The government plans to impart farmers with new farming technologies to boost maize production and other alternative crops to diversify Kenyans’ staple diet in order to achieve food and nutrition self sufficiency.
Agriculture and Irrigation Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Dr. Andrew Tuimur, said the government will deploy undergraduate agricultural technology specialists from public universities to the field to team up with agricultural extension officers to offer farmers expertise in crop production and ways to manage post harvest losses.
Dr. Tuimur asked farmers in the grain basket counties of Nandi, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu to increase the unit production of maize by 10% to enable the country bridge the 15-million bags annual deficit in production of the staple crop.
Addressing farmers at Kabiyet Centre in Nandi North Sub-county on Tuesday, the CAS accompanied by the crops PS, Dr. Richard Ole Lesiyampe, said last year the country produced 37 million bags of maize and failed to reach the required 51 million bags needed to adequately feed the nation.
“If every farmer can add even five bags of maize per unit, they will enable the government realize the goal of adequate food production,” said Tuimur.
The CAS said farmers will be taught water harvesting technologies by using ponds to collect surface run-off during the rains which can be used to cultivate crops during dry weather to guarantee food production and avoid reliance on rain-fed agriculture.
He cited the example of farmers in Yatta region of Machakos county whom he said have been able to use water ponds to produce horticultural crops that they export abroad.
Dr. Tuimur further said the government is working on legislation that will allow the country to stabilize pricing of maize to make production of the crop predictable, adding that the government is contemplating introducing a warehouse receipt system for maize farmers to guarantee returns on their investment.
He said the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research organization (KARI) has already been allocated Sh300 million to carry out research on the Fall Army worm pest, saying a team of technical officers from the Ministry will be dispatched to Brazil next week to understudy how the South American country has succeeded in reducing the infestation of the pest by 90% in five years.
Lesiyampe asked farmers to diversify food production by increasing production of legumes such as beans, green peas and rabbit farming to widen the variety of food available on the dinner table.
“Kenyans’ eating habits revolve around a limited five staple foods countable on one hand including maize meal, rice, githeri, milk and meat whereas in other countries the population has a choice of up to 40 different foods to pick from,” he said.
The PS said the government will streamline and increase the disbursement of subsidized fertilizer as incentive to farmers to boost production and weed out profiteers from the system.
Lesiyampe said the government has paid out Sh7.2 billion to maize farmers for last year’s produce but has arrears of Sh2 billion still owed to farmers.
He promised to avail a soil testing machine to the area next week to assist farmers determine the appropriate fertilizer to use on their farm holdings.
Lesiyampe further said the government will supply lime to farmers next year to enrich the soils to allow for increased crop cultivation.
The PS asked the youth in the area to register and form cooperative groups that can be advanced loans to purchase maize milling plant to process maize instead of waiting for the government to provide value addition services.
Farmers present appealed to the government to reduce prices of farm inputs and offer competitive prices of maize and ensure that cereal board depots are open throughout the year.