Non adherence to guidelines given by agricultural extension officers has been identified as the major cause for declining food production in Kirinyaga County.
Consequently, the County Government in collaboration with other stake holders has initiated a campaign targeting to educate the farmers on the need to observe good agricultural practices for maximum and profitable farming venture.
Mwangi Benson, the County Agri-business Officer, said majority of farmers have left the management of their farms to the farm hands hence the declining production.
He said the campaign duped Kilimo Biashara encourages the farmers to first calculate the profit margin before he embarks on the farming venture.
“This is to encourage the farmer to carry out an organized farming with the profit in mind rather than carrying out farming with no goal in mind,” Mwangi said.
He said the right use of fertilizer for the right crops if adhered to will increase the farmer’s earnings by a double digit, contrary to what has been happening before, where farmers resorted to using any available fertilizer with little or no regard for the ingredients.
“For instance a farmer is supposed to use 8 Kgs of 2323 fertilizer to plant I kg of maize seed. Some farmers have been using 1717 which is more expensive and with less absorption rate thus making their produce expensive for nothing,” he added.
Mwangi said the government is also addressing the challenges of use of uncertified seeds and shortage of fertilizer during the planting seasons.
“Arrangements have been made with financial institutions for the provision of support, where farmers are connected with dealers for the seeds and other farm inputs,” he said.
Mwangi said Kirinyaga farmers at times make error when marketing their produce. The campaign, he said has a component where farmers are educated to sell their produce at farm gate price and not the speculative market prices.
He said for instance the exorbitant price of Mwea pishori rice is encouraging importation of cheap rice from Pakistan and other Far East counties.
The Agri-business expert said consumption of rice has also gone up by 12 percent as compared to four percent of maize consumption.
Mwangi said the government has brought down the cost of DAP fertilizer from the previous Sh 4,000 to the current 1,800, with the farmers now able to save Sh. 2,200.
“If the cost of production has gone down by 2,000, farmers should also bring down the retail price of the produce, which has not been a reality,” he said.
“Kenya for instance requires 500 metric tons of rice, Mwea and other rice growing areas produce 240 metric tons, where do we get the remaining 300 metric tons unless we import,” he said.
He said there is no reason farmers should not grow enough crops for their food security and sell the surplus.
“The choice of the enterprise, choice of inputs will determine the profitability the farmers expect from his venture,” he observed.
Mwangi said they were also advising the farmers on the right use of the pesticides of which 40 percent is retailed in Mt. Kenya region.
“We are telling the farmers to use other methods of pest control and let the chemical control be the last option” he said.
“Commercial agriculture entails the farmer to develop a farm business plan which should clearly indicate the projected income statement before venturing into the farming practice,” the official said.
The gross profit margin should be the indicator whether the venture is profitable or not.
Mwangi was speaking during a farmer’s field day where farmers had congregated at a local nongovernmental organization demonstration farm at Kutus.
The demonstration farm supported by Dry Land Seed Company intended to introduce the farmers to a new tomato seedling which is pest and disease resistant.
By Irungu Mwangi