Farming in Kenya has picked in the best way we could have all imagined. Even with chilli farming one can make un imaginable profits. Chilies have great nutritional value since they can be source of vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, iron, potassium and magnesium. The capsaicin in them contain anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic and analgesic properties. They also help to reduce cholesterol levels in the body, aid in digestion, help relieve migraines, muscle and joint pain.
Given the tropical climatic conditions of Kenya, chilies farming is ideal, and the warmer the growing conditions the hotter the chili.
How to Make money Through Chilli Farming
Chilies should be farmed in an area where they get enough sunlight, where the temperatures don’t get below 150C.
The varieties of Kenyan chillies represent some of the hottest of them; Cayenne Pepper, Bird Eye, Jalapeno, Serenade, habareno and more.
Chili Farming: Ecological requirements
- The crop can grow at elevations from sea level to 1500m above sea level
- The crop thrives in areas with medium rainfall about 600-1,200mm per annum.
- Excess rain can causes leaf shedding and cause rotting
- Extreme water deficits can stunt growth and cause flower abortion and fruit drops hence irrigation is recommended where rainfall is insufficient.
- Chilies are warm seasoned crops hence sensitive to frost. The optimum temperatures for growth and fruit set are 20-300C.
- Night temperatures below 16oC and day temperature above 320C can however prevent/reduce fruits set.
- Low humidity and high temperatures cause abscission of buds, flower and fruit.
- Light loamy, non-acidic, well drained soils are ideal for capsicum growth but with proper soil management, chili can grow in a wide range of soil types. Soil pH of 4.3-9.7 is well tolerated. However the optimum is pH is 6.0-6.5.
Chili Farming: Planning Production
- Production should be done in collaboration with the buyer so that the produce can be collected immediately after drying
- Get certified seeds from a recommended source.
- The size of farm should be determined by the labour available especially during harvesting.
Chilli Farming: Fertilizer application
- Application of up to 10 tons/ha of Farm Yard Manure or compost is recommended depending on soil organic matter content (2 handfuls per planting hole).
- 250 kg/ha TSP or DAP may be applied during transplanting. Top-dress with 100 kg/ha CAN when plants are about 15 cm and later with 200 kg/ha CAN after 4 weeks.
Chilli Farming: Harvesting
- The fruits are ready for first picking between 2 1/2 to 3 months after transplanting.
- Picking continues for 3 to 4 months and it is recommended to harvest all the red ripe chilies as soon as they appear.
- Harvesting can be done once or twice a week.
- Harvest mature, deep red fruits only of length not more than 2 cm. Chilies should be picked without stalks.
- Damaged, overripe, or green chilies should not be taken to the dryer.
- The fruit should be picked early in the day after dew evaporates from the plant.
- It is far more profitable to harvest all the fruit from a few plants than half of the fruit from many plants.
Chilli Farming: Yield
- Depending on management yields of 1,000 kg to 3,000 kg per acre can be achieved.
- Well-managed farms should be able to yield at least 600 grams of fresh chili per plant per year or 200 grams of dried chili.
- A well maintained crop should produce up to 3 tons of chili per acre.
Chilli Farming: Challenges in production
- Harvesting is the most labour intensive activity in chilli production. This has been a deterrent to large scale production of chili.
- It is advisable not to plant more bushes than you can easily harvest.
Chilli Farming: Advice to potential growers
- The market demands top quality and consistent product. Drying and grading operations needs to be maintained at high standards.
- Start on a small scale and expand production as you get experienced.
- It is important to plan production with the Buyer in order to ensure timely delivery of the produce after drying.