FARMERS Tuesday, August

By BONIFACE MULU

The agriculture is the backbone of our economy with 80 per cent of the population relying on agriculture directly and indirectly. The Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary, William Mwangi Kiunjuri further said that the sector contributes about 40 per cent of the government revenue and more than 60 per cent of the total export revenue. “As government, we will continue supporting the modernisation of agriculture and teaching our farmers the importance of growing crops suitable for their agro-ecological zones using the right techniques.

We are also focused on making agriculture attractive to the young people and for it to be seen as a viable source of livelihood,” the minister added. I want our young people to know that if practiced well, agriculture is a good source of income that you can live by, he said.

Kiunjuri made the remarks in a speech read for him by his ministry’s Agriculture Researches Director Harry Mwangi during the Kitui County Farmers Field Day organised at the Kitui Agricultural Training Centre by the County Agriculture, Water and Livestock Development Ministry in partnership with the Feed the Future, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and Seed Stakeholders on Friday, August 2, 2019 where he had been represented by the director as the chief guest at the function.

The event, whose theme was “Promoting the growth of orphan crops and sustainable farming technologies for nutrition and food security” was attended by thousands of farmers from Kitui County.

The minister said that the KEPHIS has facilitated the access to high quality drought tolerant and early maturing varieties in semi-arid areas such as Kitui through testing facilitation of release of the drought tolerant crop varieties these varieties. “
“As government, we will continue supporting the modernisation of agriculture and teaching our farmers the importance of growing crops suitable for their agro-ecological zones using the right techniques.

We are also focused on making agriculture attractive to the young people and for it to be seen as a viable source of livelihood,” the minister added. I want our young people to know that if practiced well, agriculture is a good source of income that you can live by, he said.

Kiunjuri made the remarks in a speech read for him by his ministry’s Agriculture Researches Director Harry Mwangi during the Kitui County Farmers Field Day organised at the Kitui Agricultural Training Centre by the County Agriculture, Water and Livestock Development Ministry in partnership with the Feed the Future, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and Seed Stakeholders on Friday, August 2, 2019 where he had been represented by the director as the chief guest at the function.

The event, whose theme was “Promoting the growth of orphan crops and sustainable farming technologies for nutrition and food security” was attended by thousands of farmers from Kitui County.

The minister said that the KEPHIS has facilitated the access to high quality drought tolerant and early maturing varieties in semi-arid areas such as Kitui through testing facilitation of release of the drought tolerant crop varieties these varieties. “Let me thank Governor Charity Ngilu for according us a great welcome to the Kitui County and for allowing us the privilege of hosting this important field day here for the benefit of our farmers,

” Kiunjuri said. I am happy that this field day aims to expose farmers to drought tolerant crop varieties that are suitable for this agro-ecological zone of Kitui County and the surrounding areas, he added. “I am happy to see a large turnout of farmers who have come for this event which is an indication that they are willing to learn new and modern ways of farming and agricultural production.

Let me also state that this field day could not have come at a better time for this region which as we all know is in an arid area and experiences drought,” the minister said. “As you are aware, the government through research institutions is focusing on crops which are suitable for the arid and semi-arid areas such as this one.

Hence why we have crops such as cowpeas, green grams, amaranthus, soya, maize, pigeon peas, sorghum, pearl and finger millet,” he said. These crops have been made available for multiplication by the KEPHIS having gone through the national performance trials and are of a superior quality than the previously released ones, the minister said.

These superior varieties are able to give you yields of up to 10 per cent higher than the previous yields. This should be good news to farmers to enhance their yields and uplift their standards of living, he added. “I hope that by imparting this knowledge, the farmers will enhance their crop production capacities through access to clean and certified seed, selection of the right varieties for food security in this area, crop pest management, compliance to market requirements and other good agricultural practices,” the minister said.

Indeed, this will go a long way in embracing modern farming methods with the aim of enhancing food and nutrition security, improving incomes and creation of employment opportunities and wealth for both the county and individual farmers, he further said. “Let me single out the main financier of this event today which is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Feed the Future Programme,

” Kiunjuri said. As a background, let me state that some key challenges currently facing the agriculture sector include issues of food safety like aflatoxins, exceedances of pesticide residue limits which as you know affect our produce destined for the export market, lack of certified seed especially for traditional crops and plant health issues such as pests like the Fall Armyworm and diseases such as the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) and Potato Cyst Nematode, he said.

“The FOODSCAP Project is expected to address some of these issues and more specifically, it will support areas of seed production systems services to farmers growing orphan crops like cowpeas, pigeon peas, dolichos, finger millet, ground nuts and sorghum, thereby ensuring certification,” the minister said. “Our population currently stands at 48.3 million and has a growth rate of 2.6 per cent per annum.

The population is estimated to reach 65 million in 2030 and by 2060, we shall be close to 100 million. With this population and the myriad of challenges stated above, it calls for specific interventions. That is why the FOODSCAP comes in handy,” he added.

The minister disclosed that the programme focuses on 22 designated counties which are Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Homa Bay, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Nyamira, Siaya, Bomet, Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Taita Taveta. “The project will sustainably reduce incidences of poverty and hunger by addressing key constraints within agricultural value chains through programmes that sustain inclusive agricultural sector growth and improve nutritional status,” he said. I therefore wish to thank the USAID for this noble gesture that is going a long way in empowering our farmers and enhancing good agricultural production in the countries that have been mentioned, he added. As I conclude, let me reiterate the importance of using the certified seed. The certified seed is that which has been approved by the KEPHIS for planting by farmers. It has met the quality requirements as planting materials and with all other factors remaining constant, the minister said. “ A farmer using certified seed is guaranteed the enhanced yields.

I therefore urge farmers to use certified seed at whatever time they plan to grow their crops,” he said. “Let me finally thank the KEPHIS, the Kitui County government and seed stakeholders who have made this event a success. With those remarks, it is now my pleasure to officially open the KEPHIS, the Kitui County government and the seed stakeholders field day. Thank you,” the minister said.

In his speech, the Kitui County Deputy Governor, Dr. Gideon Wathe Nzau, said that the agriculture is the Governor Charity Kaluki Ngilu’s development agenda number one where she has some five development agendas for the people of Kitui County. He had represented the governor at the function. “We want to improve agriculture in Kitui County for the benefits of our people,” Nzau said.

He further said that the county and national governments have programmes to deal with perennial water problems in the vast county. The county chief asked the locals to take the horticultural farming greatly as he talked about the importance and values of the said farming. Nzau also talked about the watermelons where he said the soil in Kitui County is so suitable for the crop’s farming. He asked the locals not to rely on maize and beans farming alone. “Due to the unreliable rains in the region, it is good for us to largely rely on the farming of indigenous crops such as millet, cowpeas, pigeon peas, cassava, sorghum and green grams,” the DG said.

He also asked the locals to farm the grass as a business. And he talked about some grass species that do very well in Kitui County. Nzau said that the Kitui County is blessed with land with an area of more than 30,000 square kilometres. “We have skilled and semi-skilled labour in the county,

” the deputy governor said as he asked the local farmers to use the modern farming technologies for the good of the county. Nzau disclosed that they (the county government) had increased the budget for the county’s agriculture, water and livestock development ministry to more than 500 million shillings from 62 million shillings.

He announced that Governor Ngilu has already purchased some 33 tractors, the number making the total to be 40 tractors by the county government. “Governor Ngilu met some seven tractors by the former government when she took office in August 2017. And we will continue purchasing more tractors for the good of our farmers and the county,” Nzau said. The DG had been accompanied by some county government officials including the County Agriculture, Water and Livestock Development Minister Emmanuel Kisangau and the ministry’s Chief Officer James Songolo Mbii who also addressed the occasion.

The occasion was also addressed by the KEPHIS Managing Director, Dr. Esther Kimani, the KEPHIS Seed Certification and Plant Variety Protection Head Simon Maina, the KEPHIS Quality Assurance General Manager Simon Kibet and the Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego among others.
I therefore wish to thank the USAID for this noble gesture that is going a long way in empowering our farmers and enhancing good agricultural production in the countries that have been mentioned, he added. As I conclude, let me reiterate the importance of using the certified seed. The certified seed is that which has been approved by the KEPHIS for planting by farmers. It has met the quality requirements as planting materials and with all other factors remaining constant, the minister said. “ A farmer using certified seed is guaranteed the enhanced yields.

I therefore urge farmers to use certified seed at whatever time they plan to grow their crops,” he said. “Let me finally thank the KEPHIS, the Kitui County government and seed stakeholders who have made this event a success. With those remarks, it is now my pleasure to officially open the KEPHIS, the Kitui County government and the seed stakeholders field day. Thank you,” the minister said.

In his speech, the Kitui County Deputy Governor, Dr. Gideon Wathe Nzau, said that the agriculture is the Governor Charity Kaluki Ngilu’s development agenda number one where she has some five development agendas for the people of Kitui County. He had represented the governor at the function. “We want to improve agriculture in Kitui County for the benefits of our people,” Nzau said.

He further said that the county and national governments have programmes to deal with perennial water problems in the vast county. The county chief asked the locals to take the horticultural farming greatly as he talked about the importance and values of the said farming. Nzau also talked about the watermelons where he said the soil in Kitui County is so suitable for the crop’s farming. He asked the locals not to rely on maize and beans farming alone. “Due to the unreliable rains in the region, it is good for us to largely rely on the farming of indigenous crops such as millet, cowpeas, pigeon peas, cassava, sorghum and green grams,” the DG said.

He also asked the locals to farm the grass as a business. And he talked about some grass species that do very well in Kitui County. Nzau said that the Kitui County is blessed with land with an area of more than 30,000 square kilometres. “We have skilled and semi-skilled labour in the county,” the deputy governor said as he asked the local farmers to use the modern farming technologies for the good of the county. Nzau disclosed that they (the county government) had increased the budget for the county’s agriculture, water and livestock development ministry to more than 500 million shillings from 62 million shillings. He announced that Governor Ngilu has already purchased some 33 tractors, the number making the total to be 40 tractors by the county government. “Governor Ngilu met some seven tractors by the former government when she took office in August 2017. And we will continue purchasing more tractors for the good of our farmers and the county,” Nzau said. The DG had been accompanied by some county government officials including the County Agriculture, Water and Livestock Development Minister Emmanuel Kisangau and the ministry’s Chief Officer James Songolo Mbii who also addressed the occasion.

The occasion was also addressed by the KEPHIS Managing Director, Dr. Esther Kimani, the KEPHIS Seed Certification and Plant Variety Protection Head Simon Maina, the KEPHIS Quality Assurance General Manager Simon Kibet and the Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego among others.

The end of the story.