BUSIA (Xinhua) --
Quinto Okitwi has a strong attachment to his
ancestral village in Western Kenyan county of Busia thanks to
its tranquil weather and fertile soils that have shielded local
communities from vagaries of hunger.
father of seven has been a farmer since the days of his youth
and has no plans to abandon this vocation given that it has fed
and educated his offspring without hassles.
farm that is near Kenya-Uganda border is a case study in
diversification thanks to encouragement from local agricultural
extension officers and a private company that exports fresh
produce to regional markets.
Recently, Okitwi and
hundreds of smallholder farmers in his locality have embarked on
cultivation of chillies for export in a bid to broaden their
“I planted chillies
late last year after undergoing training on how to tend to this
delicate crop. Toward the end of January, I managed to harvest
28 kilograms that fetched me 57 U.S. dollars,” Okitwi told
Xinhua in a recent interview at his farm.
village has not escaped the wrath of erratic weather patterns
that have affected production of key staples like maize,
sorghum, beans and millet.
According to Okitwi,
depressed rains coupled with voracious pests and diseases are to
blame for food insecurity and poverty affecting the majority of
smallholder farmers in the low lying plains of Busia County in
“Farmers in this
region have grappled with declining productivity linked to
erratic weather patterns. This dry spell in particular has not
been favorable for planting maize but our chillies have reached
maturity without disruption,” said Okitwi.
He set aside half an
acre to plant chillies in November last year and has benefited
from training offered by a local grassroots empowerment agency
which also helps small scale farmers export the famous pepper to
Okitwi and his wife
Margaret Barasa were optimistic that cultivation of chillies
alongside other fast maturing vegetables will offer them
additional income amid rising cost of living.
“We were excited
when a charity organization introduced chili farming in this
region and look forward to higher incomes in future,” remarked
Barasa, adding that tending to chillies is not a demanding task.
empowerment lobbies have been encouraging smallholder farmers in
western Kenya to diversify as a means to shield them from
hunger, malnutrition and financial stress.
the Busia County Manager of Joyful Women Organization (JOYWO),
said chilies have presented a viable alternative to small-scale
“We have partnered
with several organizations to help farmers grow and export
different varieties of chillies. So far, cultivation of chillies
has been realized in 60 acres of land in the larger Busia
County,” Kapudiaka told Xinhua.
He revealed that
small-scale farmers growing chillies in Busia County are grouped
in clusters to enhance their bargaining power in the local and
“Our farmers are
encouraged to form clusters to enable them to sell the produce
in bulk. However, payments are made to the individual farmer
through mobile money transfer service,” said Kapudiaka.
His organization has
partnered with the Nairobi-based trade facilitation agency,
Trade Mark East Africa, to help chili farmers in Busia sell the
produce to buyers in Uganda.
Kapudiaka hailed the
Feb. 24 launch of Busia One Stop Border Post (OSBP) by Kenyan
and Ugandan presidents saying it will open new markets for
Kenyan chili farmers in neighboring Uganda.
farmers in Busia too said they were excited by the prospect of
unfettered access to markets in Uganda, saying it will motivate
them to work harder.
David Echuli, a
63-year-old father of twelve, said he is keen to scale up
cultivation of chillies now that it is easy to sell the produce
in regional markets that promise higher returns.
“Since I started
cultivating chillies on a quarter acre farm late last year, the
benefits have started trickling in and I look forward to
expanding land under cultivation of this crop,” said Echuli.
He harvested 20
kilograms of chillies recently and earned 50 dollars that he
spent on clearing outstanding debts and purchasing household
Echuli noted that
chillies have guaranteed financial security to smallholder
farmers unlike traditional staples whose productivity is on a
decline due to loss of soil fertility and climatic stresses.