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KEPHIS asks farmers to adopt drought seed varieties

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has urged farmers in dry Kitui County to plant certified drought seed varieties for better yields.

KEPHIS Managing Director Dr Esther Kimani said by using seeds specifically bred for Kitui ecological zone, the farmers could realize increased yields despite erratic rainfall patterns in the region.

This is a demonstration to Kitui farmers that it is possible for them to increase their crop production and become food secure despite the county’s aridity,” she said.

Kimani said KEPHIS had, in conjunction with agriculture-biased State agencies, developed seed varieties for dry Kitui including maize, sorghum, millet, green grams, beans, peas, paw paws, mangoes and vegetables among others.

“We are keen to ensure that Kitui farmers get quality certified seeds that can do well under minimal rainfall as part of the government’s efforts to make the country food secure and minimize food imports,” she added.

The MD further noted that KEPHIS had introduced a short code service to enable farmers determine the authenticity of seeds in the market.

“The certified seed packages bear unique codes which farmers can scan or SMS to KEPHIS for verification thereby locking out fake seeds which subject farmers to losses,” revealed the official.

Kimani said that farmers should buy seeds from companies that are registered with KEPHIS as either seed merchants or sellers.

“To verify its authenticity, one should ensure that the packet bears a KEPHIS sticker label that one should scratch and send the number underneath through SMS to 1393, after which, one will establish the seed variety, the producer and the lot number,” stated Kimani.

The MD added that once a farmer has purchased seeds, they should not throw away the receipt and packaging material for if planted seed fails to germinate, one should make a report to KEPHIS, upon which a follow up will be done using the evidence.

She observed that through this process and the Mulika Mbegu Mbovu campaign, KEPHIS has been able to reduce the level of fake seeds in the market from 40 percent to 3 percent.

Kimani urged the county government and the farmers to help in the fight against fake seeds by reporting to KEPHIS offices.

The MD said that due to climate change which has resulted in extremely low rainfall and high temperatures, the new crop varieties are set to withstand this, as KEPHIS has released high yielding varieties of finger millet, green grams, cowpeas among others and vegetables suitable for semi- arid Kitui Ecological Zone.

Gioche Mwangi, Director of Policy and Innovation in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the government has invested immensely in water provision across the country to promote irrigated farming.

“We are aware that certified seeds and rain-fed farming alone cannot provide a comprehensive solution to food insecurity in this country. That is why the government is constructing mega dams across Kenya in order to expand our irrigated lands,” said Mwangi.

The Policy Director urged farmers to embrace drought tolerant crop varieties and sustainable farming technologies for nutrition and food security.

He said that the improved varieties of drought tolerant crops which had been introduced by KEPHIS and the county government can withstand less rainfall and mature faster.

Kitui farmers will get a quarter of the expected yield due to delayed October-December rains, says National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) Kitui Coordinator Francis Koma.

Speaking to KNA on Thursday in Kitui, Koma said only half of the farmers planted during the heavy rains season adding that the rains have subsided hence crops will wither before reaching maturity.

“Even though we received exceedingly good rains in Kitui, our people are not food secure because they planted late. Most farmers planted when rains were about to dissipate,” said the NDMA official.

The Kitui County Metrological department in its weekly climate and weather forecast indicated that the October-December short rains could have ended.

Based on Kenya Meteorological Department, Kitui County received 151-200 percent of normal rainfall in most parts of the County in the month of December.

The County Director of Meteorology Daniel Mbithi advised farmers to get advice from agricultural extension officers on the way forward.

Farmers listen to crop experts during a field day organized by KEPHIS in Kitui

Conversely, most parts of the county recorded 76-100 percent of normal seasonal rainfall performance.



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