Getting started on chili farming

One of the lessons for beginners in chilies is to always have a market in mind when you start planting chilies. Someone has to be literary waiting for your chilies to pick them as soon as you harvest. Try free-styling just like that and you will be fighting frustrations from your over-ripping chilies with no real buyer to buy your them and a swarm of brokers telling you how to minimize your loses by selling to them as if they are buying rejects.

Before you begin planting you have to make sure that your market is viable enough for you to cover your productions costs within the first 2 to 3 harvests. This will leave you with the remaining 3 to 4 harvests to enjoy and have some savings for your next season.

You can get a viable market by subscribing to MFarm. We have buyers who are looking for different types of chilies hence it is a matter of deciding which variety rolls best for you. Currently there are limited slots for this one so it’s important you alert us before or just after you plant so that we can have adequate time to set you up for the markets.

You can also visit the market if you are up for it. There are brokers who will be happy to add you to their list of chili suppliers. However, you have to be careful with this option since it will likely frustrate you big time come harvesting time as described here.

If you think you can’t offer enough market quantities (given that most export buyers require huge quantities for them to commit to you), you can contact MFarm and you will be added to a chilies group. There you will get to interact with other chili farmers and you can aggregate your produce with them to satisfy large orders from buyers. The trick is not to do it alone, you will experience burnouts and get disappointed.

Which Varieties?

Once you have the market, planting should begin right away. There are many chili varieties to choose from such as Jalapeno, Bird Eye, Serenade, Cayenne, and Habareno among others. The variety to plant mostly depend on whether your target market is local or the export one.

For the local market, most farmers on the chili production group in MFarm recommended African bird eye, the bullet variety or the long cayenne variety. This is because they are the mostly demanded ones in the local markets.

For the export market, any variety is okay so no limitations.

Where to get the seeds

A good product sells itself(within reason). If you produce chilies which exceeds your buyers’ expectations while fulfilling their needs and wants, then you won’t have problems marketing them. The only way to have the right chili product is to plant the right chili seeds.

For this reason, it is highly recommended you get certified seeds for chili production. This is necessary because such seeds are clean and well tested for different production environments. This means you will incur less production costs to develop them and the produce you will get is likely to fetch some premium price in the markets. They might be a bit costly but they are definitely more rewarding.

Speaking with Robert, a veteran chili farmer from Makueni doing long cayenne variety, you can get good seeds from companies such as safari seeds, royal seeds and green life protection.

If you do not have the cash for seeds from the seeds companies, you can check on the farmer next door for some second generation chili seeds. This will be a cheaper option but might be catastrophic during production if the seeds you obtained were not disease free, hence proceed with caution for this one.

What next?

Well, if you have acquired your desired seeds, get your machetes and ‘jembes’ ready. We are about to do some seed bed preparation.

Defeating tomato disease: part 1 – bacterial wilt!

Defeating tomato disease: part 1 – bacterial wilt!


It’s the warm season. Farmers are happy that their tomatoes are finally going to receive the much sunlight needed for the fruit to grow bigger, juicier and firmer. What most probably don’t know is that with the warm weather sets in the most dreaded disease. The monster that can wipe a farmer’s field clean : Bacteria Wilt.

Bacteria Wilt is caused by the pathogen bacterium Ralstonia Solanacearum and is quite common in the moist & humid sandy soils. This bacterium lives in the soil and will work its way quickly through the roots and up the stem of the plants.  It’s spread by contaminated equipment, soil, water and infected plant material.


The first symptoms of the disease is wilting of the youngest lower leaves of the plant and eventually the entire plant dies without any leaf spotting or yellowing. These symptoms usually occur when the weather is hot, the humidity is high or the soil is wet. It is also common with soils that have high pH.

The glass test

You can test for bacterial wilt by cutting the stem at the base of the plant. Look for discolored tissue. Suspend the stem in a glass of water. If it is infected, a white, slimy substance will ooze into the water.

Treatment & Control

There are no known chemicals to effectively control this disease. As suggested by veteran farmers in the #askMFarm session held on Monday, it was agreed that planting resistant varieties is probably the best solution so far.

So how do I prevent Bacterial Wilt asks the farmer? Follow these good cultural controls says M-Farm

1. Test your soil for bacterial wilt before planting. There are several institutions that do soil test such as KARI, JKUAT and  SoilCares Limited (0728 970 136). Ensure to also test for pH and maintain a pH of 6.2-6.5

2. Rotate your crops regularly

3. If any of your crops is affected, uproot them.

4. Growing the plants off the ground in bags is recommended. The bags should not directly sit on the ground to avoid any contact with the soil.If not planting in bags or pots,try raised beds to improve drainage as running water spreads the disease fast

5.Space plants far enough apart to provide good air circulation.

6.Wash your hands after handling infected plants and sterilizes any gardening tool that could have been used in infected soil.

With these few tips and tricks, we wish all the best in maintaining a disease free farm.