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ELECTION 2022

Taita Taveta farmers benefit from high-yield hybrid maize varieties

COAST
By Renson Mnyamwezi | Apr 22nd 2022 | 2 min read
Maize farmers in Tita Taveta wait to transport the commodity after drying it at Taveta Airstrip on July 20, 2016. [Gideon Maundu, Standard].

Hundreds of farmers in Taita hills are hoping for better yields, following the introduction of early maturing, hybrid variety of maize seeds in Taita-Taveta County.

Agriculture Executive Dr Davis Mwangoma said the maize varieties are high yielding, drought tolerant and offer a high level of tolerance to diseases.

Dr Mwangoma said this may also improve food security that has entirely been dependent on relief supplies from the government and donors.

The new varieties include DK8031, DKC 80-33, DKC 90-89 and DK 777 which take three months to mature. Farmers have been growing 622, 623, 624, 625 and 666 varieties which take six months to mature.

Simon Makau, the coordinator of Cereals Growers Association (CGA) and officials of Lagale Agri-Business local group in Taita hills that has been sensitising farmers said the varieties perform well both in the highland and lowland areas.

Mr Makau said the DK 8031 variety has the potential of producing between 28 to 32 bags per acre, whereas DK 80-33 variety could produce between 34-36 bags.

“Farmers in the hills have now adopted the fast-maturing maize seeds which have stable yields. The seeds are tolerant to maize diseases and have excellent stand ability," said Mr Makau.

Introduction of the maize varieties comes at a time when residents are grappling with food shortages. Dr Mwangoma disclosed that more than 51,000 people are facing starvation in the region. 

The Executive singled out Kamtonga, Kasigau, Mbololo and Sagala locations as worst hit by food insecurity.

Dr Mwangoma said changes in rainfall and temperature patterns threatened agricultural production and increased the vulnerability of people dependent on rain-fed agriculture to sustain their livelihoods.

The county government has also introduced a high-yielding drought-tolerant rice variety. Dr Mwangoma said the new variety would triple rice production from 4,600 tons to 12,000 tons per year.

He said the new variety also meets the food and nutrition demands of both local and international markets. Rice is the main cash crop in Taveta.

Dr Mwangoma said the new variety would be produced for the mass market to reduce the country’s reliance on imports.

He said the variety could also be grown in non-traditional rice growing areas as it requires less water, making it suitable for both irrigated and rain-fed lowland areas.

“We are set to triple the rice production annually in a bid to meet the nutrition, food security and income needs of the local community,” Dr Mwangoma said.

The Executive said the county was working with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and Taita-Taveta University (TTU) to improve seed varieties.

“The county administration in collaboration with TTU is also carrying out performance trials of the best suited rice variety in the county. The varieties include upland rice which is rain fed and paddy rice which relies on irrigation,” he said.

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