By: JULIUS SIGEI
Nyamira is grappling with reduced farming land due to high population. Governor John Nyagarama spoke to Julius Sigei on what he is doing to boost farmers incomes.
How has devolution impacted on agriculture in Nyamira?
There has been a tremendous growth. In the dairy sub sector for instance, milk production has risen by 30 per cent because of measures we have put in place like subsidised insemination services.
We have also encouraged farmers to grow their own feeds.
We are also setting up milk bars in urban centres to help in stabilising prices. In the meat sub-sector, the consumption of rabbit meat is on the rise, helping diversify farmers’ incomes.
Construction of abattoirs (slaughter houses) of class B and C will help improve the safety of consumers and increase farmers’ incomes.
Poultry keeping is especially attractive to poor households as it requires low start-up capital and has low maintenance costs. Land division occasioned by high population growth means that poultry production will become even more important. To help boost farmers’ incomes, we are building chicken slaughter houses in Keroka, Ikonge and Manga. We are also investing in local feed formulation and processing.
What other areas are you looking at?
Beekeeping is gaining popularity as it contributes to incomes and food security through provision of honey and beeswax. It also contributes to seed and food production through crop pollination.
The county produces an estimated 120,693kg of honey and 9,489kg of beeswax valued at Sh5 million annually.
This might look insignificant, but the sector has a high degree of linkages to other sectors. There are opportunities in hives’ production and bee suits as well as in honey and wax processing.
Anything on fish?
Aquaculture production in Nyamira, which stood at 112,925 tonnes in 2012 and valued at Sh14 million, has in recent years risen and benefitted farmers.
However, marketing of farmed fish faces serious challenges due to inadequate supply of the commodity, uncoordinated harvesting practices by growers and lack of value addition.
We need to tap into ornamental fish production, cold rooms for storage and transportation, and feed milling factory.
Nyamira has grown bananas since time immemorial yet incomes are low. What are you doing to enhance earnings?
There are huge opportunities in making wine, crisps, biscuits and bread from processed bananas. We are supporting investors in this line by way of tax waivers and other incentives.
Tissue-culture plantlets production has taken root, making banana growing much more efficient. Sweet potato is another very important food security crop grown in the county. Here, there are huge opportunities in making crisps, bread and cakes from potato flour. There is also the packaging of fresh tubers.
Avocado, which we grow in more than 200ha, also has great potential to be processed into cosmetics, soap and juice. We have identified sites for putting up processing plants in Borabu and Manga sub-counties. Nurseries for early maturing and high-yielding varieties have also come up.
The tea sub-sector has been rather unstable in recent years. What are you doing to cushion farmers?
There are opportunities in purple tea production and processing, blending and packaging, marketing and making inputs available.
How do you ensure the youth are involved in agriculture?
We are speeding up mechanisation to make farming ‘cool’. In conjunction with USAID, we are introducing small machinery. Some of these labour saving devices are maize shellers, which are carried on motor bikes and can shell 20 bags of maize within an hour.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION