Gotu Kola
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Gabriel
Posted on: October 20, 2010

I have a very young macadamia orchard (5500 trees) in a very remote area of Mozambique, located on 350 hectares.We have mild summers, but fairly cold winters ( light frost ) and annual rainfall of well over 1200mm.

I am searching for a cash crop to bridge the 5 year wait on macadamia production, and have a keen interest in organic herbs. Speaking to various people in Zimbabwe, Gotu Kola was recommended to me as it is present in the wild in fairly close proximity. Furthermore, there seems to be a very high demand and the market can be secured. Labour is currently cheap.

I have been informed to expect 10t/ha at roughly US$2/kg dried.

Seeing as I need to generate roughly US$50’000 /year to cover the farm costs until the macs are bearing and have abundant land and water to produce possibly 10 hectares, this project seems to make good sense.

Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) is a small herbaceous annual plant and is native to most part of Africa and Asia, with smaller ranges in Europe. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. Botanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.).

It does not need a large labor force to harvest it, as it can taken with a rotary mower, using a vacuum pick-up. The herbaceous leaf is then dried with air in the shade. The actual markets for this crop are limited to formularies using Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine. It is considered a tonic because of its antioxidant properties.

The prices you quote are correct, because of its easy harvest and handling. However, the yields per acre are too large, mostly yielding less than 1,000 lbs./acre (European data). Because it is easy to grow from native stands, the markets are relatively limited and saturated.

Some of the older and more traditional Indian sources still harvest this crop by hand, to include the root. This form is sold as "herb," and may fetch a slightly higher price, and with a slightly higher yield per acre. Even so, those markets are also limited. In Asia, it is stilled for opium detoxification and leprosy.

I could recommend other considerations for intercropping your plantation. I did a similar Farm Plan for someone in Hawaii (Puna). I am going to assume you put the Macadamia crop in because you have volcanic soils? If this is the case, I can even recommend specific crops to help break down your soils. Those kinds of minerals are very rare, and you can grow some very profitable crops (teas and coffee).

You could begin intercropping flowers, for bulbs and the cut flower markets. Those are very bullish, even now, and especially from Africa. There are some vines I like to grow in tropical Africa, to include a Madagascar-type Vanilla Bean. If your soils are already broken down, you can grow some very interesting crops, and with far better returns.

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