Cowpea, also known as Kunde in Kenya, is an essential grain legume that plays a significant role in the country’s farming systems. It serves as a major source of dietary protein and income for people across various regions. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the current state of cowpea farming, including notable statistics, pricing, ecological requirements, and ways farmers can make money even on small portions of land.

Kunde, Cowpea Farming in Kenya

According to Farmers Trend, a recent survey by the Ministry of Agriculture revealed a surge in Kunde cultivation, with a 15% increase in planted acreage over the past two years. This trend is likely driven by several factors. Firstly, Kunde boasts a short growing season, often maturing within 60-90 days. This allows farmers to harvest multiple times a year, even on small plots, maximizing their yield potential.

Secondly, Kunde offers a valuable source of income. The national average price for dry kunde seeds sits around 100 Kenyan shillings per kilogram (as of April 2024). Kunde leaves, a delicacy in many regions, can fetch even higher prices at local markets.

Cowpea farming in Kenya is done for the cowpeas seeds and also their leaves. The cowpeas are the easiest of the plants in the bean family to grow. They do well in the harshest of climates and require very little rainfall. Cowpeas are rarely grown under irrigation since they yield a lot of leaves when exposed to a lot of water but produce little grain. The rainfall required for the farming of cowpeas is about 200mm in the season of growth.

Worth noting is that cowpeas are indigenous to Africa having been in the continent over 3000 years ago.

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The cowpeas leaves are a good source of Vitamins A, B and C and are rich in calcium, phosphorus, carbohydrates proteins and fiber. Dried seeds contain protein and carbohydrates. Cowpeas are recommended for consumption, by health experts due to the health benefits.

In some areas cowpeas is grown for pasture, hay, silage as a cover crop and green manure.
Utilization: Cowpea can be used at all stages of growth as a vegetable crop. The tender green leaves and immature pods are used as vegetable. Green cowpea seeds are boiled, canned or frozen. Dry mature seeds are also suitable for boiling and canning.

Think of John, a passionate farmer but concerned about the environmental impact of his practices. By incorporating Kunde into his crop rotation, John not only benefits from the additional income it generates, but he also nourishes the soil for his other crops, creating a sustainable and eco-friendly farming system.

Challenges and Considerations

While Kunde is a resilient crop, it’s not invincible. Pests like aphids and pod-borers can significantly reduce yields. The good news is that organic pest control methods or utilizing natural predators can be effective deterrents. Additionally, while Kunde tolerates some rainfall, excessive downpours during flowering can harm the crop. With a preferred temperature range of 20-35°C and an ideal soil pH of 5.5-6.5, understanding local weather patterns and soil conditions becomes crucial for optimal yields.

The Kunde Revolution: A Brighter Future for Kenyan Agriculture

With its affordability, nutritional value, and remarkable ecological benefits, Kunde farming presents a promising path forward for Kenyan farmers, particularly those with limited land resources. By embracing this versatile crop, they can secure additional income, improve soil health, and contribute to a more sustainable agricultural future. So, the next time you see Agnes at the market with her vibrant Kunde display, remember, you’re not just buying a vegetable; you’re supporting a small-scale farmer and a powerful force for positive change in Kenyan agriculture.

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In conclusion, cowpea farming in Kenya presents a significant opportunity for farmers, particularly those in arid and semi-arid areas. With the right farming practices and market strategies, farmers can reap substantial benefits from this hardy and nutritious crop. Despite the challenges that may come with cowpea farming, such as pests and diseases, the potential benefits far outweigh the risks. As such, more farmers should consider venturing into cowpea farming. Not only will this contribute to food security in the country, but it will also provide farmers with a reliable source of income. With the ongoing advancements in agricultural technology and farming practices, the future of cowpea farming in Kenya looks promising.

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