Mrs. Rachel Jahula Okumu, OGW, EGJ: Minister for Agriculture, Irrigation, Cooperative, Livestock, Veterinary Services and Fisheries.
Agriculture is a major driver of economic growth here that is why we have invested heavily in it.
Sugarcane covers the largest area under crop in the county. Unfortunately, most small-scale farmers don’t benefit from it because of lack of economies of scale. Cane inputs are advanced at high costs to farmers cutting into their profits.
As a solution to the perennial problems, we will undertake to offer these farmers options like horticulture and dairy farming by facilitating affordable credit to them through cooperatives and capacity building.
Sh. 100 million has been budgeted in this year’s budget for the purchase of affordable good quality heifers. We will establish a multiplication and demonstration center at Bukura ATC to come up with heifers at affordable and subsidized prices.
Through this government’s initiative, we are also planning to start a programme where we give the poorest of the poor families a German Alpine dairy goat since they may not be able to take care of the exotic dairy cattle. The animal has the ability to graze itself yet has the potential to produce 4 liters of milk a day.
We aim to improve nutrition and incomes in households through this project. This will be done hand in hand with a chicken project where we provide the poor families with Kenbrow breeds, which are high yielders and can be bred on free-range basis.
A fingerlings centre will be set up at the same venue to improve the fisheries sector. Through it, farmers will have access to fingerlings, get support to renovate neglected ponds and train them on how to take care of fish. Ornamental fish farming is largely unexploited in the county yet they fetch high value in the market despite the cost of inputs being the same.
Tea can do very well in Shinyalu area but the acreage under the crop is not big enough to warrant a factory. A tea seedling multiplication centre will be established to encourage more farmers to grow the crop. Eventually when we are able to produce 16 million kilograms of tea per month, we will have sufficient capacity to put up a factory.
The County is a net importer of food crops and a turnaround is needed to make it food secure. In terms of grain development, areas like Lugari and Likuyani, which are suitable for growing maize, will be tapped to feed the county. Farmers are also encouraged to diversify their food crops to include cassava, sweet potatoes, soya beans and horticulture.
Lack of access to credit and capital has also led to a situation of lands being underexploited and being left fallow. Sh. 100 million has been set-aside in this fiscal year to develop cooperatives and reach many residents through the group approach.
Cane development will not be left untapped either since the crop is an integral part of this county’s resource. We will endeavor to provide farmers with subsidized inputs to give them more earnings from their venture. The issue of cane pricing will have to be reviewed such that farmers too can access the benefits of their investment.
At the end of the day, we do not just want to put more money in the farmers’ pockets but we should also be able to export food to other counties as well and improve the nutrition standards of our people.