THEY'RE WISER NOW

Over 25,000 farmers abandon maize for new crops in North Rift

The crops include coffee, macadamia, fruits and other fresh produce for export.

In Summary
  • Governors of the North Rift Economic Bloc have been sensitising farmers to diversify.
  • Earnings from maize production have been dwindling due to high costs of farm inputs and cheap imports.
Trans Nzoia executive for agriculture Mary Nzomo and official Kaiphas Nambafu inspect coffee beans at Muroki Cooperative Society on October 4, 2021
Trans Nzoia executive for agriculture Mary Nzomo and official Kaiphas Nambafu inspect coffee beans at Muroki Cooperative Society on October 4, 2021
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

More than 25,000 farmers in North Rift counties have embraced crop diversification instead of over-dependency on maize and wheat.

Governors of the North Rift Economic Bloc have been sensitising farmers to diversify and the counties have been distributing seedlings of the new crops in the last two years.

Earnings from maize production have been dwindling due to high costs of farm inputs and cheap imports that flood the market leading to low prices. Maize has been the main crop in the region for many years.

“We are happy that many farmers are heeding our call to plant high value crops instead of maize year in year out with reducing income,” Noreb chairman Jackson Mandago said.

Statistics from agriculture officers in Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo indicate each of the counties has more than 5,000 farmers who have started growing new crops. The crops include coffee, macadamia, fruits and other fresh produce for export.

Governor Patrick Khaemba's administration in Trans Nzoia county is targeting to have more than 10,000 hectares of farmland put under coffee as part of the enhanced diversification programmes by counties in the region.

The county is among those leading in maize production in the county but county executive for agriculture Mary Nzomo says farmers should now go for high value crops with better earnings.

So far, more than 17,992 people in the county derive their livelihood from coffee at the farm level and Nzomo says the county has a total of 27 cooperative societies dealing in coffee but 21 are active.

Nzomo said the department is implementing a crop diversification programme to mitigate against risks associated with over-dependency on maize production.

 “Under the diversification programme, the county government is promoting tissue culture bananas, coffee, tea, avocados, Mmacadamia, and apples among other high value crops for farmers to adopt,” she said.

Nzomo said the county is working to increase land under coffee production from the current 2,535 hectares to more than 10,000 hactares by 2023.

The county last week celebrated the International Coffee Day 2021 at Muroki Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society in Saboti.

Nzomo said there had been renewed focus in the sector on mistreatment of coffee farmers, the dangers they are facing in the sector and the need to take collective actions in order to enhance performance.

“Farmers are facing low productivity, inadequate value addition, high cost of production, narrow markets, negative climate change impacts and inadequate affordable credit and infrastructure in coffee production,” Nzomo said.

Nzomo added that the money coffee farmers in the country are currently being paid for their beans is at an all-time low, more than 30 per cent below the average of the previous 10 years.

She has welcomed the efforts and support of stakeholders including Solidaridad group that is working to address some of the challenges facing farmers.

“So far, more than 1,000 farmers in Trans Nzoia county have been trained on good agricultural and manufacturing practices,” she said.

Coffee is the fourth leading foreign exchange earner after tea, tourism and horticulture and the coffee industry, directly and indirectly, supports close to five million Kenyans.

Last season, farmers produced over 36,000 metric tonnes which earned the country Sh17.4 billion, with Trans Nzoia producing approximately 749 metric tonnes of clean coffee valued at Sh215 million.

Trans Nzoia county in partnership with the Solidaridad has put up 100,000-capacity coffee nurseries for the Muroki Coffee Farmers Society and donated over 2,000 macadamia seedlings, which can be planted alongside coffee as a shade tree to generate more income for farmers.

Edited by Henry Makori