Farmers diversify, shift from maize in North Rift

They have been urged to grow other more profitable crops like avocado, macadamia, beans, passion fruit , coffee

In Summary

• Governors want farmers in North Rift to grow other crops including avocado, macadamia, beans, coffee and other commercial crops.

• They say maize farming takes too much time, has few benefits and profits too low 

Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno looks at coffee seedlings distributed to farmers to increase diversification and improve food production.
DIVERSIFY: Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno looks at coffee seedlings distributed to farmers to increase diversification and improve food production.

North Rift governors are pushing crop diversification, urging farmers to stop relying on maize, grow more profitable crops and use modern techniques.

They want farmers to grow avocado, macadamia, beans and coffee, among other commercial crops.

"We are encouraging our farmers to venture into commercial horticulture and floriculture," Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago said on Monday. He is chairman of the North Rift Economic Bloc.

He spoke at Moiben during a field day in which Elgeyo Marakwet county also participated. Mandago said since the diversification campaign started, many farmers are trying other crops.

Mandago said the region has a good environment to grow a wide range of crops that can be marketed locally and internationally.

“Our farmers have big farms and can produce many types of crops instead of over-relying on maize, which has serious challenges in both production and marketing," Mandago said.

He said counties were committed to improving livelihoods through high-value economic farming.

His administration has been running a diversified agriculture programme. It sensitises farmers on cultivation of high-value crops such as coffee, macadamia, avocado, passion fruit, vegetables and other produce more profitable than maize.

The county boss attended the Amani Farmers Field Day at the Kimwatan's Farm in Meibeki Ward, Moiben subcounty.

 “We have a dream of changing the economics of the people. This will be achieved through the adoption of high-value crops in diversification," Mandago said.

Diversified agriculture aims to change decades-old overreliance on cereals farming in most counties. Farmers in Uasin Gishu and North Rift traditionally grow maize and wheat.

Uasin Gishu and other counties have been distributing free avocado, coffee, macadamia and tissue cultured bananas.

A kilogram of Hass avocado (about four fruits) sells for more than Sh110, while passion fruit goes for Sh130. A kilogram of coffee sells for Sh400.

Mandago also said exporters and farm-gate buyers of crops will have to work with county governments under Noreb to achieve balanced trade.

"Buyers of produce should work with county governments so farmers get the best prices and everyone in the value chain is happy," he said.

Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wesley Rotich urged farmers not to rely on maize farming that takes a whole year, while they can adopt crops with more than one harvest a year.

(Edited by V. Graham)