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Experts’ advice farmers to grow fast maturing crops during El Nino

Agricultural experts have advised farmers in Arid and Semi-arid lands (ASALs) to plant fast maturing crops during the expected El Nino rains.

Speaking during the World Food Day celebrations in Mukogodo East Ward in Laikipia County, the agronomists advised the farmers to plant drought resistant crops since the rains may not support traditional staple food like maize.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Officer Ms. Agneta Makutwa said in order to ensure food security in the county, farmers needed to practice sustainable agriculture, use certified seeds and adapt water harvesting techniques.

“The technology we are using is sustainable and farmers can get seedlings that are drought resistant. This has benefitted farmers since they don’t have to use seedlings that are not certified,” she said.

She disclosed that her organization has been working with 800 farmers from the ASALs areas of Laikipia to boost food security through diversification from traditional ways of farming, hence increasing their farm productivity.

“Through this project (rural women economic empowerment), we have been able to bring together about 800 women who are practising climate smart agricultural practices,” said Makutwa.

Ms. Julia Nyambura, one of the beneficiaries of the women economic empowerment program which is funded by Korean International and Cooperation Agency (KOICA) through UN Women and FAO revealed that they engage in planting of potatoes commonly known as Unica that are fast maturing following the capacity building of the community members on climate smart agricultural technologies.

She also pointed out they practice seeds production since the Unica seedlings are uncommon, saying the move would ensure they have enough supply at the community level aimed at increasing yields and at the same noted that the potato variety was drought and disease resistant.

Nyambura who is also a youth said to improve nutrition value at the grass root level, they had introduced kitchen gardens where they practice vegetable farming, adding that they practice chicken farming which was a boon to the community.

Another beneficiary Ms. Purity Wambuyu who is a farmer, said that she had managed to increase her yield after embracing the new farming models.

Julia Nyambura, one of the beneficiaries of the Women Economic Empowerment Program funded by Korean International and Cooperation Agency (KOICA) through UN Women and FAO demonstrating to the media how she uses a water pumping machine to water her farm in Laikipia during World Food Day in Mukogodo East

Laikipia County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture Ms. Purity Gitonga advised women to embrace kitchen gardens as a way of safeguarding food security and improving nutrition.

“Those who don’t have a big chunk of land can practice kitchen gardens which are of great benefit. Let us partner and support our rural women in embracing the new farming technologies for their benefit,” Gitonga said.

The CECM noted that kitchen gardens have been of great help in semi-arid lands and advised women to take advantage of the impending rains to harvest water for use in their farms during dry seasons and at the same time called on partnership from other agricultural stakeholders in sensitizing rural women on climate smart agriculture farming technologies.

The UN Women projects are funded by the Korean government and have invested about 4.4 million US dollars to empower women in the counties of West Pokot, Kitui and Laikipia by promoting the use of climate smart agriculture technologies.

During the World Food Day at Mukogodo, farmers showcased different agricultural products that were produced using climate smart technologies.

This year’s theme for the celebrations organised by FAO through UN Women is “Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave no one behind’ and “Financing for Rural Women Empowerment”.

 By Muturi Mwangi

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