Capsicum brings a smile on former agronomist’s face

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After seeing horticulture farmers earn more than he did as an agronomist, Mr. Justus Kihara resigned. It was clear in his mind that farming would be his next source of daily bread.

“I used to earn Ksh35,000 per month and with the rent, transport, food and other bills to pay, I remained with very little,” he said. On his resignation, the 58-year old carried some capsicum seeds from his employer and planted them at his farm in Warazo jet sub-location, Kieni west district.

“The pan African canners company had introduced the trade to the area in 1975 and they used to buy ripe capsicum from our fathers before they closed shop. I thought it would be a great idea to restart this farming due to its high returns,” he notes. The father of three planted the fresh vegetable crop in one-and-a-half acres of his farm. At this moment, he is planning to increase his farm to two acres.

Today, he harvest between 700 and 800 kilogrammes every fortnight on average. Capsicum, popularly known as pilipili hoho takes between three and half to four months to mature.

Thereafter, he sourced for a market and started selling to middlemen from Nairobi and Mombasa at Ksh30 to Ksh60 per kilogramme, making about Ksh21,000 to Ksh48,000 every two weeks.

“I made Ksh30,000 on my first harvest, making me believe that I was right to quit my agronomist job and start farming,” he told Money.

In order to empower other residents in the region, Mr. Kihara has since introduced interested farmers to capsicum farming a move that has seen more than five acres in the region come under the crop. Money found some farmers busy tending their crop which has not matured and they expect to make tidy incomes after harvest.

Ms Eva Njoki who has planted the crop in a quarter acre of land says she chose to invest in capsicum after seeing her neighbour make good income from the vegetable. Ms Njoki is expecting to harvest about 1,000 kilogrammes every two weeks in her plot making about Ksh60,000 every month.

Mr Kihara is calling on youths to form groups and embrace capsicum farming for a good income. “They can even rent farms if they do not have their own. Soon, they will get out of the poverty trap,” he added. The farmers, however, claim they lack an established market and call on processing companies to buy from them in large quantities to keep middlemen who often take a big share of the proceeds at bay.

The farmers too lack enough agricultural extension officers who would train them on the capsicum farming and how to manage attacks from pests and diseases. “When I started, I did not know the kind of insects that would affect them or how the weather affects them. There are only two agriculture officers in this vast area who are always in demand meaning getting them to our farms is a huge challenge,” said Ms Njoki.

Capsicum normally comes in green, red and yellow varieties. The crop needs about the same care as tomatoes, but they are even more vulnerable

to cold. They need to be grown in soil that will not dry out quickly and is supplied with plenty of manure.  

Source:  Daily Nation, Money August 30, 2012

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