Yes, sukuma wiki has pushed millions into my pockets

Vincent Okuku ‘Kenyatta’ at his farm in Asembo, Siaya County. The farmer plants sukuma wiki, bananas and sugarcane. [PHOTOS: COLLINS ODUOR/STANDARD]
“I have tasted fruits of farming and they are sweeter than honey. I will never trade it for any white collar job”.

These are words of Vincent Okuku,37, popularly known as Kenyatta at Kokise village, Siaya County.

At the end of this month, he expects to harvest sackfuls of sukuma wiki after another bountiful harvest last month.

By June, he expects to have made Sh500,000 from kales in his five acre farm. Kenyatta’s journey as a farmer makes for an interesting tale. Life threw him to the deep end of farming at a young age, literally.

The father of two says as a boy, he loved the way his uncle worked hard in his horticulture farm. When he (Kenyatta) dropped out of Kisumu Boys High School at Form Two for lack of school fees, farming was his only means of survival.

Not that he regrets the turn of events. He has been farming for 15 years. All these years, the greens, whose swahili name loosely translates to “push the week”, have indeed been pushing money into Kenyatta’s pocket.

Every year, he makes more than a million shillings from vegetables, bananas and sugar cane.

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But his main money maker is sukuma wiki which he supplies to the village and beyond in Rarieda. “I have tried tomatoes, cabbages, solanum (osuga), spider plant (dek) and bananas.  But I have decided to concentrate on sukuma wiki because it is cheaper to grow,” he says.

Having planted many kale varieties, Kenyatta is now trying a hybrid breed known as Mfalme F1 collards.

“Fifty grammes of mfalme seeds cost Sh2,600 while the normal variety goes for Sh180. Seedlings take one month in the nursery after which they are transplanted. They are ready for harvest after another month,” he says.

Once mature, kale leaves can be plucked for five months. The mfalme variety can be picked for up to two and half years. “The normal sukuma wiki gives me at least Sh7,000 a week. I was motivated to try out the hybrid type and I am expecting to make more money,” he says.

Kenyatta also supplies his produce to nearby schools.

“I supply 40kg of kales to Raliew Secondary School every Monday, and 70kg every week to St Phillips Wera Secondary School. I also supply 100kg to Ngere High School. One kilogramme goes for Sh30,” he says.

Kenyatta, who claims he has never been to Nairobi and does not wish to visit the city, says at least six vegetable vendors visit his farm daily.

With 10,000 stems of sukuma wiki currently, his target is 30,000 in the coming season. The fruits of his many years of farming manifest themselves. From the proceeds, Kenyatta has bought five acres of land, although he still leases more to meet the high demand.

“I never owned any piece of land. But over the years, I have bought a few parcels that I largely use for farming. I also bought a Honda 5.5 Horse Power generator at Sh45,000 that I use to pump water from Lake Victoria a few metres from my farm,” he says.

He also used the returns he got from farming to open a shop for his wife at Ralayo Beach.

“The proceeds have also helped me pay secondary school fees for my niece who is currently a second year Agriculture student at Egerton University,” he says.

Besides kales, Kenyatta grows tissue culture bananas (Williams and Chinese Dwarf) and sugarcane on a three-and-a-half-acre parcel he bought from Kale proceeds.

“I have 230 Williams breed and 150 Chinese dwarf circuses which are now ready for sale. I harvest four times a year and sell each bunch for at Sh350,” Kenyatta says.

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