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Igembe farmers embrace sunflower to cushion against closed miraa markets

More than 3,000 farmers in the miraa growing Igembe South Sub County have embraced sunflower growing, to offer relief from the ban of miraa in lucrative markets, and coronavirus.

In the project dubbed Tujiinue Tena, families in the region who have for ages depended on miraa as the mainstay but now suffering lost incomes because of the ban and corona, have embraced sunflower.

The project, started by Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director Mithika Mzalendo, was launched by Agriculture CS Peter Munya on Saturday, who said sunflower had big potential to sustain livelihoods.

Mzalendo said sunflower is a good choice in the region because erratic rainfall patterns occasioned by the changing climatic conditions, had limited the families’ agricultural production.

“Sunflower is a drought-tolerant crop that is well suited to different agro-ecological zones and which withstands climate-induced drought. The crop has a three-month cycle and this makes it a good choice crop for farmers ravaged by climate change and Covid-19,” Mzalendo said when he distributed seedlings to hundreds of farmers at Kanuni.

Mzalendo said families will get quick income because there was a ready buyer.

One of the miraa farmers who has also embraced sunflower is Jennifer Kathure, from Laare in the neighbouring Igembe North Sub County, where there is no single permanent river, and suffers perennial drought.

“We are dying of hunger because there is no market for our miraa. Though we hope the minister will assist us to regain lost miraa markets, we have realised diversification is the way to go,” said Kathure, also a Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation leader.

Bidco Africa’s John Kariuki said the company sourced 60 per cent of sunflower from outside Kenya, yet their goal is to buy it from local farmers.

Kariuki encouraged poverty-struck families to produce sunflower because the market is big.

“I assure you the market is there because we will buy all the sunflower, and bamboo that you are able to produce. We use it to produce edible oils, animal feeds, and other products. CS Munya recently opened our animal feed factory where we use bamboo to generate our electricity,” he added

Mzalendo said sunflower will contribute to the enhancement of food security in the area and other parts of Meru, and Kenya.

“Climate change and coronavirus have negatively affected farm output in Meru North despite our farmers’ efforts. There is an urgent need for more output to cater for increased populations in the area. Miraa, the major income earner for the community, has also not been spared because its Somalia market has been closed due to coronavirus restrictions in movement of goods and people, drought, pest and diseases,” he added.


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