It’s always nice to hear success stories from fellow farmers. The really awesome thing, however, is to see the success with your own eyes. This is what I saw when I visited Ken Lagat’s Capsicum farm in Turbo, Uasin Gishu County. Well, success is not the best word to describe the things that happen on farms. Most farmers will tell you of the challenges they go through every day to grow crops and success is not a word to throw around easily. A lot of aargh and err… They are usually the norm but when things start going okay then “Progress” is the real word to use, and Ken knows this best. Ken grows 1 acre of capsicums under drip irrigation which he harvests 20 (50 Kg) weekly. His main market is in Nairobi. He gets estimated weekly earnings of Ksh 35,000. Whoa. I know, that’s a lot of money.
So what are Capsicums? Are they legit? What are the important things you need to know before starting?
Capsicums, also called Pilipili Hoho in Kenya, grow well in altitudes of up to 2,000 meters above sea level. If you live in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Narok or areas that have similar soils then capsicums can grow well. They like well-drained loamy soils with a PH range between 6.0 – 6.5.
Now the tricky thing about Capsicums is to get the seeds to germinate. They are stubborn fellows. That’s the only thing that will give you a headache. If you hack the germination step, the rest comes in easy. They grow quite well once they have been transplanted and have enough water.
In a fair world, the capsicum seeds are supposed to take 7- 12 to germinate. If done right. If they don’t then you will have to wait for a whopping 20 days to get germination. Ken Lagat does not face these problems apparently. His seeds germinate within 7 days like bosses. He tells me it’s all about the seed type, temperature and how you put them on the seedbed. He grows 150g of seed per acre.
Seedling emergence will accelerate when the temperature increases to between 24 ºC and 30ºC, with the optimum temperature being 29°C. To control your environment, you can grow your seeds in a greenhouse or make a small Kibanda-sized greenhouse just for the purpose of germinating the seeds. This will help you save the costs of building a fully-fledged greenhouse structure.
According to Ken, seedlings will last 45 days in the nursery bed before transplanting. He transplants them at a spacing of 40cm x 40cm. Harvesting starts 11 weeks after transplanting and can last for 24 weeks under good agronomy practices.
Ken Capsicum Farm Timeline
- Has been growing capsicums for 3 years now. He has been growing 1 acre for some time and expanded to 1.75 acres this year.
- This year his one-acre lasted for 6 months. During this time he got an average of 20 bags (50 Kg) weekly. He has suppliers from Nairobi and the local market. He sells his capsicums between Ksh 35 and Ksh 40 bob. He used to get an estimate earning of Ksh 35,000 weekly. With 6 months of sales, he got an estimated final earning of Ksh 840,000.
- The 1-acre capsicum farm started having low yields as the crops neared their end. He expanded 0.5 acres immediately to keep the revenue flow stable. This is done under drip irrigation.
- He added an extra 0.25 acres of capsicum to cushion him during the dry season. This group is still young and will mature next month. Ken says it’s important to grow your crops in stages to keep the cash flowing. This portion is also done under drip irrigation.
Tips from Ken
- Water and fertilizer feeding is important. When you give this to your crop without bias, success will follow you.
- Commitment and determination are key.
- Farming is just like any other business. Run your farm like a business.
Random Observations from Ken’s farm
- Harvesting will cost you Ksh 100 per person. You need 10 people to harvest 1-acre.
- Small capsicums are on-demand with the local mama mbogas while the large ones go to Nairobi.
- Capsicums are packed in excess of 5 Kg to cater for breakages when being transported.
- Seed brand: Superbell F.
- You will earn more if you grow your crops under drip irrigation.