Uasin Gishu County has been championing crop diversification over the years to uplift farmers’ living standards and in the end empower the county’s economy.
Many farmers took the initiative and embraced the high value crops drive and are now benefiting highly from the consistent poor yields they got from the normal maize and wheat farming.
Reuben Seroney, County Director Agriculture, Uasin Gishu indicated the diversification journey has been a success so far, “As a county we have benefited from the diversification programme. Several foreign investors have approached us and are willing to invest in our county and this shows the robust programme will not only cater for the county’s food security but also open up markets for our recognition in the international trade markets.”
“We currently have farmers who embraced coffee farming back in 2019 and we are happy to see them reap greater benefits from coffee sales. Normally coffee takes three years to mature but the first harvest can begin in one and half years. An estimate of 1,300 farmers is practicing coffee farming currently,” said Seroney
He pointed out the land under high value crops is in a dynamic mode and it is gradually rising, but currently an estimate of about 1260 acres is under coffee as per the statistics as of July this year. The county has been instrumental in giving farmers free seedlings enabled by their Chebororwa seedlings Nursery to encourage farmers venture into coffee and other high value crops farming.
Abraham Kogo, an established farmer in the county informed that coffee farming has higher profits compared to maize and wheat. “The good thing with coffee is you just plant once and harvest as much as you can. The maintenance cost is also low and when the bushes surrounding coffee trees are managed well, they give out many kilos of cherries which are in good shape and state.”
“The only challenge we have is the drought and during such periods the produce realize low yields. The diseases that come up are manageable and as such it makes this new venture an interesting farming activity” Kogo said.
Another farmer Priscilla Mutahi, a successful farmer in the county indicated. “Currently I am doing a two-acre coffee plantation. To me this has been the best farming practice with an assurance of a ready market and the good prices which is really motivating and enabling uplift our economic development which in the past has been static with no minimal returns.” She informed.
Priscilla was given about 700 seedlings by the county which she has tirelessly protected and nurtured and she notes it is paying her back handsomely to her it’s a no turning back investment.
“I was doing maize and dairy farming and after learning about diversification, I shifted to coffee farming. Last year I harvested for the first time and managed to get about Sh250,000 from selling the farm produce.” She said.
She added that coffee became the best practice for her which previously other farmers laughed at them for idling with a crop that takes two to three years with no assurance of good yields. I am glad they are now benchmarking our farms to get an insight about coffee farming practices.
Farmers in Uasin Gishu are selling their Coffee-to-Coffee Miller’s Service. A kilogram of coffee is bought at about Kshs.700-800 (the best grade). This is usually good money to farmers compared to normal cash crops they have been planting year in year out.
For Priscilla’s case, she has planted about three acres of coffee with 3000 bushes in 2019. Her last year’s harvest enabled her to get a profit of Sh700,000 and hoping this year the profit will double up. The harvesting season is projected to be between September and December.
Seroney said, the rate at which the county was giving out bursaries to needy students has reduced. This is due to farmers who have accepted to move to high value crops hence earning a decent livelihood which has greatly empowered them.
The tree cover on the land has increased and the department of agriculture is continuously sensitizing farmers to keep embracing diversification. The high value crops have a market locally and internationally hence farmers are assured of greater profits.
In providing the farmers with the know-how in the field of coffee farming, it has been another role in shifting the counties economy from normal cash crops to high value crops.
This will encourage farmers to embrace diversification and uplift the county’s economy being an agricultural hub. It will in future encourage research and value addition centers to be established in further empowering farmers.
By Hassan Adan Ali