Kenya

North Rift farmers go for drought resistant crops

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In Summary

  • Unpredictable rainfall patterns have forced farmers to go crops that are drought resistant in order to minimise losses.

  • The farmers have expressed fears of low yield due to repeated outbreak of the Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease.

  • A 90 kilogram bag of sorghum is selling at Sh3,600 while that of finger millet is selling at Sh7,200.

  • Availability of certified seeds and ready market has seen acreage under sorghum in Rift Valley increase from 9,960 hectares to 13,677 hectares.

By BARNABAS BII

The irregular rainfall pattern that has interrupted the current season’s planting programme has made most maize farmers in the North Rift region to opt to cultivate orphan crops.

The farmers are shifting to cultivation of such drought resistant crops like sorghum and finger millet to minimise on losses.

Some of the farmers have been forced to uproot withered maize crops and plant beans for domestic consumption as they contemplate planting the 'Katumani’ maize seed variety that is resistant to drought.

“The unpredictable rainfall adds misery to the high cost of production. Cultivation of short term and drought resistant crops now remains the only option,” said Patrick Kemboi from Chepkumia, Nandi County.

FOOD BASKET

Most farmers in the North rift region, the country’s food basket planted the crop in April but there was poor germination due to erratic rainfall.

The farmers have expressed fears of low yield due to repeated outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease that ravaged parts of the country last season forcing some of them to uproot the crop. This, they say may pose a threat to food security.

“The reoccurrence of MLN disease and attack of the crop by army worms is a serious challenge to maize cultivation,” said Isaac Kibogy from Sergoit, Uasin Gishu County.

FOOD SECURITY

But the anticipated low maize yield is driving farmers to shift to cultivation of orphan crops for food security and as a source of income.

A 90 kilogram bag of sorghum is selling at Sh3,600 while that of finger millet is selling at Sh7,200 which most farmers consider to be attractive as compared to maize prices that are determined by demand and supply forces.

“Although they are labour intensive, orphan crops enjoy stable market prices as compared to maize or wheat, making them more lucrative,” said Stephen Chetotum, from Sigor West Pokot County with two acres of sorghum.

The availability of certified seeds and ready market has seen acreage under sorghum cultivation in Rift Valley increase from 9,960 hectares to 13,677 hectares while its production has improved from 18,740 to 146,180 bags in the last two years.