As the planting season sets in in various parts of the Western region, farmers in Marachi East Ward in Butula Constituency, Busia County are opting for credit loans to purchase farm inputs in a move to boost food production.
The farmers cited harsh climatic conditions and expensive inputs as the main cause of poor harvests incurred during last year’s planting season.
“We had low yields due to changing climatic patterns and high prices of farm inputs. A 2kg packet of maize seeds that used to cost Sh 500 now costs Sh 600,” said Patrick Ofisi, a farmer from Isongo village, who also decried the hiked prices of fertilizers.
“A 50kg bag of inorganic fertilizers is very expensive. Farmers are now paying Sh 5800 for a bag of UREA, Sh 6300 for DAP and Sh 5400 for CAN,” he added.
A number of farmers have now shifted their focus to credit companies like One Acre Fund (OAF), which aims to create more income for smallholder farmers by providing quality seeds and agricultural services on credit terms to make farms more productive.
Ignatius Ayieko Wanga, an OAF field officer in Marachi East Ward, said the enterprise is in the process of distributing farm inputs to farmers during this planting season.
“We have 145 registered members in our area, 45 of them have already qualified and are ready to receive seeds. Some 30 farmers have not received theirs yet but it is being processed,” said Wanga, clarifying that the qualified members are those who have already paid 30 per cent of the loan.
Wanga first heard of OAF from the village elder back in 2013 after which members were recruited into groups. They received training on the enterprise operations and the credit term conditions.
A farmer pays according to the land mass under cultivation and qualifies for farm inputs after 30 per cent pay off. They then fetch their inputs from their respective collection centers.
He narrates how his life has changed since becoming a member of One Acre Fund ten years ago. “I have increased my yields from two sacks to 14 sacks of maize; I can sell the surplus to generate income. I have increased my savings since I no longer purchase food stuff,” said Wanga.
Grace Awino, a beneficiary of OAF expressed her gratitude towards the enterprise as it has enabled her to triple her farm produce.
“I used to harvest two to three sacks of maize from a quarter acre of land before joining OAF. Thanks to the enterprise, I now get seven sacks from the same piece of land,” said Awino, adding that she has been able to gain experience and get tree seedlings that come alongside farm inputs.
In a move to evade adverse effects of climate change, farmers are now opting for drought resistant seed varieties, which take the shortest time to mature. “Many farmers prefer DK 8031 (maize seeds) which have medium maturity and are not affected by drought,” said Wanga.
Apollo Agriculture, a technology company based in Nairobi is also another recent credit entity and a commercial farming platform established with an objective of helping small-scale farmers maximize their profits.
The two companies, OAF and Apollo Agriculture, are now in a stiff competition to register as many farmers as possible as they provide similar goods and services; financing, farm inputs, advice, insurance and market accessibility for the small-scale farmers.
Agriculture being Kenya’s breadbasket and the backbone of the economy, there is a need to increase production, which requires addressing cost, quality and access of inputs.
At least 114,000 farmers were registered during the National registration of farmers for subsidized fertilizer that was directed by President William Ruto. However, Busia is one of the Counties which has not received the subsidized fertilizer.
Busia Governor Dr. Paul Otuoma on his part expressed his commitment to ensuring that the county is food secure through commercialization of agriculture. Otuoma noted that the County has a shortage of Agricultural Extension Officers to guide farmers on good crop and animal husbandry.
He said that his administration wants to recruit more extension officers to help local farmers and offer fertilizer subsidy.
“Our farmers do not need to wait for extension officers when we have challenges but the officers should be visiting farmers in the field and advise them accordingly,” he said, adding that his government will provide farm inputs to farmers.
In his manifesto dubbed ‘The Plan’ launched on 30 June last year, President William Ruto promised to revive the economy by investing at least Sh 250 billion to boost agriculture and food security.
By Peter Okeka and Salome Alwanda