It was the best of years for some farmers; it was the worst for others in decades.
Bumper harvest, adequate rains and better market prices of produce are among the things that made 2018 memorable for some farmers.
On the contrary, rise in importation of eggs, fish and maize, high cost of inputs following the introduction of 16 per cent value added tax on pest control products, outbreak of diseases, floods, shortage of fertiliser and poor prices are some of the things that make some farmers want the year to end faster.
But as curtains close on 2018, farmers are looking forward to 2019 with great hope and lots of expectations. Seeds of Gold spoke to a number of them from across the country.
Joakim Samoei, 28, horticulture farmer, Kesses in Uasin Gishu County
This year, we have had plenty of pest and disease outbreaks such as blight and Tuta absoluta. But the biggest challenge is that there are few extension officers, which often results in poor disease management.
These pests and diseases can wipe out the entire crop in days if no proper measures are put in place. We need counties to employ more extension officers who will help to identify, monitor and recommend the best control mechanisms.
Although there has been good market for farm produce, the challenge is that most of the farm inputs like pesticides whose prices rose have become very costly. With affordable farm inputs like fertiliser and pesticides, the cost of production will come down.
I also hope that this year, soil mapping will be conducted across the country to make us understand the soil type and the requirements since different areas require different farm inputs.
Johnson Murei, maize farmer, Moiben, Uasin Gishu County
This year has been difficult for most maize farmers yet we had bumper harvest due to good rains. In 2017, we had the fall armyworm invasion but this year, the problem declined. However, the price of our produce, at Sh2,300, announced by the government is too low yet production costs are rising.
We have plenty of maize in our stores, which in my case I expect to deliver to the National Cereals and Produce Board. But it still owes many farmers money from previous harvest. I think if things don’t change, most farmers may not plant maize for commercial purposes going forward. Myself I intend to grow wheat, keep cows and maybe plant seeds for Kenya Seed Company. I further expect timely delivery of fertiliser this time round, which should be distributed to genuine farmers.
Willy Kirwa, large-scale dairy farmer Kapseret, Uasin Gishu
This year, we had good rains which means most farmers have stocked adequate feeds such as silage and pasture.
But we also had several challenges as dairy farmers. The most pressing for me is that we now have to use semen two to three times for the cow to conceive.
We don’t know whether the challenge is with the preservation of the semen straws or with our cows. No one has come out to explain to farmers.
Going forward, I hope that universities will move and engage dairy farmers directly on latest technologies so that we can improve production. As farmers, we need to know what researchers in our universities are doing so that we have superior breeds like in Netherlands or Isreal that produce more milk.
This will also help to significantly lower the cost of production at the farm level.
Dairy farmers face constant milk price fluctuation from processors. Sometimes you enter into an agreement only for them renege on it. I think is time for farmers come together and form or strengthen existing co-operative movements like most countries across the world and start adding value to their milk to address some of these challenges.
By Stanley Kimuge
Jerim Odada, cane farmer in Muhoroni, Kisumu County
I am optimistic that national government will honour its pledge to settle the Sh2.6 billion debt it owes farmers next year.
Sugar cane farmers should be paid promptly to enable them prepare their land ahead of the planting season.I also expect the national government to revive the operations of sugar milling factories such Muhoroni and Chemelil, which have stalled.
Steve Kamwa, Kamsa Poultry Farm, Kisumu
The cheap eggs from Uganda are a huge headache to poultry farmers in western and other parts of the country.
Currently, a tray of the Ugandan eggs which have flooded Kisumu goes for between Sh200 to Sh220.
This has made us experience losses because we cannot sell our produce. The government should reduce the taxation of agricultural inputs so that we can be able to compete with farmers from across the border.
A 50kg bag of layers mash is currently going for Sh2,500. You cannot spend that much and make profit by selling the 30 eggs at Sh200.
We are currently working on a network of small farmers so that we can pool our produce together and sell eggs to the wholesale market.
Naisiadet Kitai, Chui Villa Farm in Kakamega County
My biggest expectation is that fuel prices will decline so that our production costs can fall.
This year, we have been hit hard by the 8 per cent increase in tax on fuel products like petrol, which I use. If the fuel prices go down, it will mean I spend less money on delivering my milk and running gadgets like chaff-cutter.
I also hope that the weather will be favourable so that it supports the growth of crops. Usually, the country experiences a dry spell from January to March, paving way for the long rains season. I hope this year the rains would start as scheduled and they will be enough to make us grow pasture and other crops. At a personal level, I plan to set up a modern shed for my 13 dairy cows and invest in a borehole.
I am also planning to set up a milk shop to maximise on the sale of 100 litres I get daily.
By Elizabeth Ojina
Prof Ezekiel Okemwa, fish farmer, Mtwapa and Technical University of Mombasa lecturer in the faculty of Applied and Health Sciences
I have seven acres and I use part to keep tilapia and catfish. I have ponds with a capacity of between 80,000 and 100,000 fish at various stages of growing every month.
My main expectation is that in 2019, the government would formulate policies that would regulate importation of fish, especially from China.
That said, I am going to revive poultry farming by breeding the Kienyeji birds.
My wish is also to expand my dairy farm that hosts Jersey and Friesian cows to increase production so that I can supply milk to restaurant and hotels.
Finally, I will start to host agro-tourists on my farm from other parts of the country for lessons and sharing of ideas.
Ali Said, farmer Kilifi County.
Despite the challenges in 2018 in the agribusiness industry, I expect the market for fruits to grow and the price of inputs to remain affordable. This is because I plan to increase the acreage of my pawpaws from four to eight acres.
I have about 3,000 plants at different stages of growth and my expectation is to add at least 4,000 more in 2019 since the market is growing.
To achieve the strategy, I have completed a dam that has a capacity of a million litres. Also, my plan is to grow about 900 trees of pomegrantes fruits on two acres.
I also expect to have a good relationship with the community and I have embarked on providing free seedlings to farmers that are interested in agribusiness.
By Bozo Jenje