Though West Pokot County has tremendous potential to produce Sukuma wiki (kales) vegetables, many local residents still import from other counties due to lack of sufficient supply.
However, this is changing as farmers have now switched from livestock and maize farming to high-paying Sukuma wiki farming in the region.
Donald Barasa, a Sukuma wiki vegetable farmer from Kapenguria in West Pokot, says that he switched from maize and livestock farming after he saw a potential income in Sukuma wiki.
‘‘The high demand for Sukuma wiki in the region made me realize I could fetch high prices in the same unlike any other farming activity,’’ Basara explained.
Barasa started off with 800 seedlings of Sukuma wiki, which he used to test the waters and the yield was very impressive, in four months’ time after transplanting the seedlings from the seeds’ nursery, sukuma wiki harvest earned him up to thousands of shillings a week.
Barasa got encouraged after he realized he could make more income by increasing his production from ½ acre to a full one acre.
‘‘I believed I could get more yields and increase my income by increasing my production from ½ acre to a full acre,’’ noted Barasa
However, Barasa said Sukuma wiki farming is still unfamiliar in West Pokot county and remains untapped and unfamiliar to many smallholder farmers since the region for many years was faced with perennial conflicts that range from cattle rustling, banditry, fight over water, pasture, or revenge attacks, affecting social-economic development more so new farming activities in the region.
Barasa said the Sukuma wiki is labour intensive and requires attention since the plant is not pests and weeds friendly and with time, he says, he has realized the plant does well in a relatively warm climate with high rainfall that is reliable.
“The sukuma wiki plant is delicate and needs a lot of attention and proper spacing depending on the variety. For instance 30 by 30 centimetres for Sukuma wiki with small leave,60 by 45 centimetres with medium-sized leaves and 60 by 60 from Sukuma wiki with large leave,’’ explained Barasa
“I encourage farmers to get certified Sukuma wiki seeds from the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) or from any other certified seeds companies with a good reputation in the seedling that is resistant to drought and diseases,” urged Barasa.
Sukuma wiki matures within four weeks after transplanting from nursery bed and Basara noted the farmer needs to harvest the plant leaves when the leaves are the size of a farmer’s hand.
‘‘Harvesting is done manually by handpicking the outer leaves of the plant and by doing so will continue to grow as the farmer harvest the new leaves that develops,’’ narrated Basara
Sukuma wiki leaves after harvesting can be stored for a period of seven to ten days under refrigeration and longer if cooked and frozen,’’ Basara continues to narrate.
“The Sukuma wiki seeds are first sown in a nursery or seedling trays, the farmer needs to prepare the drills across the nursery bed at the spacing between 10 to 15 centimetres apart and two centimetres deep.” Basara says.
“Mulch can be removed from the seed nursery or a tray seedlings bed after the germination of the seedlings,’’ Basara says.
From Sukuma wiki proceeds, Basara has managed to purchase a plot, have his three children educated, support his relatives, create employment and contributes to the country’s economic growth.
‘‘I encourage the other farmers and unemployed youth to try a living in Sukuma wiki farming,” Basara says.
By Anthony Melly