Stakeholders urge farmers to go for crops that thrive in harsh times

Catherine Mbili, farmer and trainer shows cowpeas, one of the drought-resistant crops she’s planted in her farm located Kathonzweni area in Makueni County. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Stakeholders in the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) have called for the fast-tracking of biotechnology adoption in Kenya which has lagged compared to a global increase of 21 per cent. 

OFAB is a platform that brings together stakeholders in biotechnology and enables interactions between scientists, journalists, civil society, industrialists, lawmakers and policymakers. 

Speaking at a meeting held in Embu and organised by the International Services for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Application (ISAAA AfriCenter), Programme Associate Dr Paul Chege noted that the country is losing opportunities to grow the economy due to slow uptake of the technology that has huge benefits to farmers. 

"Research organisations remain committed to supporting farmers to ensure resilient, high-yielding crops and also maximise their earnings," Dr Chege said. 

He urged the Kenyan authorities and other stakeholders to utilise data from several African countries like Ethiopia that have embraced BT Cotton and other genetically modified products for economic growth. 

The CEO National Biosafety Authority (NBA) Dr Roy Mugiira observed that the BT Cotton released to farmers and in its fifth cycle of cultivation is safe and has passed through safety checks before approval. 

He noted the accompanying fear and negative perception is due to lack of knowledge adding that the authority is working towards public education and sensitisation to ensure perception based on the right information. 

A BT Cotton farmer, Joseph Nyaga who hails from Mbeere North in Embu County noted that he has recorded improved production since the adoption of the product four years ago, with sharp contrasts in fortunes with the conventional crop.

This comes as farmers in Embu and Kirinyaga Counties are set to reap more value following an intervention by Kirinyaga University to provide them with portable ginning machines. The farmers are expected to sell lint at between Sh180 and Sh200 to textile factories, a 400 per cent increase in price from previous prices where unprocessed cotton costs Sh50 for Grade A and Sh25 for Grade B.