Bt cotton touted as solution to poverty in semi-arid Kitui

It is pest-resistant, high-yielding; farmers expect bumper harvests and increased incomes.

In Summary

• Variety was introduced in Kitui last October.

• Some 3,700 acres in Kitui are under Bt cotton and 2,500 still under ordinary cotton.

Bt cotton plant in Chuluni, Kitui, last week
HIGH-YIELDING: Bt cotton plant in Chuluni, Kitui, last week
Image: Musembi Nzengu

Growing of the high-yielding Bt cotton in the largely semi-arid Kitui county is touted as a new solution to poverty eradication.

The Agriculture and Food Authority said on Tuesday that it introduced Bt cotton to Kitui farmers last October to improve yield and put more money into farmers' pockets.

Lower Eastern zonal coordinator James Barasa said it will play a major role in promoting economic development and empowering residents. Bt cotton is genetically modified. It is pest-resistant and easily combats bollworm.

“Compared with the conventional cotton, Bt cotton is not only pest-resistant but also high-yielding, thus giving farmers more than triple what the ordinary cotton yields.  While the ordinary cotton will yield about 300 kilogrammes per acre, the Bt cotton produces 1,000 kilogrammes,” he said.

Baraza spoke after touring farms in Chuluni, Kitui East, where residents have adopted Bt cotton. Those who planted last October are expecting their first harvest soon.

Barasa said that across Kitui county, 3,700 acres of farmland has been put under Bt cotton crop. However, he regretted that another 2,500 acres are still under ordinary cotton.

Farmers said they expect bumper harvests, adding that the variety will transform their lives through increased incomes. 

Winfeda Kasambu said although it was the first time she was growing cotton, there were high prospects of getting good returns as even with the little rains, the crop has thrived.

She said the cost of production is low as they do not use chemicals, which, she said, would also be hazardous to the environment and pose health risks. Kasambu said it is the ideal crop for the semi-arid region.

Jeremiah Kyale said he resorted to Bt cotton farming after he was assured of a ready market for yields. He said cotton farming had given him a new income stream after he lost his job in Nairobi last year because of Covid-19.

A Kitui resident on her Bt cotton farm in Chuluni last week
HIGH-YIELDING: A Kitui resident on her Bt cotton farm in Chuluni last week
Image: Musembi Nzengu