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Farmers embrace crop diversification

More than 2000 farmers in Uasin Gishu County have embraced diversification of high value crops such as Coffee, grafted avocados, tissue culture bananas and macadamia in order to realise economic stability instead of relying solely on maize.

A coffee seedling nursery in Chebororwa in Uasin Gishu County. The project was developed at Ksh 10 million to help the diversification program. Photo by Hassan Adan Ali

According to Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago he pioneered high value crops as economic crops to uplift farmers’ livelihoods in the County and to progressively reduce farmers’ reliance on maize and wheat production and in so doing cushion them against the fluctuating maize prices.

“As crop prices become less stable in our ever-competitive markets and growing conditions become more difficult, many farmers struggle to ensure their financial security. However, we have urged our people to embrace pluri-culture whereby farmers can cushion themselves against maize price uncertainty by cultivating more than one type of crop,” Governor Mandago said. Avocado and coffee farming are slowly taking shape across the county with seedlings distributed to farmers so far estimated at 75,000 avocados and over 150,000 other promotional crops such as Coffee, Macadamia and Tissue culture bananas.

This year’s Avocado seedling subsidy distributed by the county will benefit 2,626 farmers across the county covering 925 acres.

Governor Mandago pointed out that a certified seed costs Sh 450 and farmers who requested for 100 seedlings and above will be rewarded by giving them a seedlings subsidy worth Sh45, 000.

“One Avocado tree yields 500 fruits. If you have 100 of them, you harvest 50,000 fruits. Even if you sell the fruit at Sh 10 you make half a million shilling from one acre,” he noted.

The County Coffee Officer Mr Maritim Nicholas said the number of farmers requesting for promotional crop seedlings is gradually rising.

“Our farmers are requesting coffee, macadamia and bananas in large numbers on daily basis and this is impressive,” he noted.

Tree tomatoes in Limo farm Uasin Gishu County. Photo by Hassan Adan Ali

“Coffee, macadamia, and avocado are lately considered farm gems following demand from international markets. Our farmers are embracing this idea positively and will in the end enable them form cooperatives to sell their produce, this will give them bargaining power,” he added.

The county has so far distributed 143,000 grafted avocados, 25,000 grafted macadamias, 55,500 tissue culture bananas and 150,000 coffee seedlings.

County Director of Agriculture Mr Reuben Seroney said that in a bid to create sufficiency of the seedlings the county established a tree nursery in chebororwa which is used to nature the seedlings before being distributed to various farmers.

Mr Seroney said that Agriculture department was allocated 1.5 million to purchase 200Kgs of coffee seeds from Coffee Research Institute (CRI). It is estimated the seeds will produce 600,000 seedlings and will be distributed in July next year.

Limo farm in Uasin Gishu was among the largest maize producers that has since embraced diversification.

Limo Farm Manager Mr Patrick Limo said they lost 10 acres of beans to unprecedented drought and the decision to shift to high value crops was informed by climatic changes, poor produce and competitive market.

“We are currently planting coffee on a 30-acre land and avocado is being planted on a 14-acre land. We also plant tree tomatoes as a booster to enlarge our financial basket and other cover crops that will not only improve our economic planning but also improve soil fertility,” said Limo.

As the Chairman of North Rift Economic Block (NOREB) Governor Mandago said he was advocating for a sustainable change that will improve the income at household level and the region at large and also create wealth and employment in the long run.

By Hassan Adan Ali

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