 to Sh4,000 earned for a kilo of coffee which takes three years mature.
Vanilla, which was introduced in the area recently, also matures after three years but has found eager growers in Kilimanjaro who could not make ends meet due to the falling prices of coffee in recent times.
According to an agricultural extension officer Simon Msoka, at least 1,600 farmers have embraced cultivation of the new cash crop in the region and that 1,600 more are expected to rope in soon.
Natural Extracts Industries Limited (NEI) is behind the sudden surge towards vanilla, a crop with its origins in Mexico but now among the leading cash crops in the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Re Union and others as well as Indonesia.
NEI managing director Juan Guardado told The Citizen that they have been impressed by the speed the farmers in Kilimanjaro have learnt to intercrop vanilla for higher productivity.
"We provide each of our registered farmers with support and training on growing and cultivating. They have quickly learnt how to intercrop. Through this we have been able to double the number of farmers", he said.
The firm makes a brand of flavour extracts called Epicurious Heldgehob which is made using natural ingredients that include vanilla,orange, cocoa and cinnamon.
He added that high quality vanilla pods from within Kilimanjaro as well as Morogoro and Kagera regions as well as cocoa from Mbeya have assured the firm of quality end products of their extracts.