With the government encouraging farmers to diversify in agricultural farming, one farmer in Uasin Gishu County has ventured into horticultural farming.
Thomas Kiptum is taking home close to Sh3 milllion from cucumber and red capsicum farming.
"Horticulture farming is paying well and that is why I decided to venture into it. Our region is well known for maize farming but it has good climate for the kind of farming which few of the farmers have tried to practice,"Kiptum said.
His farm is located at Kuinet in Moiben sub-county where he produces cucumbers and capsicum through greenhouse technology in an acre-piece of land.
The farm has six green houses for the two types of cucumbers: Sariq and local.
Sariq is only grown in a greenhouse while local ones can either do in the greenhouse or in an open field.
"My intention for planting these two types was to establish which variety yields more," Kiptum said.
According to Isaac Kiprotich who is managing the farm, Sariq variety yields more fruits compared to the local type of cucumber. The local variety yields up to 13kgs of the fruits per plant while Sariq produces 30kgs.
"I harvest twice per week on Monday and Thursday," Kiptum said.
He harvests 1000kg of Sariq fruits variety on Monday and 800kg on Thursday while the local type gives 400kg on Monday and 300kg on Thursday.
Currently, a kg of cucumbers goes for Sh30 after dropping by Sh10 in the last few months.
The plant takes two and half months to mature and ripen after planting. It can be harvested for two to six months with continuous supply of water and fertiliser.
The red capsicum plant produces 1,800kgs in a week with a kilo selling at Sh100. Kiptum uses water from a swamp near his home to irrigate his farm.
"It is very expensive to maintain a horticulture greenhouse and the water near my farm has assisted me a lot. I have built a network of water systems which irrigate all the sections of my farm,"Kiptum added.
The challenge for Kiptum has been lack of enough market for the quantity of cucumbers produced from his farm. Kiptum said he has been selling the produce through middlemen who buy it at a lower price.
"I have not established my own market and that is why I am selling through a middleman. If I am able to make such amount through that chain, then if I had a direct contact to the market, I would be talking of a larger figure," he said.
"Consumption locally is still low since most people have not inculcated this type of eating culture in their everyday meals. People need to change eating culture and incorporate such spices which will improve their health generally," said Kiptum.
Kiprotich says there is a high demand for red capsicum locally and internationally and he is reaping big from it.
"At the moment there is huge market for red capsicum unlike cucumbers," he said.
Kiptum blamed the county governments for failing to come up with a good market strategy for horticultural produce.
"The county government has been encouraging farmers to diversify without considering market implication," Kiptum revealed.
Former Kenyan Ambassador to Australia Stephen Tarus said horticulture farming needs huge capital investment.
The county governments need to establish a market strategy abroad for its farmers for it to be successful.
"We will end up making the sector look like that of maize if proper market is not sought. At the moment maize farmers are grappling with lower prices offered by the government cereals board despite the huge input cost," Tarus said.
Farmers will also be required to observe quality in the sector in order to meet international market standards.
"Since agriculture is a devolved function, then it is the onus of the county government to ensure that farmers are empowered through various seminars relating to horticulture and aids them in getting markets," he said.