Horticultural farmers experience crop failure

Small-scale horticultural farmers in the lower Baringo South-Sub County are staring at losses due to crop failure occasioned by prolonged drought and drying up of Sandai River.

Some of the farmers contracted by Kenya Seed company to grow commercial maize seed are pondering their next move since they have been experiencing crop failure for the past three consecutive planting seasons.

Close to 800 farmers from Sandai Irrigation Scheme led by Jackson Menotano and John Kiptek lamented huge losses they have incurred so far amounting to over S00 million.

When KNA visited the scheme on Thursday, they found some farmers had allowed their livestock to graze on the wilted maize crop and water melons to save the emaciated animals from dying due to lack of pasture.

As we talk now some farmers who had borrowed loans from financial institutions have started receiving demand notices of repayment. This year the situation is worse because we did not harvest anything from the estimated 2005 acres under commercial maize seed and horticultural crops like water melons and tomatoes,” said Menotano.

Kiptek expressed fear that some of the farmers might be arrested and their properties confiscated for defaulting in their loan repayments.

The farmers also said hundreds of their livestock have died because of ravaging drought, adding that the situation has been aggravated by the drying up of River Sandai which is the sole source of water for the irrigation scheme.

River Sandai whose waters are used to irrigate our farms has completely dried up due to the prolonged drought and massive deforestation upstream and currently we don’t have any water at all, Kiptek said.

The small scale farmers are now calling on the government to come to their rescue by building pan dams to assist them in harvesting runoff flood water during rainy seasons.

As farmers in Baringo South cry over crop failure resulting from ravaging drought, their counterparts in Kerio Valley were also facing double tragedy of fall armyworm and famine, which have so far cleared over 70 per cent of their maize crop.

The destructive armyworm has severely affected farms in the whole of Kerio Valley region where small scale subsistence farmers are pondering their next move after what remained after pest invasion has withered completely due to inadequate rains.

The deputy county director of agriculture Elphas Ruto told KNA that the crops had reached a critical stage which required rains to flower.

He also said 800 litres of assorted chemicals given out by the national government for distribution was not adequate to contain the fast spreading armyworm.

We received three types of chemicals and distributed to farmers to spray their crops and it helped control the worms. We are worried that the attacks will escalate loses and affect production. Worse still, if the rains fail this week, definitely the crop will wilt since it has reached a critical stage which require rains, he reiterated.

A spot check by KNA at the Kerio Valley region found residents completely confused on what to do next after their expectation of good yields had been turned into loss.

Jonathan Kiplagat, a farmer at Kurumbobso in the lower Kapropita location, Baringo Central, said after the biting drought that started sometimes in August 2016 had subsided, they were confronted with the deadly army worm that eats the maize plant to the core.

The Kerio farmers have now resorted to using homemade pesticides comprising a mixer of wood ash, washing detergent, tobacco and water which have worked though under intensive labour.

The main ingredient, tobacco, is hardly found in Baringo and farmers are forced to import the commodity from far off areas in Mt Kenya region at an exorbitant cost.

Source: Kenya News Agency