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How to spice up your earnings from ‘hohos’

DR PESA
By Jennifer Anyango | August 14th 2021

Kirinyaga-based farmer Fred Munene has cultivated capsicum (pili pili hoho) on a commercial basis for a few years now.

Munene’s success has attracted numerous farmers and other curious onlookers to his farm in Mwea.

Their interest in the crop has inspired him to start consultancy services and a YouTube channel where he shares experiences. Capsicum’s growing popularity as a vegetable among many Kenyans provides a ready market.

But before going into capsicum farming, one needs to conduct their research.

“First, it is advisable to have a business plan to give you a blueprint and form the skeleton of your business. Financial and agricultural institutions can provide business plans. Then, bring in an expert or an agronomist who can help implement the business plan,” he said.

Munene, who grows capsicum in greenhouses, gives tips on how to get the best out of the crop.

Soil analysis

Soil analysis is very critical because it helps to know the nature of the soil, the pests and diseases and the nutritional value in it.

It also helps one to know the type of manure and fertiliser to use and in case of any diseases, how to control them.

Seed selection

This may be determined by the market demand. There are green, yellow, orange and red varieties that come in the form of Admiral F1, Buffalo F1, Maxibel, Ilanga wonder, Yolo wonder, Golden Sun F1, Kori F1, Green bell F1, among others.

“There several varieties or colours in the market. The green variety takes is the most popular because many people consume it,” said Munene.

Greenhouse

A standard greenhouse measures eight metres by 30 metres. Such a greenhouse accommodates 1,000 seedlings at Sh18 each. An acre of land can hold eight to 10 greenhouses, with each costing Sh350,000.

Preparing the planting beds

The seeds germinate in seven to 10 days and it takes about six weeks for them to mature for transplanting. If they are left past the sixth week, they could mature in the nursery.

“The coloured varieties can be harvested while they are still green, but they will not fetch the desired returns. The green coloured ones go for Sh50 a kilo, while the coloured ones go for Sh160 a kilo,” said Munene.

Managing the crops

Drenching: Pouring fungicides and pesticides at the stem protects them from insects and other pests. 

Stem twining: The plants need to be supported by a string after pruning, leaving three to four strong stems. “Look out for pests like spider mites and the powdery mildew. Water the crop, although, the water demand is subject to weather conditions,” said Munene.

 Maturity

It takes 90 to 115 days to get the first coloured fruit. This is determined by the environmental condition of the period of planting. The crop takes longer to mature in cold weather than in warm weather, according to Munene.

Returns

Fred harvests three kilos to five kilos per plant. “If you can produce up to five kilos per plant, this means you will get 3,000kg of capsicum in one greenhouse. If you calculate using the current price at Sh160,” he said. 

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