West Pokot County government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rivatex in a bid to improve cotton production and empower farmers in the semi-arid area.
In the arrangement, Rivatex will provide certified seeds and pesticides to cotton farmers and will provide market for the produce in the area.
Currently, at least 300 farmers in the County are growing cotton at Chepkobhe,Riwo ,Lomut and Batei.
More than 5000 acres are targeted to be put under cotton this year.
Speaking while signing the MOU, area Governor Prof John Lonyangapuo welcomed the partnership terming it a breakthrough in cotton farming in the county.
"We are planning to engage more than 5000 farmers in the County which is one of the best cotton producing zones in the region, “he said.
Lonyangapuo said that farmers abandoned growing it in the recent past due to lack of market and persistent pest and diseases attack.
“This will now change because farmers will be supplied with pesticides and seeds which are of higher yield production and disease resistant. Farmers had stopped cultivating the crop owing to poor prices,” he said.
Lonyangapuo said that soil testing was done in 2005 and repeated in 2012.
He said that last year they gave out free coffee seedlings and used worth 15 million to buy seedlings.
Lonyangapuo said that the County has embarked on an ambitious program by putting measures in place to revive cash crop farming that has been on the decline for the past few years in the region.
Moi University owned cotton miller’s Managing Director Prof Thomas Kipkurgat lauded the partnership adding that the company will partner with the County to increase the supply of raw materials for maximum operations.
“We are currently producing an average of 10,000 bales against a capacity of 70,000 annually. We are tapping West Pokot which has the potential to produce more cotton,” said Prof Kipkurgat.
He said that currently there is no enough cotton in Kenya and some is being imported from Uganda and Tanzania which help achieve the big four agenda adding that the industry intends to buy cotton worth Sh40 million.
“Three months ago they bought cotton worth Sh40 million. We require 100 bales, 200 kilos per day from 600,000 hectors, “he said.
He said that West Pokot is the Third County to sign the agreement after Kerich and Elgeyo Marakwet. “This is a unique project, small scale farming where farmers need very little input but maximum output, ‘he said.
Kipkurgat assured the county of immense support and ready market for the produce.
“This has empowered residents and boosted economic growth through diversified sources of income. Farmers can produce 36 bales sold at 200 per bale and get Sh7 million. Farmers will be happy with the prices. This region is good for cotton farming do not require a lot of rain or fertilizer. It will promote small businesses, “he said.
Last year, the County government launched the distribution of pyrethrum, sisal, coffee, sunflower, green grams and tea seedlings.
The program worth 22 million shillings is targeting more than 10,000 small scale farmers.
“Being one of the best Universities in this region, we want to work with the community with the aim of fully,” he said.