Food crisis to worsen as maize crop withers

Tuesday July 4 2017

Dr Cyril Cheruiyot (left),Uasin Gishu County Agriculture executive  at a farm belonging to Leonard Kimutai (right), a resident of Kapsubere in Moiben. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Dr Cyril Cheruiyot (left),Uasin Gishu County Agriculture executive at a farm belonging to Leonard Kimutai (right), a resident of Kapsubere in Moiben. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG 

The county is headed for a major food crisis if the dry spell, which has ravaged many parts of the North Rift persists.

More than 40,000 acres of maize crop in Uasin Gishu County are drying up. This translates to a loss 800,000 bags of maize at 20 bags per acre.

Some regions like Moiben received the last drops of rain in May.

A spot check by the Nation revealed that most farms were experiencing total crop failure with Karuna/Meibeki, Sergoit and Kuinet/Kapsuswo locations in Moiben sub-county being the worst hit.

When the Nation toured the area, many farmers were counting their losses.

Leonard Kimutai, a farmer from Kapsubere was pondering his next move after his entire five-acre crop withered.

“I was expecting to harvest 120 bags from my farm, but I doubt if I will even manage two bags. I have been depending on farming to educate my children. I wonder where I will get the money next year,” said a dejected Mr Kimutai.

Another farmer, Hosea Suter, has lost 12 acres of maize crop. He was expecting to harvest more than 400 bags, which would have fetched him Sh1.2 million.

“I don’t know how I will offset bank loans. We call on the government to assist us in any way possible so that we can rebuild ourselves again,” said Mr Suter.

Uasin Gishu County executive in charge of agriculture Cyril Cheruiyot said the most affected crops were those in tussling stage of growth.

“We are still monitoring the situation. If it does not rain in the next one week we will have no option but to advise farmers to just destroy their plantation and use them as animal feeds,” said Dr Cheruiyot adding that the last time a drought of this magnitude was experienced in the region was in 1984.

Crop insurance
“We are advising our farmers to embrace crop insurance to mitigate them against effects of climate change. Though this is a localised affair, we call for national government intervention,” said the county executive.

He said the county realised 4.2 million bags of maize last year from 90,000 acres, but feared this will significantly drop this season due to the dry spell.

With 40,000 acres already withering and another 25,000 acres destroyed by fall armyworms, the county stands to lose 65,000 acres translating to a shortfall of 1.3 million bags painting a bleak future on the country’s food security.
In 2015, farmers in the North Rift region lost more than 260,000 acres of maize crop valued at Sh2 billion due invasion by the viral Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) in parts of Rift Valley.

The government’s subsidised fertiliser was largely blamed by farmers for the leaf discolouration disease. But the government then ruled out a possible link between subsidised fertiliser and the MLN.

“A technical team of soil and crop experts from Kephis and Kebs conducted analysis on soil, crop and fertiliser samples which showed that the fertiliser is above the acceptable standards,” said Agriculture Principal Secretary Dr Richard Lesiyampe who toured the region then.

“Indeed, the analysis confirmed that the government subsided fertilizer is within scientific requirements and is not adulterated.”

Last year, maize production in the region dropped from 21 million bags to 16 million , but it is feared this will worsen this year if the armyworm invasion and drought continues to bite.

The Agriculture ministry forecasts harvests in the country to be 20 per cent less than this year’s projected 40 million 90-kg bags or 32 million — which is 5.1 million bags less than last year’s harvest of 37.1 million.

Farmers want the price of a 90 kilogramme bag of maize increased to Sh3,500 from the current Sh3,000 for farming to be a viable venture.