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Brief news on farming and agribusiness in the country

Tuesday February 12 2019

A farmer inspects her finger millet crops in a farm in Muhoroni, Kisumu County.

A farmer inspects her finger millet crops in a farm in Muhoroni, Kisumu County. Millet has enhanced nutritional and health benefits as it contains high levels of calcium, iron and amino acids. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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Scientists working on new pest and drought resistant variety of finger millet

Farmers will soon start growing new varieties of drought, pest resistant and disease-free finger millet following scientific breakthroughs by researchers.

According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a five-year project to breed finger millet varieties that can survive drought and parasites is in its final stages and soon farmers will have access to the super crops. The project is funded by the Crop Trust until 2020.

ICRISAT said the two major hindrances to good finger millet yields are the blast disease and striga, a parasitic weed.
“Blast is the most destructive disease of finger millet. It can occur at all stages of plant growth and can affect the leaves, neck and fingers,” said Dr Henry Ojulong, a cereals breeder at ICRISAT.

The researcher said they have concluded the first phase of the research. “In Phase 2 of the project that ends in 2020, we will now introduce these unique characteristics into cultivated varieties with the support of the Crop Trust,” said Dr Damaris Odeny, the principal investigator of the five-year finger millet pre-breeding project.

She added that the team will work towards releasing farmer-preferred varieties that have been improved using the superior traits from wild finger millets.


Millet has enhanced nutritional and health benefits as it contains high levels of calcium, iron and amino acids.

It is an ideal food for diabetics since it has high amounts of slowly digestible starch and resistant starch that contribute to a slow release of sugar in to the bloodstream.

-Agewa Magut


Alarm as more abandon farms for ‘boda boda’

Many farmers are engaging in non-agriculture activities, diminishing farming productivity and putting the country’s food security at risk, a new study says.

The study by Partnership for Economic Research (PEP) says there is reduced farm activities, especially in areas considered agriculturally productive.

Researchers are now calling for creation of policies that encourage farmers to participate in agricultural production even while engaging in other activities.

“We are seeing a trend where more people are opting to be boda boda riders or market traders, which are off-farm activities, instead of putting their efforts into farming,” said Dr Laura Barasa, the lead researcher, who also lectures at the University of Nairobi, School of Economics.

What farmers earn from the ‘off-farm’ activities, according to her, put into other uses and hardly reinvest in their farms.

“Non-farm work has put pressure on the availability of farm labour. If we are to be food sufficient, we should reverse this. We need to recognise that both are important and look for ways to make both lucrative,” said Joseph Opiyo, a senior research associate and agriculture economist at Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.

The research is titled: How integrating pro-agriculture and pro-welfare policies can enhance farmers’ production and welfare.

-Brian Okinda


Study shows broiler feeds have aflatoxin

Over 90 per cent of broiler feeds manufactured in Nakuru County are poisonous, a new study shows.

The study, published in Livestock Research for Rural Development 2019 journal, found that the levels were alarming for both broiler starter at 90 per cent and broiler finisher at 95 per cent.

Dr Meshack Obonyo of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology says that the samples were collected in December from several millers in the county.

“Total aflatoxin levels in the field were analysed in the laboratory, where the feeds samples collected contained chemicals ranging from 1.07-41.01 per cent per kilo,” says Dr Obonyo.

The World Health Organisation recommends a limit of 20 per cent of aflatoxin per kilo in poultry feeds.

-Margaret Maina


Firm to hold tractor clinics

Farm machinery dealer FMD East Africa will hold its February Xtra Care clinic in Nakuru County.

Lucy Mukuru, the sales manager at FMD East Africa, said the clinics will be held at Olchoro, Olkurto and Tepees in the agriculture rich county.

“We hope to assist many wheat and maize farmers. Last year, over 300 tractor owners benefited from the clinics,” she said.

The aim of the countrywide events is to provide specialised technical services for the owners of Massey Ferguson tractors and implements from Baldan and Jacto brands.

“Our technicians carry out repairs, servicing and offer spare parts,” she said.

Mukuru added that to increase food production, farmers must sustainably use farm machinery during soil preparation, planting and harvesting.

-Brian Okinda


Farmer publishes guide on making lockable ponds

A farmer who pioneered lockable fish ponds has published a book on how to use the technology.

Dr Joseph Muga, the RUDESAT pond pioneer, says the book provides a guide to farmers on how to make the ponds themselves.

Titled ‘How to construct and rear fish in lockable fish ponds,’ it explains what the ponds are about and their benefits.

“The book provides guidelines on materials to be used during construction, specifications required for constructing as well as how to construct the pond,” Dr Muga explained.

Advantages of the ponds include curbing theft and predators; preventing fish losses due to floods and drought; flexibility in selecting pond site; convenience of rearing fish at home including on the veranda andpossibility of moving the pond from one site to another.

The book also addresses issues such as stocking levels, feeding, maintaining optimum temperature in a lockable pond and how to increase the amount of oxygen absorbed by pond water.

-Leopold Obi