Over 50, 000 Tea and Coffee farmers from Embu and Kirinyaga counties are set to be trained on crop diversification by Non-Governmental Organization, Rainforest Alliance to increase revenue streams as well as conserve climate.
The program dubbed, Mt. Kenya Sustainable Landscape and Livelihoods Program, earmarked to run for five years is aimed at training farmers on how to diversify to other high value crops such as macadamia, grafted avocado, dairy and goat farming, beekeeping and rearing small livestock including rabbits among others.
The development comes at a time when earnings from the two cash crops that have for long been the main source of income for farmers are on a downward trend due to climate change, hence reduced and erratic rainfall leading to poor production.
Speaking at an Embu Hotel Monday, during a meeting with Tea Factory Chairmen from the two counties to bring them up to speed with the new development, an Official from the NGO, Julius Ng’ang’a, said the two crops could no longer meet and sustain the financial needs of farmers’ due climate change, high cost of production and price volatility.
This, he said, called for a change in tact to help farmers reduce the financial risks associated with reliance on a few crops, as a result of unfavorable weather or market shocks.
“Growing a wide range of crops will greatly help in expanding the market potential,” said Ng’ang’a, noting that they will also be assisting in linking farmers to markets locally and internationally.
The NGO official said in the near future, they plan to extend the program to other coffee growing counties around Mt. Kenya Region including Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri, Murang’a and Laikipia.
Factory chairmen present hailed the initiative as transformative, which would go a long way in making farming a lucrative venture and also make it attractive to the young people.
“Tea alone is having a big load on farmers and diversification is a welcome move in assisting our growers improve their livelihoods,” said Rukuriri Tea Factory (Embu) Chairman Joseph Rwanjau.
His Thumaita Factory (Kirinyaga) counterpart Richard Magu equally called on farmers to embrace and uphold the new concept that will see them not only acquire requisite knowledge and skills, but also seed capital.
By Samuel Waititu