Kale commonly referred as Sukumawiki is the most common vegetable produced in Kenya. Kale (Brassica oleracea), var acephala is a member of Brassicaceae family. It’s a cool season crop but can also grow in warm areas provided there is adequate water for irrigation. They have a high water requirement and do best with at least 500 mm (millimeters) of rainfall per annum.

kales farming in kenya

Kale plants have green or purple leaves, and the central leaves do not form a head as with cabbage. Kale is grown for its edible leaves. Kale are a good source of nutrients especially for calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins, but are low in protein.

Kale produced in Kenya are from both rainfed and irrigated land. The crop is therefore found in nearly all regions of Kenya with pockets of irrigated lands that include; Coast, North Eastern, Rift Valley, Eastern, Central and Nyanza regions.


The ideal altitude for Kale production range from 800-2200m above sea level. The elevation range provide the ideal temperature range needed by the plants to grow and produce optimal yields. At low altitude the crop should be grown during the cool months of the year.


Requires require long cool growing periods and the best average temperature during the growing season is between 16° and 21°C. Generally, high temperatures reduce kale yield. In areas with high temperatures, climate smart technologies such as use of shade nets can be used to create suitable microclimate for Kale production. Shade net reduce temperature and increase relative humidity in the field thereby increasing the yield of kale.


Kale can be grown on a wide range of soil types provided the soil is well prepared. The crop grows best on soils that hold and drain water well preferably sandy or sandy loams and the ideal PH should be between 5.7 and 7. For heavy soils and where irrigation is practiced, flooding should be avoided by adopting an appropriate irrigation schedule because heavy soils are prone to flooding and plants under such conditions may be infected by root rots and subsequently die off causing serious yield losses.

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Kale require a constant supply of moisture during the growing season and therefore if rain-fed, then the rainfall should range between 500 to 750mm and also be well distributed throughout the growing period. Given the erratic nature of rain in the elevations between 800 and 1500m above sea level, supplemental irrigation is often needed for a successful commercial crop.

Major Kale producing counties in Kenya

Kiambu 1, Narok 2, Machakos 3, Nyamira 4, Homa bay 5, Kisii 6, Nakuru 7, Bomet 8, Nyandarua 9, Kisumu 10.


Obtain good quality seedlings from a KEPHIS certified nurseries or at Virtual Online Agrovet.

  • Dig holes at a spacing of 1 foot and 1 ½ feet apart
  • Put 1-2 handfuls of well-rotten manure and bottle cap (5g) per hole of planting fertilizer like Mavuno Vegetable fertilizer N.P.K. 20.10.18 or Mavuno Planting Fertilizer N.P.K. 10.26.10
  • Mix well with soil
  • Plant a healthy seedling in each hole
  • Water well then cover with a light mulch to keep soil moist.


  • After 2-3 weeks, weed, then top-dress with a Nitrogen fertilizer like Mavuno Topdressing Booster N.P.K. 26.0.0 or C.A.N.
  • Use 10g (tablespoon). You can spray foliar feeds like Easy Gro Vegetative after every harvest for better yields
  • Remove any over grown or diseased leaves. This allows plant to grow new leaves. Old leaves are also not as nutritious or palatable as young leaves.
  • Scout frequently to detect signs of pest attack early so that it is easy to control.


Depending on the variety, your kale will be ready for harvesting after 2-3 months. At this stage, it will have developed large, fresh and mature leaves. The lower leaves are picked regularly when ready. Take care not to injure stems. Leaves are harvested twice weekly. Harvested leaves should be used as soon as possible to prevent withering and loss of quality.

Success Story Of A Kales (Sukumawiki) Farmer In Kenya


kale farmer in Kenya

The green leafy sukuma wiki (collard greens) plants stand about half a metre high and sway as the wind blows in Munango village, Vihiga County.

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Christopher Angote, the owner of the farm, grows about 30,000 plants on his two acres. He spaces them 30cm from one crop to another and 60cm from one row to another.

A section of the farm hosts various traditional vegetables plants such as black nightshade (managu) and cowpeas (kunde).

“I have tasted the fruits of sukuma wiki and I can say only those who don’t know can despise it as a money-maker. I grow this crop that is widely consumed round-the-year,” says the former teacher, who has partitioned his farm into nine portions.

Angote, who used to teach biology and agriculture at Holy Cross Emalindi Girls Secondary School on contract, is yet to transplant another 20,000 sukuma wiki seedlings of the Southern Georgia variety.

Vendors pick the vegetables packed in 70 and 90kg bags every Tuesdays and Thursdays for sale.

“I sell a sack at between Sh2,000 and Sh4,000, depending on the season, to traders who come to pick them from the farm for sale in Luanda, Ilungu, Chavakali, Mbale, Majengo and Kakamega markets.”


He says in a week, he collects between Sh20,000 and Sh36,000 from the about nine sacks he harvests.

“Sukuma wiki is profitable because one harvests for up to five months every week as long as you control pests and apply manure. The crop is easy to grow and manage,” offers Angote, who quit teaching to concentrate on farming in 2008.

“I have been farming for the past 25 years having started growing vegetables in 1991 soon after completing Form Four in 1991. I started by planting on quarter acre some 2,000 seedlings and they did well, enabling me to get Sh500 after every three days,” he adds.

He holds a certificate from Kilifi Institute of Agriculture and further trained in farm management at Bukura Institute of Agriculture and Technology in 1997, enabling him to learn the ropes of commercial vegetable farming.

“I start my planting by buying 1kg of seedlings for Sh2,000. I then prepare the nursery bed by adding manure in the soil, which I do a month before buying the seeds and planting.”

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The crop takes a month in the nursery after which he transplants them and top dresses with DAP fertiliser. They mature in another one month.

Just as any agribusiness venture, the farmer has a share of challenges ranging from diseases to price fluctuation.

“I once had a bad experience with downy mildew that attacked the seedlings while in the nursery. Luckily, I consulted an agronomist and we sprayed the plants enabling them to survive.”


Stem rot disease, characterised by soft, mucus and smelly rot in the pith of the stem has also affected his sukuma wiki plants.

Prof Mathews Dida, a lecturer at Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture, says downy mildew, a fungal disease characterised by white fluffy mold on the underside of the leaves and yellow dry spots on the upper surface of the leaves, can be transmitted at early stages of the plant in the nursery.

“It is generally favoured by cool and wet weather. The disease is easy to control through spraying of affected areas with Ridomil or Capton pesticides, among other chemicals available in agrovets.”

He says stem rot may occur before or after harvest because of secondary infection from bacteria.

The disease can be prevented through crop rotation and application of Prestop chemical.


All season crop

  • Sukuma wiki is commercially cultivated for its thick edible leaves.
  • The vegetable is available year-round, but are tastier and more nutritious during the rainy season.
  • The leaves should be picked before they reach their maximum size.
  • Age does not affect flavour and the crop is also much appreciated in South America.
  • Fresh sukuma wiki leaves can be stored for between three and 10 days if refrigerated.

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