The green leafy sukuma wiki (collard greens) plants stand about half a metre high and sway as the wind blows in the plains of Kinangop.
Mary Wangui the owner of the farm, grows about 30,000 plants on her two acres. She 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 her farm into nine portions.
Wangui 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 nearby markets.”
In a week, she collects between Sh20,000 and Sh36,000 from the about nine sacks she 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 Wangui, who quit teaching to concentrate on farming.
“I started by planting on quarter acre some 2,000 seedlings and they did well, enabling me to get Sh500 after every three days,” she adds.
She holds a certificate in farm management which enables her 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.”
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.”
PESTS AND DISEASES
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.