Good old days beckon for pyrethrum farmers in Nakuru

Saturday October 24 2015

Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua during a past interview. PHOTO | FILE |

Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua, whose official residence is in Milimani Estate. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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How is the county prepared to deal with the looming maize shortage following poor harvest?

Our annual maize production is usually 2.7 million 90kg bags, but this year, we will get about half. The national government has been informed of the situation and if necessary, relief food will be provided to the needy from the strategic reserves.

As a county government, we are working closely with crucial stakeholders such as Kenya Agriculture, Livestock Organisation, Njoro and others such as Self Help Africa to provide clean planting material to farmers next season.

We are also in the process of acquiring tissue culture bananas from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to start a campaign on banana production. The county has also maintained free trade policy with other counties and countries, and already we have started receiving maize from Trans Mara in Narok County and Uganda.

Devolution is taking root, but are farmers in this county reaping the fruits?

We have provided farm inputs to close to 11,000 maize farmers since 2013. We have also issued pyrethrum farmers with planting materials, and this has seen a tremendous increase in acreage from 442ha in 2013 to 943ha presently.

The county has also launched Nakuru Agriculture Training Centre where farmers are trained on the latest techniques, including on value addition.

Many pyrethrum farmers nostalgically remember the good old days, when the crop was a top earner. Any chance of taking them back there?

Our strategy is to provide quality planting materials to help revive the sector. There are 17 farmers who have been provided with pyrethrum splits to bulk. They are growing them on 82 acres. The planting materials will then be distributed to other farmers next year.

In conjunction with Agriculture Sector Development Support Programme, about 50 groups of pyrethrum farmers have also been provided with 2kg of high quality pyrethrum seeds to plant in nurseries. We hope farmers will reap great benefits because the market is huge.

Potato is another crop that could earn this county millions of shillings through value addition....

The county produces over 250,000 tonnes of potatoes a year. We have identified areas for investment in value addition and they include processing of potatoes into crisps and frozen chips and having cold storage facilities in the production areas to stabilise supply. We will also engage in seed production of high-yielding varieties to increase production of clean and certified seed.

What plans do you have to attract young people into farming?

We have started a project to provide youth groups greenhouses and related equipment through a programme called Youth in Modern Agriculture. Two youth groups have so far benefitted from the initiative.

Dairy farmers are facing turbulent times as processors cut milk prices. What should they look up to from the county government?

The county government plans to revamp livestock extension services through purchase of motorbikes to ease movement of officers. We are also working on provision of milk bulking and cooling facilities to dairy cooperative societies. Farmers will also benefit from artificial insemination kits and training on milk value addition.