Farming in Kenya offers a viable livelihood option while ensuring food security for families.
The country’s favorable weather conditions enable the cultivation of a wide range of crops for both local consumption and export.
Certain crops, with shorter maturation periods, present more manageable and profitable options. Eggplants, for instance, are one such crop that can be cultivated and sold locally or even exported.
James Mwenda a farmer from Meru County shared his experience of transitioning from banana cultivation to focusing on eggplant farming.
A photo of eggplants being sold at a local market alongside other vegetables
Henrylito D. Tacio
The young farmer manages to generate a monthly income of approximately Ksh130,000 by cultivating eggplants on his half-acre plot of land, locally referred to as “biriganya.”
He also exports this produce to Egypt, where a carton can fetch anywhere from Ksh300 to as high as Ksh700.
“In a week I harvest at least three times a day, and so far I have harvested about 120 cartons,” he stated in a past interview.
The market price of the eggplants is influenced by factors such as their shape and colour, with straight eggplants being particularly favoured in the local market.
Meanwhile, Joseph Mumira, another farmer from Uasin Gishu capitalises on the high season in December by selling eggplants for Ksh10 each.
He cultivates over 200 eggplants on his half-acre plot, investing Ksh200 in purchasing the seeds, which are initially sown in a nursery bed before being transplanted to the main farm.
According to the farmer, one of the major challenges in eggplant farming is dealing with pests, particularly spider mites that feed on the plant’s leaves.
Eggplants, originally from India and Bangladesh, are typically cultivated in Kenya between June and December, with the harvest period spanning from October to May to facilitate exports.
In Kenya, various eggplant varieties are cultivated, including black beauty, Florida high bush, ravaya, long purple, and early long purple.
Requirements and Guidelines
Eggplants are classified as warm-season crops, capable of withstanding minimum temperatures as low as 10 degrees Celsius, while their upper tolerance limit reaches 34 degrees Celsius.
The ideal temperature range for optimal growth falls between 26 and 29 degrees Celsius.
Successful eggplant farming necessitates well-draining sandy loam soil, maintaining a pH level within the recommended range of 5.5 to 6.5. To enhance drainage and encourage root development, the practice of ridging is often advised by agricultural experts.
During the planting process, seeds are initially prepared in rows spaced 10cm apart within a seed bed. After a span of 8 to 10 days, the young seedlings are transplanted into a field that has been properly fertilised and is consistently moist.
“Thoroughly water seedlings 12 to 14 hours before transplanting to the field. Transplanting should be done in the late afternoon or on a cloudy day in order to minimise transplanting shock,” Farmers Trend advises.
Eggplants typically require approximately 60 to 90 days from planting to produce mature fruits, and harvesting is typically carried out up to twice a week to ensure optimal fruit quality.
To combat pests effectively, farmers are encouraged to employ strategies such as crop rotation, mixed cropping, and the utilisation of neem-based products.
A photo of Eggplants packed in a crate ready for the market