Inside initiative to boost agriculture

Angela Ambitho

Angela Ambitho,Founder & CEO of Infotrak research and consulting while releasing the County Trak Performance Index 2023 at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi on October 30, 2023.


Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Extension services, farmer training and innovative approaches have also played pivotal roles in the success.
  • In the Central region, Murang'a County stands out as the only devolved unit to have implemented a milk farm-gate minimum price of Sh43 per litre.

Homa Bay is a sleeping agricultural giant, where the once-thriving sector has been dead for years.

However, the scenario has been changing since the new administration of Governor Gladys Wanga and her deputy Oyugi Magwanga took over leadership of the lakeside county.

Under Dr Magwanga, who is in charge of the Agriculture docket, the county is redefining farming.

Farmers representatives said they now have the potential to feed the entire county if programmes run by the devolved unit are fully implemented.

Lolwe Farmers Cooperative Society chair Ager Kirowo said agricultural extension officers often visit to advise them on best practices. Besides food crops, the county government is also interested in cash crop production and has positioned itself to be the leading producer of edible oils. 

Recently, the county government registered over 245, 000 farmers to enable them benefit from subsidised farm inputs given by the State and other organisations. Farmers have been getting free seed and pesticides.

“We suffered from the high cost of production. The county government is addressing this and we are now ready to invest in cotton farming,” said Homa Bay County Cotton Cooperative Union chairman John Akoko.

An Infotrak poll released yesterday recognised the county as the most improved in the agricultural sector, especially between 2020 and 2023. The survey credited the new administration for investing in mechanisation and also launching the Kigoto Maize Plant.

Modern farming practices

According to the poll, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Kericho, Bungoma and Nandi outscored their peers in the sector.

Hailed as Kenya’s breadbasket, Uasin Gishu topped the survey with 63 per cent, same as Elgeyo Marakwet, buoyed by its topography and historical strengths.

With agriculture one of the most focused on devolved functions, the five other counties credited their success in the sector on modern farming practices including use of improved seeds, fertilisers and mechanisation.

Extension services, farmer training and innovative approaches have also played pivotal roles in the success of the counties in agriculture with

Other counties with significant improvement include Kitui, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua and Kiambu.

In Kericho, some 18,464 doses of high grade bull semen have been supplied to farmers under a subsidy programme in a bid to improve livestock breeds and milk production in the region.

The department has also distributed 500,000 coffee, tea and pyrethrum seedlings to farmers.

This is in addition to six milk cooling tanks, one milk pasteurizer and feed mills have been procured for seven cooperative societies — Kabianga, Litein, Kibagenge, Kosiachtany, Kerimoi, Kipkelion and Ruskebe.

Fish rearing and consumption

Mr Geoffrey Rono, a resident of Litein in Bureti constituency, urged the county government to pump in more resources to the agricultural sector.

In the Central region, Murang'a County stands out as the only devolved unit to have implemented a milk farm-gate minimum price of Sh43 per litre, thanks to reforms that started in 2015. Then Governor Mwangi wa Iria established a public-funded market where the county government announced it would be buying off a litre from farmers at Sh35.

It was that success that informed the establishment of the Murang'a County Creameries.

Governor Irungu Kang'ata insists that a litre of milk is still retailing at a stable Sh43 as per the minimum return guarantee, adding that he has since introduced a top-up of cash per litre produced by registered farmers as a way of stabilising profitability in the sector.

In Kirinyaga, which is known for cash crops such as tea, coffee and rice, fish rearing and consumption is gaining traction thanks to support by the county government. Through Governor Anne Waiguru’s Wezesha Kirinyaga Empowerment Programme, farmers have been supported to undertake aquaculture, bee-keeping, dairy, poultry, pig rearing, avocado and tomato value chains among others. 

Some 59 farmer’s groups were provided with fish pond liners, fish fingerlings, fish feeds and extension services. 

“We are very happy that we have started making sales and getting some for our families to consume,” said Ms Caroline Wambui, a member of The Great Star Youth Group from Gichugu Constituency.

Avocado processing plant

At Mutuobare in Embu, green grams are one of the popular crops grown there. Mr Samuel Njagi, is one of the seasoned farmers who has witnessed first-hand positive changes brought about by the county government.

Ms Purity Wambui, an entrepreneur who is successfully running horticulture and fish farming, hailed the support from the county government, including provision of fish feeds, technical advice, access to fish fingers, and market linkages. 

In Kisii, the commissioning of a Sh79 million avocado processing plant at the Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) in Kisii town five months ago has brought an end to the perennial losses faced by avocado farmers in the Gusii region due to poor storage resulting in rotting of the fruit.

Post-harvest losses were between 32 and 40 per cent and farmers who were lucky to sell to middlemen, did so in extended sacks, weighing up to 150 kilogrammes but at throw-away prices of between Sh250 and Sh400.

The factory, set up by the county government in collaboration with the UK government, was handed over to investors of a private company, Avofresh, in April 2023 to produce virgin oil.

Mr Boniface Nyagaka, 53, is an example of a farmer who is proud of the presence of such a factory in the area he comes from. On his one-and-a-half-acre farm, he has planted 200 hass avocado trees. Two months ago, he harvested more than 1,600 kg of grade one avocados. The crops fetched him Sh152,000.

“The remaining fruits weighed 1,200 kilos. I sold this to an Avofresh agent who paid me Sh22 per kilo. If the factory hadn’t been built, I would have sold less than that,” Mr Nyagaka said.

Reporting by George Odiwuor, Vitalis Kimutai, Mwangi Muiruri, George Munene, Wycliffe Nyaberi, and Shaban Makokha