Over 80 per cent of food consumed in Kisumu is imported from neighbouring counties and even Uganda and Tanzania. Why is this the case?
Out of the 12 million eggs consumed monthly in Kisumu, 75 per cent are from Uganda. Milk, onions and bananas come from Nandi, Narok and Kisii counties, respectively while cowpeas come from as far as Central Kenya and honey from Machakos. Since farming culture in Nyanza has been very poor, we have been supporting other peoples’ economy while draining ours. But we are now focused on shifting this trend.
Definitely it would be a tough task, so what are you doing?
We have carried out a lot of trainings on best farming practices in various fields including livestock, fisheries and even horticulture.
Lake Victoria has for a long time been a major source of fish but their number has dwindled. We have trained locals to shift from fish capture to fish culture of farming fish in ponds. Then we will have cold storage facilities in every ward for fish preservation.
On livestock, we are working on having a multiplication centre for quality cow, goat and sheep breeds.
For chicken, we have noticed that the Kienyeji breed is more marketable, and this is what we are telling farmers to rear.
We have also initiated micro-irrigation projects in every ward to boost production of horticultural produce. The way to go for bananas is value addition whereby we will use the produce to make crisps and other products for export.
We plan to build an agricultural export centre at the airport in collaboration with the Lake Region Trading Bloc, whereby each of the 15 counties under it will identify a major crop for export.
Since you took office, what can you proudly say you have done for farmers?
We have managed to improve mechanisation in our bid to commercialise farming. Rice farmers in Ahero and West Kano schemes have received 23 tractors from the Japanese government to boost production from the current 25,000 metric tonnes to its potential of 60,000 metric tonnes. They have also been handed harvesting and rice milling machines, among others. We have also improved roads into the farmlands for both rice and sugarcane farmers to easily get their produce to stores and factories.
But rice farmers have been complaining of lack of market for their produce?
Marketing of rice has been a major headache. This is due to cheap imports from Pakistan that make our rice disadvantaged. We have already made a plea to the national government to control this trade because it is ailing our economy.
How would you make poultry farmers produce more eggs so that the county can stop relying on Uganda?
We plan to set up our own factory to process cheaper livestock feeds. The reason why eggs from Uganda cost Sh6 while ours is Sh15 is because their cost of production is low.
Do you have a problem with extension services?
Yes, we only have 200 extension officers of which half are set to retire in five years. It means we need to recruit more.
Does the county still hope to take over the management of Muhoroni, Miwani and Chemelil sugar factories?
Yes, we have severally requested the Privatisation Commission to transfer the factories to Kisumu County instead of selling to investors. Agriculture is a devolved function and counties best understand the plight of its farmers.