• May 22, 2024
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Nakuru Farmers Urged to Embrace Crop Diversification

Nakuru Farmers Urged to Embrace Crop Diversification

Nakuru,

Thursday, May 9, 2024

KNA by Anne Sabuni

Nakuru County Government has initiated a drive to promote diversification of food crops as a way of mitigating the effects of climate change, boosting sources of livelihoods, and improving living standards.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries County Executive Committee Member (CECM) Leonard Bor indicated that diversifying production towards non-traditional crop varieties could also help improve agricultural productivity, stabilize output, and enhance food insecurity.

Mr Bor emphasised the farming method also helps in reducing risk factors thereby ensuring the farmers do not lose all of their resources in case of adverse weather conditions that do not favour crop production.

“In addition, since multiple crops can be harvested from a small field, the production increases tenfold, which ensures a substantial amount of income,” the CECM explained the significance of crop diversification to the farmers.

He noted that diversification not only expands the number of potential crop types for markets but also contributes significantly to household nutrition needs.

The CECM further stated that crop diversification was one of the cheapest ways of dealing with several crop diseases, including the fall army worms, that was a nuisance to farmers in the region.

“By planting maize on the same piece of land, the chances of completely dealing with the problem of destructive pests like the Fall Army Worms are slim. This is because a farmer who plants maize in both short and long rain seasons inadvertently provides enough food for the worms,” explained Mr Bor.

He added that diversification is the most robust option towards creating resilient agricultural systems that can contribute significantly to household and, subsequently, national food security.

He was speaking at Bahati Trading Centre after distributing 10,751 avocado seedlings to 630 farmers. 3,587 seedlings were distributed in Bahati Ward, 3,582 seedlings in Kiamaina Ward, and 3582 seedlings in Lanet Umoja Ward.

Mr Bor affirmed that Governor Susan Kihika’s administration had sustained a campaign to revitalise avocado farming, with eyes set on international markets.

He said the devolved unit was collaborating with stakeholders in the avocado subsector in training farmers on enhancing the competitiveness of avocado value-added products.

The CECM observed that the venture, a partnership with the Avocado Society of Kenya (ASOK), mainly targets smallholder farmers, who are also being trained on export processes, quality planting materials, proper farming techniques, farm mechanization, accessing reliable market links, and affordable credit facilities.

He added that the county was keen on focusing on international markets instead of selling the fruit to middlemen at throwaway prices, where he said they buy the one fruit for about Sh10 and Sh15, reaping huge profits at the expense of farmers.

The CECM indicated that they were encouraging farmers to diversify into the farming of avocados and macadamias alongside other traditional crops like coffee and potatoes.

“We have mainly singled out the avocado crop as a potential income earner for our farmers due to the high demand both locally and internationally. The seedlings will take approximately 18 months to start yielding fruits,” said Mr Bor.

He at the same time urged avocado farmers to join cooperative societies to boost their incomes and prevent their exploitation by middlemen, adding that through bulking, cooperatives have been able to reduce the cost of marketing and enabled farmers to realize higher returns through the provision of a reliable and remunerative outlet for produce.

The CECM indicated that the devolved unit and its partners were further sensitizing the farmers on the new avocado export regulations announced by the Horticulture Crops Directorate towards ensuring that Kenyan fruits are competitive in the global export market.

He urged farmers to exploit the region’s favourable weather patterns and arable soils and increase their sources of income through crop diversification as a robust risk management strategy to increase production and food security.

Mr Bor observed that Kenya’s agricultural production is dominated by a narrow range of commodities, which include maize and wheat, as well as cash crops like tea, coffee, and flowers.

He added that their cultivation contributes to the livelihoods of 70 per cent of rural families, causing a concerning overreliance on just a few crops.

Mr Bor observed that climate change continues to hinder efforts to increase agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security in many developing countries.

Besides going for the best maize seed varieties suitable for the soils in the area, the farmers present were encouraged to invest in early-maturing crops during the short rain seasons.

Mr Bor identified sunflowers, Irish potatoes, sorghum, millet, carrots, groundnuts, African leafy vegetables, and soya beans as some of the best early-maturing crops, with most of them classified as drought-resistant besides their nutritional value.

He stated that diversifying production towards non-traditional varieties could help improve agricultural productivity, stabilize output, enhance food security, and mitigate the risk of climate change.

Courtesy; KNA

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