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Cassava farmers pain as crop rots in the fields

Jennifer Muli at her garden in Ngaamba village, Kilome constituency in Makueni County. 

Farmers in Teso South constituency are counting losses after their cassava started rotting in their farms due to a lack of ready market.

The farmers claim that they risk losing over Sh20 million in case urgent interventions are not taken.

“Our cassava crops are ready for harvesting but we do not have a direct link to the market. We have tried selling it locally but the prices are not favourable. We have talked to the county government to help us in identifying a ready market in vain,” said Alfred Ouma, a cassava farmer.

Moses Odwali, the chair of Aten Commercial Village which is a farmers association, said Busia County has at least 15,000 large-scale cassava farmers, the majority of them in Teso South. Others are in Teso North, Samia (Funyula) and Nambale sub-counties.

According to Odwali, a kilo of dried cassava sells at between Sh25 and Sh30.

“But lack of ready market has dealt as a big blow to the farmers and we are staring at losses running into millions of shillings.”

Currently, the price of one kilo of cassava has dropped to Sh15 which is too low according to Odwali.

Annually, farmers in Busia produce at least 4.5 million kilogrammes of cassava according to statistics provided by the association.

Ouma claims that the county government was insincere after failing to open the cassava factory whose owners were to buy and process the cassava.

The East African Agricultural Productivity Project constructed the mill at a cost of Sh10 million. Its construction was completed in 2017. 

Earlier, the county government had indicated that the much-awaited cassava factory would soon start operations after machines were brought in 2017.

Four years later, the factory is not yet operational. The County Agriculture executive Moses Osia asked the farmers to be patient as the county addresses the issue.

“It is the national government that began the project and we gave them land. The construction of the factory was completed in 2017 and we received processing machines for installation,” said Dr Osia.

“The equipment that came did not meet the standards we had set. We were forced to purchase equipment afresh which will be arriving in the county this month.”

The official said the machines will be installed immediately after they are brought.

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