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Farmers advised to venture into traditional high value crops

Farmers  in  Kirinyaga have been advised to adopt new farming technologies as a way of coping with emerging weather changes.

The  County Crop Development Officer (CCDO), Charles  Waweru  said the department has started a campaign to educate farmers on the need to diversify crop production.

Waweru  said the campaign involves educating the farmers on the importance of planting traditional high value crops which are less susceptible to the weather changes being experienced in the region.

“Crops like Cassava, Sweet potatoes, Arrowroots, Millet and Sorghum are good for personal security as they do well in low potential areas and are not much affected by the changes of the weather,” he said.

He said such food crops provide good food security in times of failure of other high dependent crops like Maize.

The CCDO said farmers have also been introduced to cultivation of Bananas as a commercial crop to cushion against falling prices of Coffee and as a food crop which they can also turn to in case of crop failure other dominant crops.

He said the shortage of rain being experienced in the region has had an adverse effect especially on horticultural crops like tomatoes and others.

Waweru said lack of consistency in the rainfall pattern affected the farmers as there was delay in planting of maize thus affecting the growth of cultivated crops.

“Water supply has been greatly affected by the prolonged dry spell and farmers have expressed fears that rice production will fall,” Waweru said.

He  said the water levels in major rivers which supply the irrigation scheme with water have gone down, pointing to possible low rice harvests this season.

Currently, there are only six cubic metres of water flowing in which cannot sustain rice farming in the 26,000-acre scheme.

“The situation is serious and low production will be experienced in the area,” he said.

The  most hit areas are Wamumu, Karaba and Mutithi, Ndindiruku and Nguka where rice is grown in large scale.

If  the drought persists, the production will go down by 50 percent and Kenya will experience a shortage of the vital foodstuff.

When there is enough water and the climate is favorable, farmers produce one million bags of rice, which translates to Sh.7 billion per season.

Waweru observed that some farmers did not even plant rice this season and those who did are sharing the little water av ailable through rationing.

The  farmers expressed fear that unless it rains soon for water levels to rise in rivers Nyamindi and Thiba, which they mainly rely on for irrigation, rice production will be very low.

“Unless the short rains come early enough we shall surely suffer,” said Jane Muchiri, one of the farmers.

Muchiri  said rice requires a lot of water to do well and called on the government to speed up the building of the Sh.20 million Thiba Dam to mitigate water problems at the scheme.

“If this dam is constructed water problems at the scheme will be history,” she said.

By  Irungu  Mwangi

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