How To Grow Cowpeas In South Africa

How To Grow Cowpeas In South Africa

Have you ever been to South Africa? Do you know this country is rich with varieties of plants and cowpeas is one of them? Well, cowpeas have been grown internationally in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, the USA, Cameroon, etc and this post will be focusing on how to grow them in South Africa.

First and foremost, what is cowpea? Its botanical name is Vigna unguiculata and it is an ancient food cultivated since the Stone Age era. An annual crop that looks like beans and thrives in warm climates.

In South Africa, there are places where there is major production of cowpeas which includes the following provinces: Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West, KwaZulu-Natal. However, these provinces are further divided into districts and towns. They all work together for optimum production of the plant.

Many varieties and cultivars of cowpeas that can be grown in South Africa include the following: Black-eyed or pink-eyed/purple hull peas, Brown-eyed peas, Crowder peas, Cream, White acre type, Clay types. Its indefinite growth forms vary as either erect, trailing, bushy, or climbing under suitable conditions.

The anatomy of cowpeas is the root, stems, leaves, inflorescence, fruits, and seeds. In surface soil, cowpea has a robust taproot and numerous spreading lateral roots. Dark green leaves are the most common among cowpeas and the leaf petiole is 5 – 25 cm long.

The stem possesses some purple shades, a glabrous or a little bit hairy and striate. At the distal extremities of 5 to 60 cm long peduncles, flowers are grouped in racemose or medium inflorescences.

Seeds come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors. The number of seeds per pod might range from 8 to 20 in most cases. The seeds are big (2 to 12 mm long) and weigh between 5 and 30 g per 100 seeds.

Requirements For Growing Cowpeas in South Africa

There are many requirements for planting cowpeas in South Africa, however, the following are a few of them.

Temperature requirements

Summer is the best season for cultivating cowpeas because it flourishes during drought. Germination takes place at 8,5°C, while leaf growth takes place at 20°C. Temperatures around 30 °C are ideal for growth and development.

Water requirements

Cowpeas can withstand annual rainfall of 400 to 700 mm. Its growth in South Africa is hampered by the frequency and inconsistency of rainfall. Rainfall frequency is too high in some locations, leading to flooding, while it is so inconsistent in others that moisture preservation is critical for crop production.

Although, cowpeas can’t cope with waterlogging, however, the appropriate amount of rainfall will enhance growth and development.

Soil requirements

Cowpeas can be cultivated on varieties o soils in South Africa, but if you need your cowpeas to flourish, then you better plant them in a Sandy soil that promotes root growth. Cold soils aren’t a cowpeas thing as compared to regular beans and can hardly survive in waterlogging.

Planting requirements

Cowpeas should be sown in lesser rainfall areas of South Africa from late November to early December for maximum yield. 3 to 4 cm deep is the recommended depth for seed planting.


Seed quality is crucial in the cowpea seed market, so extra caution during harvest and post-harvest management may be necessary to minimize cracked or split seed. South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi sell cowpea leaves. Learn how to harvest cowpeas here.


I hope you find this article helpful. I would like to hear from you. So, let me know if you have any questions about growing cowpeas in South Africa. Also, learn how to grow cowpeas in containers here.

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