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Good returns make farmer quit sukumawiki farming for chilli

Sunday December 1 2019

Amos Sifuna displays chilli

Amos Sifuna displays some of the chilli harvested at Makutano farm in Kanduyi, Bungoma County. He says chilli growing has proved more lucrative than sukumawiki farming. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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For years, Makutano farm in Kanduyi, Bungoma County, specialised 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 little.

However, this farm has since transformed to a chilli farm, with only very minimal traces of sukumawiki.

On an early afternoon, Amos Sifuna, the farm’s manager, is tending to a heavily fruited chilli crop.


He specialises in growing the Bird's Eye chilli variety, which is characterized by small chillies and a strong aroma.


Mr 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 fast.

A week ago, Mr Sifuna adds, he got his maiden harvest from this crop, and is looking forward to the next harvest in a few days.

Bird's eye chilli growing at at Makutano farm
Bird's eye chilli growing at at Makutano farm in Bungoma County. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Having planted it in April, he had anticipated to get the first harvest in August.

But the long rains came late in this area, delaying the crop’s maturity.

For him though, all is not lost.

He is hoping for a bumper harvest which will result to handsome returns.

The first harvest gave him twenty kilogrammes of chilli, each selling for Sh250.


Mr 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 for taking advantage of farmers.

Besides, chilli farming is a more lucrative agribusiness compared to sukumawiki.

From one acre of chilli, Mr Sifuna anticipates to be making over Sh50,000 monthly.

“I hope to be harvesting about 50 kilogrammes every week and sell at Sh250 per kilo,” he says.

He used to make Sh60,000 from sukumawiki farming annually and had to replant the crop after every season.

His biggest challenge is lack of water as he is currently fully dependent on rainfall.


Mr Sifuna’s wish is to have drip irrigation in this farm.

This way, he says, he will be able to harvest almost all year round and thus make more money from the chilli farming.

His employer works and resides in the city, and he has taken it 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 Mr Sifuna, adding that modern technology has made farming easy.

He enjoys eating food with mild chilli and so does he enjoy farming the crop.

He says that in future, he plans to introduce intensified poultry farming so that he can get manure to keep the farm fertile.

Besides, he wants to increase the area under chilli to at least three acres in the next one year.

Amos Sifuna weeds for the chilli grown at
Amos Sifuna weeds for the chilli grown at Makutano farm in Kanduyi, Bungoma County. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


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 prices both locally and internationally, he says.

In a new project dubbed Market Access Upgrade Programme (Markup), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) will be supporting chilli farmers like Mr Sifuna.

Stakeholders along this value chain will be among the beneficiaries of the four-year project, which aims at ensuring high standards of produce for the export, regional and local markets.

Funded by the European Union (EU), the Markup programme will also focus on macadamia nuts, herbs, spices, mangoes and passion fruit farming.