Deputy President William Ruto is rooting for crop diversification among farmers in Rift Valley and Western Kenya, saying the move remains key to solving problems currently facing maize farmers’ in the regions.
Dr Ruto said maize farmers have been demotivated by poor prices due to liberalization of the sector, thus the need for crop diversification.
“As farmers, there is need for us to diversify our farming activities instead of relying on maize alone,” said Dr Ruto.
Addressing Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) from Trans Nzoia and Kalenjin Myoot Council of Elders, at his Sugoi home, on Saturday, the Deputy President asked them to take the lead in educating farmers on the importance of crop diversification.
He said diversification does not mean farmers will abandon growing of maize but would grow other crops to sell and cushion them from fluctuating maize prices.
On Friday, the Deputy President also met MCAs from Kakamega, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo Counties led by their respective County Assemblies Speakers; Farouk Machanje, Kiplagat Sabulei and David Kerich respectively.
Dr Ruto told the leaders to tell farmers the truth about diversification instead of misleading them for their own selfish gains.
“Some leaders are not telling farmers the truth about diversification we are talking about. We are not telling farmers to abandon the crop altogether. We are just rooting for crop diversification because maize farming is no longer profitable,” said Dr Ruto.
Present were Governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin-Gishu) and Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba. MPs Janet Sitienei (Turbo), Janet Nangobo (Trans Nzoia Women Rep), Caleb Kositany (Soy) and Council of Elders chairman (rtd) Major John Seei.
Dr Ruto said there was no need for farmers to rely on maize alone for their survival, especially with these unpredictable weather patterns and liberalization of the sector.
“By engaging in crop diversification, we will avoid situations of maize poverty trap in the event of prolonged drought. In such cases, maize fails thus leaving farmers food insecure,” said Dr Ruto.
He said research in the country by agricultural experts has shown that crop diversification provides smallholder farmers with a diversity of diet, improves their income and nutrition security.
The Deputy President said farmers should engage in crop diversification including French beans, beans, vegetables, passion fruit, avocado, tea, coffee, and macadamia among other crops for sale to supplement their income.
He said in North Rift region, for example, 2 million bags of maize were produced annually compared to 45 million bags of maize across the country, while the region continues to remain poor.
He said farmers in other regions engaging in diversification of crops such as tea, coffee and macadamia and avocado do not have business with the Government but are doing well in their farming.
Governor Mandago said his administration has already launched campaigns to educate farmers on the importance of crop diversification.
“As leaders from this county, we have already launched awareness campaigns among farmers on the need to engage in crop diversification instead of relying on maize alone, which is no longer profitable,” said Governor Mandago.
Governor Khaemba said it was high time farmers in the region engaged in crop diversification to improve their lives.
“I started issues of diversification four years ago with several crops including tea and coffee. The Deputy President is seeing far and knows that there is future in avocado farming as far as agricultural sector is concerned. We need to heed his advice to diversify,” said Governor Khaemba.
He said there were many investors who were ready to help farmers who have engaged in crop diversification.
Mr Seei said he would lead elders from the region in educating farmers on the need to diversify their faming instead of relying on maize alone as the only way to improve their lives.
“We now know why it’s important for us as farmers from this region to engage in crop diversification. Our leaders have not come out clear over this issue because some of them have politicized it for their own gains,” said Mr Seei.
Mr Sabulei said residents in Elgeyo Marakwet were ready to embrace crop diversification so as to improve their lives.
“As leaders from our county, we have resolved to work together in creating awareness campaigns on our farmers on the importance of crop diversification,” said Mr Sabulei.