By: STANLEY KIMUGE
There was a time Baringo County was food insecure year in, year out. Has this trend changed?
Sadly, that was the case, but we are moving forward with speed. We are developing 12 new irrigation schemes and expanding existing ones by over 5,000 acres in collaboration with National Irrigation Board. At least there are two new schemes in every sub-county, which have increased food production. We want to increase the acreage of irrigated land to over 10,000.
Already, we are producing horticultural crops such as watermelons. My dream is that we produce surplus food, which can be sold to other regions. Through the schemes, we have supported farmers to plant barley, wheat, maize, sorghum and millet enabling them to make Sh15 million after selling their produce to Kenya Seed Company in a single season.
Baringo is known for its sweet honey. Are farmers now earning more?
We are organising our farmers into groups so that they can brand and package their produce. Additionally, the county will use Sh1 million to help in the expansion of the Kapkuikui Honey Refinery. We are further assisting farmers to acquire new modern Langsthroth beehives to increase honey production.
You recently revived the goat auction at Kimalel, can we say goat farmers are now happier?
We are doing a lot not only for goat but also other livestock farmers. We have focused on ensuring that we create a disease-free zone so that farmers do not grapple with East Coast Fever and other vector-borne diseases. Since 2013, we have constructed 60 new drips and renovated the old ones. This has resulted in reduction of animal deaths, better quality meat, skin and hides.
Recently, in collaboration with neighbouring counties, we vaccinated 300,000 animals against Rift Valley Fever ahead of the El Nino rains to reduce the spread of the disease.
In the last financial year, the county purchased 19 Sahiwal bulls costing Sh1.5 million to improve the quality of local breeds, besides offering artificial insemination services. We also bought pedigree rams and bucks to improve sheep and goats quality.
Farmers can now slaughter their animals at Barwessa and Loruk, our new abattoirs besides the ones in Ravine and Mogotio. I can say farmers are happier.
Any plans on value addition?
We have a tannery in Mogotio. However, we are not doing tanning only, we are training people to make belts, shoes and other leather products.
Water is still a hindrance to most farmers
This is also an area we have invested heavily in. We have sunk boreholes across the county to provide access to farmers and cut the long distances many walked in search of the commodity.
Are there plans to revive the cotton sector?
This is an important crop which we are keen to revive in the Kerio Valley. The Council of Governors, together with the national government, is currently holding talks to introduce bio-technology cotton seeds that will not be affected by viruses and bacteria to increase the production.
As at now, we are encouraging our farmers to till more land and the county is supporting them by subsidising the farm equipment.
Co-operatives are the key to reducing cost of production. How are farmers doing on this front?
We created a Co-operative Fund, which has enabled farmers to access affordable loans to purchase milk coolers and establish a feeds plant.
So far, we have given loans worth over Sh20 million to a number of societies that include Sabatia Co-operative Society.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION