Horticulture farming is key to food security in Kenya in the face of the challenges posed by climate change, according to Bureti District Agriculture Officer mr. Odoyo Bittar.
Mr. Odoyo adds, tomato farming under green houses technology have changed the lifestyles of many farmers in Kericho County and other parts of the country, as they harvest and market the crop throughout the year.
The ministry of agriculture, through the Smallholder Marketing Programme(SHOMAP) has financed a number of farmers’ groups practicing horticulture in the county in three key horticulture crops in 14 districts across the country, in order to improve quality and increase production, says mr. Odoyo.
The crops being supported include bananas, tomatoes, pineapples and Irish potatoes. Under SHOMAP, the above mentioned crops have been a success story in Bureti district, as production has increased, marketing improved, earnings farmers more income, said Mr. Odoyo.
He further disclosed that under the Constituency Development Fund, seven horticulture crops have been funded, supplementing central government support to the farmers.
Mr. Odoyo, however, laments that disease management under the green houses technology and water supply during drought remain major challenges to the horticulture farming.
The DAO recommends that a fund should be set aside to train farmers on how to manage such challenges.
An agribusiness Officer Mr. John Okal says farmers have benefitted from the government interventions through approaching local markets such as super markets, field days, sporting events, church functions, where perishable products are sold.
KoitabGaa self Help Group chairman in Roret division, Mzee Ezekiel Chirchir commended the ministry of agriculture Extension staff for seeking a market for their processed pineapple juice. The move, he adds, has enabled them to sell their fresh processed pineapple juice with ease.
Mzee Chirchir disclosed that through SHOMAP, his association purchased a pineapple processor at ksh.46,999/=, which processes one liter per minute. “the challenges we face is branding our preservatives and acquire approved preservatives so that we can exploit far-flung markets,” he concluded.
Kipkirieny Community Horticulture group chairman Mr. Philip Chumo, concurs with mr. Odoyo that lack of knowledge on how to manage diseases under the green houses technology led to the loss of their tomatoes during the recent drought that ravaged the district.
Famers also faced serious clean shortage, as the use of dirty water blocked the drip irrigation kits, leading to the total collapse of use of irrigation process to produce their crops.
However, Mr. Chumo says, the water problem was being addressed but were yet to be empowered on how to fight diseases that affect their crops.