Lack of quality seeds and poor prices have contributed to low cotton production in Kenya and the collapse of the local textile industry. However, cotton farmers at Bura irrigation scheme will soon have access to hybrid certified seeds, thanks to fiber crops directorate of the Agriculture Food and Fisheries Authority and partners.
Eunice, from village five in the Bura scheme has been growing cotton for years and she was one of the few farmers selected to do a demo plot using the hybrid seed which was sourced from Israel in her one and half acre piece of land. “I used to harvest about 2,500 kilograms and sell at Sh5 per kg, which was a lot of money because expenses such as fertilizer, herbicide and water were not so expensive. Now all that has gone up but the success of the Agricultural Sector Development Support Program (ASDSP) will see us sell one kg at Sh52,” says Eunice
Initially the government used to spray chemicals for them using an aeroplane but when that stopped, it became expensive and most farmers shifted to other crops since they couldn’t afford the pesticides, she adds.
Cotton farmers are faced with many challenges including market for their produce. Initially, the ginneries bought the entire product from farmers but now they only buy some kilos and leave the rest. Spraying of chemicals is another challenge.
“Here in Bura, you have to spray after seven days of planting and again when it has flowered and the pods have started forming. By this time the crop is too tall for some of us and we hope that this hybrid variety will be shorter for farmers to be able to spray with ease, Cotton is like a grade cow, if you take care of it, you will get good yields,” she added.
According to Alfred Ngonyo, an assistant irrigation officer says that when Bura Scheme collapsed, many farmers stopped growing cotton because there was no market for their produce and opted for seed maize farming. “Farmers used to sell their cotton in Hola and Malindi but when the ginneries closed and they could not. “Now that there is full support by the government and assurance of market from Rivatex, I urge the government to work with cooperative societies to provide inputs to farmers,” he says.
Anthony Muriithi interim director of fibre crops directorate says the current seed being used has degenerated over time and is not pure, leading to low productivity. “This is why we have established a system for procuring hybrid seeds from Israel,” he says.
Muriithi adds that about 291 farmers will benefit from the hybrid seeds in the first season, and this quantity will be gradually increased during the subsequent seasons by contracting farmers to bulk the seed. The Bura Scheme has a potential of 50,000 hectares suitable for rain-fed crop production but 12,000 hectares are active.
Other partners who have played a key role towards the success of this project include the Kenya Agribusiness and Agroindustry Alliance (KAAA), who have been in charge of investment plan development and sourcing for a private sector investor, Ministry of Industry Trade and Cooperatives (MoITC), Agriculture Food and Fisheries Authority (AFFA) ,the National Irrigation Board (NIB) through the Bura irrigation scheme, Amiran Kenya limited, Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Meru Ginnery and Rivatex.