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Lamu farmers want Bixa Farming Revitalized

Farmers in Lamu County have urged the national government to accelerate efforts aimed at revitalizing Bixa farming, a once-thriving cash crop that has faced a decline in recent years.

The call for action was made during a stakeholder’s validation workshop held in Mpeketoni Thursday, Lamu West sub-county, organized by the AFA-Miraa, Pyrethrum, and Other Industrial Crops Directorate.

Stakeholders along the Bixa value chain, including farmers, processors, and exporters, gathered to discuss the proposed Crops (Bixa) Regulations of 2023.

These regulations are envisioned to establish a comprehensive framework for sustainable growth and development within the Bixa industry in Kenya.

Bixa Orellana, which flourished as a cash crop in Lamu during the 1990s and early 2000s, experienced a downturn in trade primarily due to poor prices.

This saw farmers in Lamu shift their cultivation focus to cotton, further impacting the Bixa farming landscape.

Samuel Waruinge, Secretary-General of the Lake Kenyatta Farmers Association, stressed that the revival of Bixa farming hinges on critical support in the form of subsidies and improved pricing.

He highlighted the detrimental role played by unscrupulous brokers in the decline of Bixa farming along the coastal region.

Waruinge further urged AFA to proactively develop policies aimed at safeguarding farmers from exploitation, while emphasizing the need for sustainable agricultural practices.

Javas Mwangi, a farmer from Hindi, shared past experiences, recounting instances where he received as little as Sh15 per kilo for Bixa crops.

Mwangi emphasized the need for the government to embark on comprehensive efforts to restore the tarnished reputation of Bixa farming.

Felix Mutwiri, the Director of AFA-Miraa, Pyrethrum, and Other Industrial Crops, in his remarks expressed the national government’s unwavering commitment to the revival of Bixa farming.

He underscored that the proposed regulations would serve as a transformative force for Bixa farmers, integrating both indigenous and modern farming practices for their benefit.

Mutwiri announced the launch of the Bixa Handbook Manual last month by the AFA, designed to address the challenges and outline revival strategies for Bixa farming, particularly in the coastal region as a pointer towards the government’s commitment to revive the sector.

The handbook includes regulations intended to elevate Bixa as a significant contributor to the country’s economy.

Dickson Kathuri, AFA Deputy Director in charge of Regulation and Compliance, emphasized that the regulations would ensure farmers in major Bixa-producing counties such as Kwale, Kilifi, and Lamu receive fair value for their produce.

The collaboration between stakeholders and the government is perceived as paramount in the collective effort to restore Bixa farming to its former prominence.

By Amenya Ochieng

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