Kiambu county grapples with food deficits

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 06:18 |
Kiambu county Agriculture minister John Kamau and AGRA President Agnes Karibata with Hannah Njoki at her maize farm in Githunguri sub-county, Kiambu county. BELOW: Agra officials led by Kalibata and county agriculture officials speak to farmers recently. PD/ gerald ITHANA

Kiambu county has embarked on an ambitious project aimed at ensuring that it becomes food secure. 

The county government is collaborating with Alliance for Green Revolution in Agriculture (AGRA) to teach village-based volunteers the best farming methods. They later replicate their knowledge to farmers.

Area Governor James Nyoro says the strategy will go a long way in ensuring that farmers use their land productively no matter the size of the plots. “Farmers who formerly planted recycled seeds and late maturing varieties of seeds will be introduced to fast maturing and high yield varieties,” he said. 

Agriculture is the predominant economic activity in the county and contributes 17.4 per cent of the county‘s income.

Majority of the people in the county depend on the sub-sector for their livelihood, with 304,449 directly or indirectly working in the sector. 

The governor spoke at the Kiambu county headquarters while meeting with AGRA President Dr Agnes Kalibata who led her staff in a courtesy call before touring several farms being used as pilot projects.

Nyoro said apart from ensuring food security, the projects will create jobs for the youth as well as support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda on Agriculture. “As a county, we shall ensure farmers have access to high quality seeds, appropriate fertiliser and access to agricultural extension officers. My government intends to use village based advisors to supplement the work of extension officers,” he said.

The advisors will be tutoring other farmers, with the method being replicated across the county where more emphasis will be on semi-arid areas. “We will ensure farmers have access to high quality seeds, appropriate fertiliser and access to agricultural extension officers. My government intends to use village based advisors to supplement the work of extension officers,” he said.

Nyoro said the his  government would distribute seeds at subsidised prices to farmers who cannot afford them. The semi-arid areas include Ndeiya in Limuru sub-county, Karai in Kikuyu, Ngoliba and Gatuanyaga.

Fast maturing

Dr Kalibata said the project would be executed across the country in collaboration with willing county governments. 

AGRA’s head of external and capacity building Paul Seward said Kenya could only be food secure if farmers adopted modern farming methods. “We train village-based advisors in Kiambu and Embu and our aim is to have trained 250,000 of them in the next two years,” he said. 

Peasant farmers are already benefiting from the fast maturing period of between 79 and 90 days for maize. Farmers also said that some of the varieties have abnormally high yields of up 35 bags per acre. 

A farmer who sought anonymity said the main challenge was fall armyworms, which ravage their crops. She urged the State to avail effective pesticides at subsidised prices.

Dr Isabel Waiyaki of Agra advised farmers to apply good agronomical practices and plant drought and pest resistant seeds. “Already, 30,000 village based farmers have trained in Kiambu and 20,000 in Embu to supplement the work done by the government-employed extension officers,” she said. 

Unrealiable rainfall

Kamau said the agriculture sector in the county was grappling with unpredictable weather and rainfall patterns, which affects farmers ability to plan farming.

This is being tackled by introduction of irrigation farming in semi-arid areas. “We are also encouraging our farmers to embrace green house farming because the market is always available,” he said. 

Other challenges include lack of information on the right type of farm input such as seeds, drugs, pesticides, herbicides, vaccines and fertilisers, which leads to poor yields thereby demoralising farmers.

 “Some resource-poor farmers also fail to use farm inputs because their prices are normally high thereby reducing their yields. We as a government are doing our best to avail farm inputs at subsidised prices to ensure we become more food secure,”  he said.

The minister decried failure by farmers to fallow their land had caused soil nutrients deterioration leading to ‘disappointing results’.

He attributed the same to the mushrooming of real estate developers who have bought almost all arable land in the county.

Poor infrastructure is also a major challenge to farmers because they are not able to deliver their farm produce to the market in time, leading to losses especially for perishable commodities.

Coffee and tea are the main cash crops. Main food crops grown are maize, beans, pineapples and Irish potatoes, mainly grown in small scale. 

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