Residents of West Pokot have been urged to embrace pyrethrum farming as an alternative source of income for thousands of smallholder farmers in the region.
According to Simeon Boen, the Director of the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) and the Sub-committee, Technical Crop Production Board Chair, the move to revive pyrethrum farming, will boost income generation in the region and help alleviate poverty.
Speaking during a joint mission with agricultural officials at Ptop and Nyarkulian villages of Tapach Ward in West Pokot County in his education and sensitization, Boen challenged the residents to embrace pyrethrum farming as an alternative form of farming that will help alleviate their poverty index.
“On behalf of the National and the County Governments, I urge farmers to go into the field, plant pyrethrum and once we get the produce, we will pay you as PPCK,” Boen urged.
Boen said the region has rich volcanic soil which has the potential to produce the world’s best pyrethrum with the highest pyrethrin content, which ranges between 2.0 to 3 with a street value of Sh290 to Sh425 per Kilogram.
He said PPCK is working closely with the County Government agricultural sector for technical guidance on the choice of quality pyrethrum seeds for Lelan and Tapach Ward as a way of enhancing community socio-economic strength and growth in the region.
“I have had an opportunity to visit the County government of West Pokot and we have had a very good discussion regarding the reviving pyrethrum farming in the region,” he said.
The Director said Pyrethrum matures in five to six months and the flowers are picked after every 14 days for 10 months in a year before cutback, for a new production circle for the next four years, at 600 kilograms (kgs) per acre per year.
He urged the County Government to collaborate with the National Government, so as to have many farmers venture into the enterprise as they used to do five (5) to seven (7) years ago, before the pyrethrum sector went down.
Boen said pyrethrum is a perennial crop grown for its flower heads. Pyrethrin is used for the formulation of pesticides when extracted and it is propagated through seed and clonal splits
Other uses of pyrethrum include making of mosquito repellant coils, insecticides, used in manufacturing garden and fly sprays, flea bombs, it is a natural medicine and it can also be used to make hair care products.
“The National Government has given Sh200 million, we started working on it between June and now and going forward we still expect to get some more funds, so as to reach not only this West Pokot County, but also the rest of the other 18 counties, where pyrethrum is grown, especially in parts of North Rift, South Rift, Central Rift, Eastern and Central region,” he said.
Boen encouraged farmers to plant pyrethrum early enough because within six months, the crop will be ready for harvesting with a ready market provided by PPCK who will collect the produce from the farmer to the processing plant based in Nakuru City.
He said the National and County governments have devised strategies that will enable farmers to access pyrethrum seedlings in abundance for planting.
Boen added that some of the local residents are unaware of the benefits they could get from pyrethrum farming and that education and sensitization is needed to be done, to all the farmers in the region.
Simon Kirakwiang, a resident of Ptop village in Tapach Ward, expressed his joy after training and noted how his parents managed to raise school fees for him and his siblings, through the sale of pyrethrum flowers to PPCK from the year 1998 to the 2002, before the collapse of PPCK.
“When I was young, many families who were planting pyrethrum crop as a source of their income, managed to buy cars, build houses and managed to raise school fees for their children, through the sale of pyrethrum to Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK),” he said.
Francis Merkori, the Assistant Chief, Nyarkulian location in Tapach Ward, urged the residents to take advantage of the prevailing heavy downpour in the area to plant pyrethrum in abundance, for the crop will boost the economy and provide employment to the locals.
“We are happy to receive good news from PPCK Director, who has come all the way from Nakuru, he has brought information about good prices from the sale of pyrethrum flowers and I want to urge all farmers in the region, to ensure they plant the cash crop in abundance for the sale of it will assist to uplift your lives,” he said.
During the event, the farmers were taught how to plant the pyrethrum crop and identity diseases as well as pest control.
By Anthony Melly and Maureen Kapchanga