• The genetically modified cotton variety was legalised for commercial growing last year following years of trials at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation centre in Mwea.
• Researchers say the variety is pest-resistant and high-yielding
Kirinyaga farmers will receive 40 tonnes of free Bt cotton seeds from the American Embassy to plant during the rainy season.
The genetically modified cotton variety was legalised for commercial growing last year following years of trials at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation centre in Mwea. Researchers say the variety is pest-resistant and high-yielding.
US Ambassador Kyle McCarter said cotton-growing presents an enormous investment opportunity for farmers in the county. McCarter said there is a huge shortage of cotton in the textile industry in Kenya which the farmers can plug with their produce.
The ambassador visited Governor Anne Waiguru in her office in Kutus and donated 117,000 reusable masks to the county.
The two leaders discussed investment collaborations, with McCarter saying that America is now focusing on the counties with livelihood programmes. Such programmes, he said, will reduce dependency on aid and move counties towards self-reliance.
“I am a firm believer in devolution and that is why we have visited Kirinyaga county, which is endowed with great resources that would form the basis of our mutual collaborations,” he said.
Thereafter, Waiguru led the ambassador on a tour of the Wisdom Kathaka Self Help Group in Kirinyaga Central. The group does mass egg production and manufactures chicken feed at Kiaga.
Waiguru said the county has many areas in which it can partner with the US to realise its development agenda. She added that there exist enormous opportunities in the agricultural sector but the marketing of farm produce remains a major challenge.
The county chief singled out coffee and rice as some of the cash crops that have the potential of turning around the Kirinyaga economy. He, however, said farmers are still suffering for lack of markets and red tape around the marketing of their produce.
Waiguru said that while the county produces some of the best coffee in the world, farmers still earn meagre pay as they have to sell through cooperatives and brokers.
She added that her administration has been supporting farmers in diversifying agricultural activities to reduce overreliance on cash crops such as tea and coffee.
Noting that the bilateral talks explored creating trading pacts between Kenya and America, she said the US can import rice grown in Mwea and coffee.
(edited by o. owino)