KNA There is evidence of practical attempts at crop diversification in Uasin Gishu as many farmers are embracing the change away from the normal maize and wheat farming practices that have been on the run for many years.
A great percentage of farmers have adopted and are practicing call pluri-culture which entails getting some income from as many diverse crops on farm sources as possible.
Uasin Gishu County government has been sensitizing farmers to diversify into coffee, avocados, macadamia nuts, and tree tomatoes to spread the risks at the farm level.
Governor Jackson Mandago has been an instrumental crusader of crop diversification and has presented seedlings for coffee, macadamia nuts and avocado in several functions such as Annual Agricultural Show.
Limo Farm is a large-scale producer in Plateau in Uasin Gishu County and has been producing maize over the years. They have embraced diversification and are currently planting coffee on a 30-acre land, avocado, macadamia and tree tomatoes on their vast 160-acre land.
The Farm manager Patrick Mutai indicated for many years, prices of maize have fluctuated because of the produce flooding the market to a situation where the input and output are not matching up forcing them to embrace other cash crops in large scale.
“Due to changes in weather patterns, many farmers in our county are going to harvest only 40% of their produce and this is the lucky lot. We as Limo farm have lost almost 10 acres of beans due to short rains and this has motivated us to embrace coffee, macadamia and avocado as a new twist in expanding our market territory and diversifying as a means of mitigating on many different types of risks including economic, ecological and production risks,” Mutai said.
He said they were majoring in coffee, have received sufficient support from the County Government and they believe they are doing the right thing in investing in these high value crops.
“We have done our research and consulted some companies on how to plant, maintain and harvest the coffee and we have a guaranteed market both locally and internationally. This change we believe is significant in improving our economy,” he said.
Reuben Seroney, Director Agriculture Uasin Gishu County said they decided to venture into high value crops because in the past, farmers ventured in maize and wheat farming but realised they were not getting expected returns and that their continued farming of the crops has led to soil acidity.
“We sat down at the Department of Agriculture and saw the need of practising crop diversification and introduced crops that will boost our economy and uplift our people’s social status. We have sensitized our farmers on all this and we have done registration for purposes of helping them with issuance of seedlings and follow up for training and technical advice,” he explained.
The County Government has established a nursery in Chebororwa which is targeting to produce two million seedlings by next year as the demand for high value crops was sharply increasing each day.
“For now, we are majoring in distribution of seedlings. This year so far, we have been able to distribute 8,000 macadamia, 25, 000 bananas and 75, 000 avocados and we have a plan of distributing 400 thousand coffee seedlings. We hope by next year we will be able to export to NOREB regions,” said Seroney.
The notable increase of interest in these products demonstrates that the search for an alternative economy in Uasin Gishu is gaining momentum. These efforts are in themselves confirmation that farmers are looking for other cash crops to replace traditional ones.
The avocado, coffee, macadamia and passion are new products being embraced warmly in Uasin Gishu but represent ‘recomposed’ knowledge; farmers turning formerly ‘idle’ crops into cash crops.