•The CEC advised farmers to grow drought-tolerant crops like millet, sorghum, cowpeas, green grams and pigeon peas.
• He said consuming neglected indigenous foods will help fighting hunger and keep residents healthy.
Kitui's agricultural department on Wednesday urged farmers not to plant maize or beans as the 'thirsty' crops were unlikely to survive the forecasted depressed March-April-May rains.
“I advise our farmers to plant drought-tolerant crops like cowpeas, green grams, sorghum, millet and pigeon peas that do very well with little rain in Ukambani,” agriculture CEC Stephen Kimwele said.
Kimwele told the media the only way Kitui could end perennial food insecurity aggravated by climate was by avoiding maize and beans.
He said maize and beans have increasingly failed to maturity due to consistently poor rains.
“Our farmers should be aware that climate change has exacerbated the drought situation in Kitui. We are have had five failed rains seasons and we are likely to have a sixth failed rain,” he said.
He said a new strategy of growing of indigenous and resistant crops needs to be adopted to keep the cycle of hunger at bay.
We encourage our farmers to plant these crops because they need very little rain to reach maturity. He said farmers must plant ahead of the anticipated March-May rains expected o be depressed.
“We know most farmers want to plant maize and beans but it will need a lot of rain and, according to the weatherman, we will receive below normal rain in the March-May long rain season,” he said.
Kitui's meteorological office has said the March-May rains are already delayed and will be below normal, meaning crops will take too long to mature, or won' ripen at all.
“We will receive below-average rainfall in the March, April and May. In some cases, it will be far below normal,” county director of meteorological services Daniel Mbithi said.
Kitui's agriculture CEC said it was time Kitui people stopped perceiving nutritious millet, sorghum, cowpeas, pigeon peas and green grams as food for the poor and revert to consuming them. They are high in nutrition.
Kimwele said cassava ugali is extremely nutritious.
“We have to revert to our old health eating habits that would not only keep hunger at bay but also modern day lifestyle diseases. Indigenous foods are very good,” he stressed.
He said agricultural extension officers will be sent to the field to advise farmers and offer any assistance to ensure they reap maximum benefits from their farms.
“Governor Julius Malombe has given agriculture top priority. He has mentioned not once, not twice that his ultimate goal is to kick out food insecurity from Kitui,” the CECM said.
(Edited by V. Graham)