• They said high-yielding millet seeds will lead to maximum acreage harvest.
• Millet, they said, is among crops that can withstand harsh climatic conditions and farmers should grow it as one way of tackling climate change.
A team of researchers and behavioural change campaigners is pushing for the introduction of high-yielding finger millet varieties in Busia.
Officials from the Centre for Behaviour Change and Communication, researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre and the Busia government said they want farmers to receive quality seeds and learn modern production techniques.
They said high-yielding millet seeds will lead to maximum acreage harvest. Millet, they said, is among crops that can withstand harsh climatic conditions and farmers should grow it as one way of tackling climate change.
Centre for Behaviour Change and Communication executive director Peter Lengewa said Busia’s climate is suitable for millet production.
“We specifically targeted Busia because we wanted to assess some of the challenges that farmers face in the production of millet,” he said.
“We want to partner with the Busia government to facilitate the availability of quality millet seeds. The seeds are available in organisations like the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) in Alupe, but the challenge we are facing is ensuring farmers get the seeds at the right time.”
Lengewa spoke on the sidelines of the launch of new millet varieties in Busia.
He said apart from ensuring farmers get high-quality seeds, his organisation, in partnership with stakeholders, is exploring new markets for the crop.
“Our job is also to link all stakeholders involved in the production of millet in Busia so that the availability of quality seeds, production and transportation of the final product to the market is done in a way that benefits all players in the value chain,” Lengewa said.
Busia county agriculture director Samson Khachina said market for millet has been a major challenge for farmers.
He said since those growing the crop are smallholder farmers, their capacity to find new markets is limited.
“Markets are really an issue because millet is mostly grown by small-scale farmers and they produce in small quantities, mostly for their own consumption,” Khachina said.
“Because of low production in Busia, we still get a large fraction of our finger millet from Uganda. We have decided to get a better approach to the way we conduct our business. We shall have aggregation centres in every ward and this will be run by cooperatives.”
He said they will need the involvement of the trade and industry department so farmers can produce for an identified market.
“We will hate a situation whereby farmers plant and fail to get a place to sell their produce,” Khachina said.
Chris Ojiewo, a researcher at CYMMT, urged farmers to grow millet since it can withstand harsh weather conditions.
“Millet is a crop that can withstand challenges, including climate change, and we would therefore encourage farmers to adopt its production,” he said.
Ojiewo said with the right seeds, an acre can produce at least two tonnes.
Some of the markets being mapped out for millet in the county include institutions with early childhood and development education centres.
Khachina said, the county will start buying rice and beans, before rolling out a plan that will also entail the acquisition of millet that will be supplied to ECDE centres.
Millet farmers Margaret Musiko and Cornel Okopio from Kakamega and Busia said they have been planting the crop for years.
They said with the right seeds, farmers can maximise their harvest, earn money and ensure their families are food-secure.
Millet has numerous health benefits, including helping to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
It is also gluten-free and people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities can enjoy eating it.