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The major farming activities and regions feeding Kenya

Uasin Gishu, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia have the highest aggregate area of agricultural holdings while Isiolo has the least

Counties in the Rift Valley and Western make up Kenya’s breadbasket with the highest number of farm land and dairy cattle, a new survey shows.

Uasin Gishu, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia have the highest aggregate area of agricultural holdings while Isiolo has the least, said the Census of Commercial and Institutional Farms and Specialty Crops released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

Agricultural holdings with sizes between 25 to 125 acres accounted for 75.8 per cent while 9.6 per cent of the holdings reported sizes within the 126 to 750 acres range.

Over 80 per cent of crop production in commercial farms in the country is rainfed.

“This explains the vulnerability experienced by farmers,” said the agricultural census conducted in 2020.

Crop production from irrigated farms was at 14 per cent and partially irrigated at 3.7 per cent.

Maize had the highest number of agricultural holdings with a proportion of 38 per cent followed by wheat at 11.7 per cent. The proportion of commercial and institutional agricultural holdings that grew tea and coffee were five per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

The highest stocks of vegetables were reported for common pea (86.5 per cent) while cowpea, tomato and onions were 3.2 per cent and below. Most farmed tubers were Irish and sweet potatoes.

The value from the quantities sold was highest for industrial crops (for example sugarcane, tea and coffee) at Sh17.4 billion, second was food crops at Sh5.4 billion and flowers and vegetables at Sh2.5 billion and Sh940 million respectively.

Fruits had the lowest total value when of production at Sh130 million, according to the census report. Bananas topped in production and value in the fruits produced.

Over 90 per cent of the total production of fruits grown was sold except for mangoes, oranges, pawpaw and tree tomato.

Commercial farms interviewed also generated other income from the other crop farming activities. Lease of machinery and equipment earned the farms Sh82.6 million. Income from dividends or bonuses was Sh2.3 billion in 2019. 

Dairy cattle

Commercial dairy farming was mostly under zero-grazing, which accounted for 37.8 per cent followed by semi zero-grazing at 25.6 per cent. These were followed by Rotational grazing (19 per cent), Ranching (16.4 per cent) and feedlot (1.1 per cent).

“This is probably due to the fact that dairy farmers are cognizant of the need to confine cows to reduce unnecessary energy losses occasioned by movement of animals and diseases in addition to reduced land parcel holdings due to land fragmentation,” said the CCIFSC.  

For dairy cattle, zero-grazing is more popular in areas with high population densities such as Kiambu, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kakamega and Nyeri counties.

Rational zero-grazing - where animals are left to graze in the open field and are enclosed in a cowshed at night – was mostly recorded in Uasin Gishu, Bomet and Nakuru Counties.

Ranching production system for dairy cattle was common in areas with large chunks of grazing fields such as in Kajiado, Machakos and Uasin Gishu counties.

Ayrshire and Friesan breeds of dairy cattle breeds were fairly distributed across the country.

Kiambu, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties host the majority of the Freisian herds at 12.6 per cent, 8.9 per and 7.4 per cent respectively.

The Friesian was reported to be the most popular daily breed followed by Ayrshires.

Sh298 million was earned from dairy cattle sales with the highest sales revenue recorded in Kiambu County which equally reported the highest mortality, said the CCIFSC.  

High cattle losses through theft and death were reported in Kirinyaga, Laikipia, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties.

“This notwithstanding, theft of dairy cattle was not rampant in the country. This could be attributed to the fact that dairy cattle are mostly kept under intensive and semi-intensive production systems,” said the agricultural census.

Beef cattle production

Most of the beef cattle production in the country is done through ranching (74.4 per cent) followed by zero-grazing (13.6 per cent), rotational grazing (five per cent), semi-zero grazing (2.3 per cent) and feedlot (1.7 per cent)

“Ranches are ideal for commercial beef production in the country. This is because there exist large chunks of land involved which allows paddocking for zero-grazing of animals in order to produce quality meat. Ranches are managed by professional ranch managers for good management because of the number of beef cattle involved.”

“On the other hand, feedlot is used for feeding animals which are meant to gain weight for sale,” said the report.

The Boran and Zebu are the most popular in terms of breed preference for beef cattle jointly accounting for 95 per cent of the total production.

Dual-purpose breeds of cattle which produce both beef and milk were mainly reared under the ranching system 66.2 per cent. Ranching for dual cattle is popular in Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and West Pokot Counties.

On sheep reared for mutton production, Dorper sheep were the most popular among farmers, followed by the Red Masai breed. “The main reason for the popularity of Dorper sheep is its ability to adapt to many types of climatic conditions and has a higher meat yield compared to red Masai.”

Livestock feeds

For feeds on the livestock production, hay constitutes the bulky of conserved forage input (2.7 tonnes) costing the farmers Sh157 million in the year the census was conducted (2020). This was followed by silage and napier grass.

Nakuru County with a consumption of 2.2 million tonnes of hay is the leading followed by Kiambu county which had a consumption of 163,000 tonnes.

Natural pasture constitutes the bulky 1.5 million tonnes of livestock feeds followed by napier grass or fodder crops at 72,000 tonnes.

Farmers preferred livestock spraying the most over dipping. Livestock farmers also preferred to engage private veterinary services at 82 per cent compared to government veterinary services. 

Commercial aquaculture

The main species stocked by commercial aquaculture holdings are tilapia (62.2 per cent) and African catfish (22.7 per cent).

Rainbow trout was third at 6.9 per cent while the ornamental fish species, koi carp, goldfish, and swordtail were the least cultured.

Homa Bay (59 per cent), Kakamega (15 per cent) Nyeri (8.5 per cent) and Kirinyaga (2.7 per cent) contributed to the total fingerlings stocked by aquaculture holdings while the rest of the counties contributed 14.9 per cent.

Homa Bay also led with broodstock -- mature fish used in aquaculture for breeding purposes – followed by Kakamega and Nyeri.


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