Nearly every Rwandan uses onions (allium cepa) as a regular spice in dishes prepared – the vegetable crop is a common product in every market across the country as farmers have aggressively tapped into it.
Onion farming has become a lucrative business because of the readily available and rapidly growing and demand from both local and foreign markets.
Rwanda Agriculture Ministry considers handling of onions right from preparing nursery bed to planting then harvesting and post-harvest care very important in ensuring quality of onions.
Onions usually take about 3 to 4 months in the garden before they can be harvested for consumption. And in every hectare, one can harvest about 25 tons depending on the breed of onions.
A farmer can plant onions from seeds, sets or transplants. It should be noted that bulb onions perform best in well drained, sandy loam soils with a pH range between 6.5 to 7.0 .
When Onions have sprouted in the nursery bed, transplant the seedlings closer together than normal, about 5cm apart, in fertile well-drained soil.
Maintain regular moisture and they’ll be ready for harvesting after about eight to 10 weeks, when they are at least 1,5cm thick and about 20–25cm tall. Loosen the soil around their base and pull them up.
How to Plant onions
According to crop husbandry experts, it is preferable to plant onions at the onset of the rains, though farmers can plant when they have means of irrigating their field.
“Make rows 12 to 18 inches apart, and then place onion sets or transplants 4 to 6 inches apart in 1cm deep holes in the soils. Gently cover the new transplants with soil,” the expert manual says.
Other details indicate that the farmer should water thoroughly after planting, and regularly thereafter when it does not rain; “Watch out for pests like the onion fly, onion thrips, and onion neck rot dis-order.”
Onions need around 4 months to mature. The last 3 weeks before harvesting the weather should be absolutely rain free.
Plan to start your nursery bed according to the dry season of your planting area. Count back 4 and ½ months back so that you can harvest at the end of December.
Proper treatment at harvest maximizes the amount of time you will be able to store your onions.
When the tops of the onions turn brown or yellow and fall over, it’s time to harvest; ideally the plant will have about 13 leaves at this point.
Pull the onions early in the morning on a sunny dry day, Shake off excess soil.
Cure the onions by putting them in to sun to dry for at least 2 days. Then transfer your onions to a shaded warm, dry, and well ventilated room to enable them to completely dry and cure.
Interested In Growing Onions in Rwanda?
- Get ready for onion planting by setting up your field meant for planting the onions.
- Start with setting up a fine bed needed for bringing up seedlings.
- Alternatively you can directly sow your onions in to the main field.
- Make 2cm furrows, broad cast in manure and finely mix it with the soil.
- Place in your onion sets or transplants then gently cover with soil.
- Water the onion plantlets to give them moisture needed for proper root establishment.
- Make it a point to weed your onions because they are not good at competing at a young age.
- Late in the 3rd month you can now start to prepare for harvesting the crop.
- Thoroughly dry and cure your onions as this helps enhance flavor.