In Summary
  • Farmers demanding genetically modified Bt cotton with high yield and natural bollworm insecticide. 
  • Kenya is reviving textile industries and ginneries, making farming worthwhile.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization employees in a research field for BT cotton at Kimbimbi in Mwea where trials have been going on.
Image: COURTESY

 

Farmers in South Ngariama settlement scheme in Kirinyaga county are adopting cotton farming with enthusiasm.

They are anxious to plant high yield BT cotton, a genetically modified variety that produces an insecticide to kill bollworms and other pests.

Farmers abandoned cotton more than 20 years ago because returns were poor and quality was damaged by pests, including the bollworm. And there was no domestic textile industry.

Former Kirinyaga Senator Daniel Karaba, now a gentleman farmer, has put tens of irrigated acres under cotton.

He said farmers have realised that the crop can fetch good money now that the government is reviving textile industries.

The former senator said the government has provided farmers with certified seeds that have changed their attitude towards cotton farming.

He said though cotton farming requires a lot of resources, it is a better option especially in the area where residents have depended on maize and horticulture for many years.

" All warehouses and machines are intact, what is required is a facelift, some organisation and the Mwea ginnery will be up and running. We ask our governor to help make it possible. "
- Former Kirinyaga Senator Daniel Karaba

 

Karaba urged the government to improve cotton farming by also providing fertiliser and ensuring better market prices.

“We also want the government to address the issue of collapsed ginneries like the one in Mwea, which collapsed after farmers abandoned cotton farming in the 1980s,” he said.

Karaba said the government would help the farmers immensely if it revives the ginneries, which will also provide much-needed employment.

“All the warehouses and the machines are intact, what is required is some facelift and some organisation and the Mwea ginnery will be up and running. We ask our governor to help make it possible," he said.

Cotton farmer Patrick Maringa said they have proof that cotton can do very well in South Ngariama since the area is semi-arid.

He said the crop that promises a bumper harvest can change the face of the country.

Maringa said the biggest challenge farmers were facing is bollworms which are highly destructive and require a lot of costly chemicals.

He said that the government should fast-track issuance of BT cotton seeds which are high yielding and don't need intense spraying.

“With introduction of BT cotton, the industry will be revolutionised and more farmers will embrace cotton farming in the country,” he said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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