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Farmers lament debt burden amid plenty

By | April 30th 2010

By Maore Ithula

In the revitalisation programme for irrigation schemes started two years ago under the Ministry of Agriculture, the Government provided new water pumps, pipes, fertiliser, tractors and pesticides.

The cost of these inputs would be deducted when farmers sell their crop to National Cereals and Produce Board.

However, some farmers are anxious because their harvests go against expectation, leaving them in debt after all deductions are made.

The Government plans to invest Sh4.3 billion in the next five years in small-scale irrigation schemes across the country.

The programmes are being supported by the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

And although it appears maize seed production might be the most beneficial, farmers say the cost of producing seeds is too high to make meaningful returns.

Some expensive activities around seed production include, inspection by experts from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service. The expert is supposed to visit the farms four times per season. For each visit, they say, farmers pay the expert Sh5,000 per village in the Bura Irrigation Scheme which has 48 villages.

Shelling of seed is a special task that is conducted by trained Kenya Seed Company personnel. This, farmers say, sets back the farmer by Sh50 for every 90kg bag and finally the seeds are supposed to be graded by specialists who are also paid by the farmer.

However, all the farmers under the revived schemes agree, they are far better off than when the projects had ground to a halt.

"Every farmer here now has an income," says local farmer John Musyoka of Bura.

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