Farmers in Meru sound alarm citing poor yields

Farmers in parts of Meru County have sounded the alarm over dwindling yields of coffee and other crops.

The farmers said either soil nutrients had been depleted or the fertilisers they had been applying were inappropriate.

There has been fear that low harvest of the food and cash crops such as coffee might persist if urgent remedial action is not taken.

On Monday, Chairman of Mukarimu Coffee Estates Charles Mutwiri and Nthimbiri Coffee Farmers Society Chairman Stanley Mungóri said poor harvests had affected farmers' income and threatened to compromise development of agriculture locally.

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Mr Mutwiri, who owns more than 30,000 coffee bushes, said he had been producing between 150,000kg and 200,000kg, but in the last few seasons he had suffered massive losses.

Mutwiri Nkonge, another farmer, said he and many other farmers had been adversely affected in the last few seasons after maize, coffee and other crop yields dipped.

“We cannot understand the reason for the low harvests in the last three seasons. We are confused because we do not know if it is because of the fertilisers we are using or the soil fertility. What I know for sure is that it is not poor husbandry because our methods have not changed,” said Mr Nkonge at his Katheri farm.

Received concerns 

Yesterday, Meru County Agriculture Chief Officer Dionisio Eruaki said she had received concerns from the agriculture office in South Imenti, where farmers had expressed doubt about the quality of fertilisers they used.

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“Farmers had forwarded a complaint to him (agriculture officer) after buying fertiliser in Meru,” Mrs Eruaki said.

Some farmers, like Mr Mutwiri of Mukarimu Coffee, have opted to go organic, giving fertilisers and pesticides a wide berth.

“It is the safe route to ensure we do not continue to suffer crop failure. Last season, I got only 70,000kg from my farm yet I usually get between 150,000 to 200,000kg from my 30,000 trees,” Mutwiri said.

Nkonge, who was in the company of his neighbours, said food security would be compromised if remedial steps were not taken.

“It is important for the Government, through extension officers, to investigate what is happening, ensure that all the inputs in the market are up to the standard and also perhaps take soil samples for analysis,” he said.

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Extension officers

At the same time, he said most farmers were not "updated" on emerging farming practices and there was need to dispatch extension officers to rural areas to educate them.

National Cereals and Produce Board, Meru Depot Manager Francis Muriuki, reassured farmers that the subsidised fertiliser in stock had been tested by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

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FarmersMeru CountyMukarimu Coffee EstatesCharles MutwiriNthimbiri Coffee Farmers SocietyStanley Mungóri