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Cotton farming in western Kenya on the road to revival

The Government has embarked on free distribution of cotton seeds and insecticides to farmers in Kisumu, Busia and Bungoma counties in efforts to revive the cotton industry, State Department for Trade and Industry Principal Secretary Dr Juma Mukhwana has said

“We have kicked off this project in Kisumu, Busia and Bungoma to empower our cotton farmers to get back to their farms and embark on cotton production. Our purpose is to distribute 16 tonnes of cotton seeds worth Sh50 million to cotton farmers,” Dr Mukkwana explained.

He said in the past 5 years the government has injected Sh7 billion towards cotton farming but the money was not enough.

“A brand new ginning machine costs Sh70 million which has not been factored in this year’s budget. We will try to allocate money for this project in the coming financial year,” he said.

The PS who was accompanied by State Department for Crops Principal Secretary Philip Harsama was speaking at Malakisi ginnery, Bungoma County over the weekend.

Mr Harsama said the government is keen to revive the cotton industry as well as the ailing cotton ginneries as part of its Big Four Agenda.

He stressed that cotton is a very lucrative cash crop which crumbled due to poor management, cheap imports and Kenya’s over reliance on the external market for her agricultural produce.

Mr Harsama said the crop production was adversely affected when cotton was replaced by synthetics as well as large quantities of second-hand clothes still being imported into the country. This, the PS added led to the closure of cotton ginneries including Malakisi.

“The revival of these mills will make our people go back to normal lives. The government will support farmers in identifying markets for their produced cotton and also help in the reduction of the cost of production. KALRO has been mandated by the government to produce cotton seeds for our farmers,” he said.

Bungoma County CEC member for Agriculture, Monica Fedha said the cotton farmers shall be supported by the county government.

Small-scale farmers like Andrew Wafula and Belinda Amoit have applauded the government for committing to revive the industry anticipating improved living standards from cotton sales.

Wafula said the introduction of BT Cotton has given farmers in the region a new ray of hope and urged the government to also consider trainings for better yields and source market for the commodity both in the country and globally.

“This is a great step. We had lost hope and the economic times are tough, many cotton farmers have school dropout children due to lack of school fees. The government intervention in this industry is timely. We also request for trainings to acquire the skills to produce high yields, and reasonable incentives,” Mr Wafula stated.

On her part Belinda Amoit says that she used to struggle to pay for her children’s school fees adding: “Now, we have a reason to be happy, I will be earning enough and be in a position to send my children to university without even the help of friends and relatives. Setting up buying centers where cotton is baled for transportation will be a blessing to cotton farmers,” she said.

By Cate Kulo

 

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