Kenya’s agriculture is highly dependent on the two primary rainy seasons: the long rains, which occur from March to May, and the short rains, from October to December. However, the erratic weather patterns associated with climate phenomena like El Niño can disrupt traditional planting and harvesting schedules. During El Niño, Kenya often experiences above-average rainfall, which can either be a blessing or a challenge for farmers. To make the most of these unique weather conditions, it’s crucial to select crops that can thrive during El Niño rains. In this extended article, we’ll delve deeper into the best crops to cultivate during El Niño in Kenya and explore some key tips for successful farming.
- Maize: Green Gold During El Niño
While maize is a staple crop in Kenya, El Niño brings an opportunity for a different approach. Instead of waiting for the maize to fully mature, consider harvesting it while it’s still green. Green maize is highly sought after for roasting or making traditional dishes like Githeri. This strategy allows you to capitalize on the increased rainfall and the elevated demand for green maize during this period. Grow the 4 month variety.
- Beans: A Fast-Growing Profitable Companion Crop
Beans are an excellent choice for intercropping between rows of maize during the El Niño rains. They are known for their relatively rapid growth and can benefit from the additional moisture in the soil. Furthermore, beans are consistently in high demand in local markets. Presently, a 90 kg bag of beans can sell for as much as KSh 13,000, making them an especially lucrative option for planting during the El Niño season.
- Irish Potatoes: Capitalize on Constant Demand
Irish potatoes are a perennial favorite in Kenyan kitchens and are in demand year-round. The El Niño rains provide an ideal opportunity to cultivate this versatile tuber. The increased moisture levels are advantageous for potato growth, resulting in healthier plants and higher yields. With a stable market demand, Irish potatoes can be a reliable source of income during El Niño seasons.
- Onions: Thriving in Moist Conditions
Onions are another crop that thrives during the short rains associated with El Niño. The added moisture during the early stages of growth is particularly beneficial for onions. They tend to establish strong root systems and grow exceptionally well during this time. By planting onions during El Niño, you can take advantage of the favorable conditions for their initial development, ensuring a bountiful harvest.
- Capsicums (Bell Peppers): Consistency and Profitability
Capsicums, commonly known as bell peppers, are renowned for consistently fetching a decent price in the market. During El Niño, the increased rainfall can provide the necessary moisture for capsicum plants to flourish. By cultivating capsicums during this period, you can expect robust growth and potentially higher yields.
Key Tips for Successful Farming During El Niño
- Soil Preparation: Before planting, ensure your soil is well-prepared. El Niño rains can lead to soil erosion, so implementing proper soil conservation measures such as terracing can help prevent nutrient loss and soil erosion.
- Water Management: While El Niño brings more rainfall, it’s essential to manage water effectively. Implementing proper drainage systems and ensuring that your crops do not get waterlogged is crucial.
- Pest and Disease Management: The increased moisture can also lead to heightened pest and disease pressure. Monitor your crops closely and be prepared to take action to protect your investment.
- Crop Rotation: Consider practicing crop rotation to prevent soil depletion and maintain soil fertility.
- Market Research: Always conduct market research to understand the demand for your chosen crops and the prevailing prices in your area.
El Niño may introduce uncertainty into Kenyan agriculture with its unpredictable weather patterns. However, it also offers unique opportunities for farmers who choose their crops wisely and adapt their farming practices to suit the conditions. Maize, beans, Irish potatoes, onions, and capsicums are among the best crops to consider during the El Niño rains. By adopting these crops and following the key tips for successful farming, you can maximize your yield and profit from the unique weather patterns associated with El Niño in Kenya. Remember to consult with local agricultural experts and extension services for specific guidance tailored to your region.