For years Makutano farm in Bungoma county’s Kanduyi area, specialized in growing collard green vegetable, commonly known as sukumawiki.
Although this sounds like a ‘normal’ agribusiness venture, it was not only labour intensive but paid less.
However, this farm has since transformed to a chilli farm, with only very minimal traces of collard green plants.
On an early afternoon, Amos Sifuna, the farm’s manager is tendering for a heavily fruited chilli crop. He specializes in growing the Bired Eye chilli variety, which is characterized by small chillies and a strong aroma.
Sifuna moves from one plant to the other, ensuring that he destroys the seemingly stubborn weeds.
He had weeded for the crop about 14 days ago, he says, but the heavy rains causes them to grow back too fast.
A week ago, Sifuna adds, he got his maiden harvest from this crop, and is looking forward to the next harvest in a few more days.
Having planted in April though, he had anticipated to have the first harvest in August.
However, the long rains came late in this area, thus delaying the crop’s maturity..
For him though, all is not lost. He is pregnant with hope for a bumper harvest which will result to handsome returns.
The first harvest gave him twenty kilograms of chilli, each of which will fetch him 250 shillings.
Sifuna has a ready market for this produce, as he is already contracted by a processing company based in Eldoret, to supply the produce.
This saves him the hustle and losses of having to go through brokers who are notorious of taking advantage of farmers to pay for minimal and sell for maximum prices.
Besides, chilli farming is a more lucrative agribusiness compared to collard green.
From one acre of chilli, Sifuna anticipates to be making over fifty thousand shillings monthly.
“I hope to be harvesting about 50 kilograms every week and sell at Sh250 per kilogram,” he says
He used to make Sh60,000 from collard green farming annually and had to replant the crop after every season.
His biggest challenge is lack of water as he currently fully dependent on rainfall. Sifuna’s wish is to have drip irrigation connected in this farm.
This way, he says, he will be able to harvest almost all round the year, thus make more money.
His employer works resides in the city and he has taken upon himself to ensure maximum production.
“We communicate about the farm every day, and I often update her on developments and even send pictures whenever necessary,” says Sifuna, adding that modern technology has made farming easy.
He enjoys eating food with mild chilli, he says, and so does he enjoy farming the crop.
He future he adds, he wants to introduce intensified poultry farming so that he can get manure to keep the farm fertile.
Besides, he wants to increase the acreage under chilli, to at least three acres in the next one year.
To succeed in chilli farming, he adds, one needs to have fertile land, certified seeds and possibly a stable source of water.
If small scale farmers come together, they can be able to produce in higher quantities, and therefore negotiate for better markets both locally and internationally.
In a new project dubbed Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) will be supporting chilli farmers like Sifuna.
Stakeholders along this value chain will be among the beneficiaries of the four-year project, which aims at ensuring high standards for produce for the export, regional and local markets.
Funded by the European Union (EU),Markup program will also focus on macadamia nuts, herbs, spices, mango and passion fruits.