More than 2,000 farmers in Nyeri County will soon start planting coconut trees in Kanyai Forest in Kieni West Constituency in a Sh15 million programme funded by both Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate and the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) .
The farmers, under the umbrella Bee Breeders Community Forest Association (Befoca), have been leased 400 acres of land by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) at Tanyai Forest in Kieni West constituency in Nyeri County.
Addressing reporters at Kilifi Town on Monday, Befoca National Chairman Gerald Macharia said the Sh15 million coconut project will be implemented with assistance from the Nuts & Oil Crops Directorate and the National Drought Management Authority.
“The farmers have been clustered in 26 groups from Nairutia, Kiawara and Tanyai villages and the cultivating process is on course," he said.
Mr Macharia added that farmers were waiting for the distribution of seedlings and infrastructure set up of farms in readiness for planting.
The chairman said that initially, NDMA was supporting their bee keeping programme at a cost of Sh5.3 million and when they raised the idea of starting a coconut farming project in Nyeri County, it was accepted.
Mr Macharia said that the tree which has been known to do well in the coastal region will be piloted in 100 acres of land in Tanyai before the production expanded to cover another 100 acres as it progresses.
“After planting the 100 acres, we shall expand the farming to cover another 100 acres. Basically the expansion of the project will depend on how the coconut trees will adopt to the central region environment,” he said.
As a way of maximising profits from production, Mr Macharia said farmers will start a cottage industry and do value addition to the coconut plant by-products.
“Once the pilot project takes off, and the tree adopts the environment, then we shall consider setting up a cottage industry to process all its by-products like its fibre, the palm sticks for proper utilisation of its resources,” he said.
Mr Macharia said those targeted in the programme are forest users along Aberdare Forest and the utilisation of the 400 acres was meant to promote forest eco-system conservation.
“A big portion of Tanyai Forest has been destroyed by loggers and a lot of charcoal burning. We decided to ask KFS to lease to us the land so that we can plant coconuts, he said.
The chairman noted that their target is to plant more than 8,000 trees in the 400 acre land.