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Farmers Assured of Coffee Seedlings

The Coffee Research Institute (CRI) in Ruiru, has assured farmers that it had put mechanisms to double the production of seedlings to meet the local demand.

Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) Deputy Director General in charge of Crops (DDGC) Dr. Felista Makini said the construction of  a modern seed propagation unit and the installation of a drip irrigation system will make it possible to produce enough seedlings to farmers.

He said the upgrade was facilitated through a cooperation between Kenya and Turkish governments that saw production at the 2 acre seed garden enhanced to bridge the perennial shortfall of supply of seedlings.

: coffee propagation at the CRI, where multiplication of seeds is being done

Speaking during the launch of the Drip irrigation system and seed propagator at the CRI, Makini said  the current demand for seeds in the country was about four tons against the average production of about two tons annually.

“ We envisage an increase in area under improved coffee varieties following these two facilities  enhancing the coffee production and this will translate to higher export earnings for the country, higher incomes for coffee growers and more sustainable production systems for improved quality of life”, she said.

Dr. Makini noted that one of the major constraints to seed production is moisture stress caused by successive poor rainfall performance as evidenced by the below-average rains for a couple of years at Ruiru centre.

“This Centre received about 600mm of rainfall the whole of last year, while coffee requires twice that amount per year. The relevance of this irrigation system can therefore not be overemphasized”, the Deputy DDGC said.

On the installation of a seed propagation unit to couple the seed production facility, she explained that that seed propagator has a capacity to propagate 40kgs of seed equivalent to 140,000 plantlets/seedlings.

“It may also be used for grafting 14,000 grafted seedlings at a go. The system will therefore reduce the use of labour since irrigation in the propagators is automated”, she added.

Dr. Makini noted that the CRI which is mandated to research on the coffee value chain has developed climate-smart and disease-resistant varieties – Ruiru 11 hybrid and Batian which has high yields and cup quality and with the varieties also attracting high demand in terms of seed and seedlings than the institution is currently able to meet.

Despite the celebrations, the Deputy DG said they still take cognizant of the challenges facing the coffee sub-sector such as the climate change, high cost of production and volatile markets.

The Government, Dr. Makini noted has embarked on handling all the challenges by undertaking strategic interventions aimed at addressing the issues such as development of climate smart  coffee technologies , introduction of fertilizer subsidy for all coffee farmers, waiver of accumulated debts in coffee cooperatives as well as availing low interest financing options.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) Country Director Eyup Yourt  Umullu said that cooperation between Kenya and Turkey dates way back and  constantly working together to strengthen the bilateral  relations and business between the two counties.

“We have been able to establish drip irrigation system for coffee seedlings that include a two acre garden, coffee nursery and main water pump so that all the farms can get water easily”, he said

He explained that the project is one of the many they have established in Kenya having been in the country for the last 11 years and having more than 200 projects in the areas of agriculture, educational capacity building and income generating projects.

“This year 2023 we are planning on new projects and our priority areas will be in agriculture and income generating projects in different sites within the country”, he said adding that because of the drought that has affected the country they intend to do water pans in arid and semi-arid areas as well as work with various organizations such as the bee keeping institute..

The Seed production project at the Coffee Research, Eyup said will help the country be able to meet the demand for seeds and also in turn be able to increase the export especially to his country Turkiye.

“Kenya exports its coffee to Turkiye but a small number. it can do better and I want to encourage Kenyan companies to explore business opportunities and promote Kenya’s delicious coffee to my Country”, Eyup said

As we know Kenya demand for seed is 4 tonnes pers year but before project 2 tonnes with the help of the project will meet the demand in terms of seeds , we believe with the help they will double existing production .

The Coffee Research Institute Director Dr. Elijah Gichuru said , the seed garden where the   drip irrigation system is  also installed can sustainably produce an average of 1.5 tons of Batian coffee seeds annually and therefore this  will be a substantial contribution to bridging the gap in demand for the seed.

Turkiye embassy representative together with KALRO scientists during the launch of the drip irrigation system and seed propagator

“Drip irrigation is the way to go. Water is becoming scarce while operational costs such as electricity and fuel are more expensive. These facilities will therefore also be used for stakeholder training and demonstration while our scientists will use it as a data collection point”, he said .

Dr. Gichuru explained that the traditional way of irrigation coffee including seed gardens has been by overhead irrigation,  which requires a lot of energy but  what the drip irrigation will  require is just power to put water into the tanks  without wasting as it is efficient and efficiency and will spread to the right places,  in small quantities where it is required,

The same system he said can be embraced by other stakeholders so that those using it commercially can adopt the system and have this kind of irrigation system. “We are looking at installing more of this system to our other sites such as Meru, Kitale , Koru among others”, Dr. Gichuru said

Murera Ward MCA Moses Ngatha thanked the Turkish government for the support saying the community which he presents and is within the CRI will benefit from the project by having more planting material.

“The Kiambu Community has been having a challenge of coffee seedlings and this has resulted with some of them uprooting their trees. “I want to encourage farmers to go back to coffee farming which is black gold. We now have quality seeds and this will assist in good production “< he said

Ngatha promised to take a motion to the Kiambu County Assembly to look for a way to provide farmers with subsidized coffee seedlings.

The coffee industry in the country supports about 700,000 households, drawn from 525 Coffee Cooperative Societies and 4000 Coffee Estates. Through forward and backward linkages, the industry supports about 5 million people and subsequently contributes to food security, employment and Kenya households’ welfare.

Coffee is a major cash crop and among the top foreign exchange earners for the Kenyan economy. It is ranked 5th in contribution to GDP after diaspora remittance, horticulture, tourism and tea.

By   Wangari Ndirangu

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