Pigeon  pea (Cajanus cajan): Hidden Treasure of Makueni

Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan): Hidden Treasure of Makueni

Nutrition is the most important basic need, being a major determinant of health, labour productivity, and mental development. With high protein content, along with energy values and important vitamin and mineral content, legumes have been recognised for their nutritional importance by many farmers in Makueni County. Farmers have observed that pigeon pea is economically and nutritionally an important legume and a source of protein. It is being grown both as an annual crop or perennial plants in the homestead and is consumed either as decorticated splits or in form of green seeds as vegetables. This plant is doing very well in Makueni because it has a high tolerance to acidic soils. Farmers noted that salinity is very crucial in pigeon pea farming.


However, they appreciated that the group is doing well despite the drought conditions experienced in the area. The ability of the plant to withstand severe drought better than many other legumes is the reason why Farmers in Makueni have continually planted this crop. It was noted that there are very few insect pests which affect pigeon pea plant. Pigeon pea has been used to accomplish various functions such as food, feed, fodder and forage to therapeutics. This underscores its versatility and why is regarded as a wonder plant in Makueni County.


However, several constraints have hampered farmers in their production activities to which they responded by adopting a mitigating measure. Lack of improved varieties to meet farmer’s needs is one of the adopting mitigating measures farmers are considering calling the shots on. In addition, there is a lack of a functional supply seed system since seed enterprises seem to be unwilling to invest in crops other than cash crops. Poor agronomic practices, lack of improved varieties and quality seeds and lack of pigeon pea market negatively affects pigeon pea production and the capacity of farmers to sell their products at fair prices. It was observed that farmers have developed a coping strategy including seed saving and/ or exchange in order to have access to seeds. Furthermore, Makueni farmers have resorted to mutual aid to maintain their field and cope with lack of labour and financial resources.


In a nutshell, as a solution, farmers recommended availability of improved varieties, farmer organisations and market outlet both at national and international levels to alleviate constraints and develop pigeon pea value chains in Makueni County.  An observation of the farming activities that are happening in Makueni County reveals the importance of pigeon pea both in cropping systems and in contributing to ensure food security in the county. There were varied farmers varietal preferences which were identified.  Therefore, there is a need for technological packaging of pigeon peas and improved access to inputs (seeds, insecticides and fertilisers) market and credit.


By Monica Nzige

Makueni County Coordinator











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