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Coastal farmers urged to step-up coconut production

Agriculture stakeholders in the coast region have urged the government to prioritise the production of coconut across all six coastal counties, citing its potential to significantly improve the economy of not only the coast but the whole country.

Speaking during the National Coconut Week conference in Kilifi on Thursday, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation Industrial Crops Research Institute Director Dr. Finyange Pole stated that the coconut plant is very important to the coast region’s economy, but it has not been given the level of attention that it deserves.

He highlighted that other countries’ economies are greatly benefiting from giving priority to the production of coconuts and their by-products.

“Asian countries have developed significantly because of this coconut plant. Among the products of coconut is bio-diesel, and countries like Vietnam use this by-product to move their economies  ahead,” Dr. Pole said.

He added that according to the 2012 census, the coast region had 10 million coconut crops that produced 260 million coconuts, which, in his view, were too few as compared to countries like India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka that produce coconuts in higher quantities.

Dr. Pole disclosed that among the challenges facing the coconut industry in Kenya is the use of poor quality seeds, which yield very little produce.

“In Kenya, we have only two varieties: the East African Tall and the East African Dwarf, and their produce is very little. When well managed, you can harvest around 80 to 100 coconuts in a year, which is not enough to meet our economic needs,” he explained.

Secretary of the Crop Production Department, Rashid Khator, said that planting more coconut plants along the coast will help the government achieve its poverty alleviation agenda among local farmers.

“The government has a plan to remove the poverty mentality among farmers, and that is why we have organised this National Coconut Week conference to sensitise farmers on better coconut farming practices so that we can increase its production in the coast region,”  Khator explained.

He urged farmers to take advantage of the rainy season to plant many coconut seedlings so that, after 2 to 3 years, they can begin to enjoy benefits.

Agricultural Consultant Baha Nguma stated that coconut farming is the backbone of the coast region’s economy, but its potential to improve the country’s economy has not been utilised.

He underscored the need for the government to invest more in coconut farming in order for Kenyans to reap more benefits from the crop.

“There is a need for us to invest more in coconut farming to maximise the benefits. In my opinion, the government should aim at distributing 1 million coconut seedlings to farmers every  year,” Nguma stated.

By Cynthia Maseno

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