daniel kimani farmer in kenyaDaniel Kimani holds huge green, red and yellow capsicums in his hands as he smiles broadly, obviously happy with the bumper harvest.

This is his second harvest in a week, and Kimani who farms in Kagiko, some 20km from Thika town, had managed to get over 200kg of the produce, an indication of how the crop that he grows in a greenhouse on part of two acres family land is doing well.

“I am now certain that growing capsicum was a good decision, because this crop has a good return on investment by the time it is exhausted in about four months,” he offers.

But capsicum is not the only plant that Kimani grows as he is a jack of various crops, in which he is slowly but steadily becoming a master of all.

Besides capsicum, he grows thorn melon, collard green (sukuma wiki), spinach and ginger in a mixed crop venture that is not only rewarding but also fulfilling.

The return from Middle East

The farmer further keeps some dairy cows and goats, but he says these are not his mainstay.

“I started farming in 2013, first due to my love for it and second, I saw it as a business that I needed as a source of income because I had returned into the country from the Middle East,” says Daniel, who has a degree in information technology and has worked with firms in the country and the Middle East.

With little to do upon his return, the farmer was encouraged to apply for a loan from the Youth Fund.

“I was given two 15 by 24ft greenhouses and a drip system amounting to Sh350,000. The loan was farmer friendly because they gave me a six- month grace period and after it lapsed, I only needed to repay on a monthly basis Sh10,000,” says Kimani, who is remaining with a balance of Sh100,000 of the loan, and was offered training on crop husbandry before starting the agribusiness.

Inside the greenhouses, he has planted coloured capsicum (yellow and red) that offer him about 4kg per harvest from a single plant. The farmer has 140 plants.

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“I went for the coloured capsicum because they offer twice as much as the green variety and one harvest for up to four months in a greenhouse although they take about three months to mature.”

Soil Solarisation

Before he planted the crop, he took soil samples to Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation in Thika where they did an analysis and got it had bacteria and fungi.

“I was advised to burn it at 80oC to kill bacteria in what is called soil solarisation and afterwards I did an anti-fungal treatment with the help of Amiran. I then applied manure on the soil.”

“In one year I have two planting seasons, and in between I do crop rotation or let the land lie fallow to avoid pest resistance,” says Kimani, breaking down that he sells the crops at Sh100 a kilo.

“There is a high demand for coloured capsicum because the market is not saturated, therefore, with good management, one is assured of getting maximum yields by delivering quality produce to consumers.”

His business is profitable because he sells his produce at the Nairobi City Market wholesale section twice a week. Away from capsicum, there is the garlic (kitunguu saumu) farm.

“The crop is doing well despite the climatic condition, which is not as favourable as that in Meru where it thrives,” he says.

“I decided to try and grow to see how it fairs and possibly widen my revenue base. I got the seeds from Saumu Kenya.”

The garlic plantation sits on an acre and he gets water from a nearby river, which he supplies to the crops, just as those in the greenhouse, using drip irrigation.

Unlike capsicum, the market for the produce is stiff as local farmers have to compete with imports from China. “But I have noticed that people like the local variety because it has a good taste,” says Kimani, who sells a kilo at Sh230.

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Propagating ginger from rhizome fingers

For ginger, he propagates through rhizome fingers which he separates into sets of 2.5cm, and they take about eight to 10 months to mature.

“The crop grows well but it does not do so well because the weather is not favourable. But I get something that I sell to my customers.”

His challenges include pests and water since he sources it from a seasonal river that often dries up.

“For now I am comfortable farming and my dream is to grow the business to 10 greenhouses and turn it into a successful commercial venture.”

But Kimani did not start farming crops, upon returning from the Middle East in 2010, he invested in pig farming. However, it did not go well.

“I lost more than 50 pigs due to a disease outbreak that hit this area. I gave up and tried dairy farming by rearing some cows and decided to move to crop farming after taking the loan when the going got tougher.”

Dr Jane Ambuko, the Head of Horticulture, Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection at the University of Nairobi, says in mixed crop farming, a farmer has to understand the nutrition value of each crop that he is planting.

“The commonest mixed cropping is that of maize and beans. The beans fix nitrogen in the soil thus helping maize grow better, and healthier.”

Mixed crop farming, according to Dr Ambuko, helps in preventing diseases as some crops acts as pesticides. Some spice crops such as ginger can prevent diseases and pests.
“The crops have to complement each other in terms of values they give or gains.”

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