Farmers diversify to coffee, pigs to fight banditry

A potential coffee farmer is being part of the individuals under training in Laikipia west by the experts on how best to nurture the coffee trees. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Farmers in Laikipia County are diversifying their agricultural activities to include coffee and pig farming to minimize cases of banditry.

The initiative aims to reduce the conflict between the residents and the bandits who have perfected cattle rustling in Laikipia North and West.

The region has been grappling with banditry attacks, leaving a trail of death, injuries, and destruction.

Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu has encouraged small-scale farmers to embrace diversification to earn more returns and reduce reliance on livestock, which is targeted by the bandits.

Irungu said he has already planted 25,000 coffee trees on his farm, which serves as a demonstration plot for local farmers.

“In the transformation, residents will have to adopt coffee and piggery as alternative sources of income and a lasting solution to the cattle rustling menace,” said the governor.

He said Kenya should focus on Laikipia as it discusses potential coffee-growing areas, a culture that started in the Ol Jabet area.

“I am championing the initiative to provide Laikipia farmers with an alternative cash crop. We must change the mindset of our people that it’s not only maize that can contribute to livelihoods; there are other untapped opportunities,” said the governor.

According to the Coffee Directorate, in the year 2021/2022, coffee harvested in Laikipia amounted to 15,327 kilograms.

In an interview, the county chief said he was using drones to help detect diseases and pests on his coffee farm.

“I am using the latest farm management technology to fight pests and diseases and any emerging challenges, focusing on increased production,” said the governor.

Coffee expert Henry Kinyua said the leadership in Laikipia should embark on a strategy to increase coffee production and engage more farmers.

Kinyua said the governor’s focus on coffee, if supported by the youth, would assist in the transformation.

“Laikipia has the best soils for coffee; we need to increase the area under the cash crop,” said Kinyua.

On pig farming, Irungu said 100 farmers are being trained on how to take care of the piglets.

Each of the trained farmers will be given three piglets to nurture to maturity. ”We have launched the Kirima Pig Farmers Cooperative Society, which will be our vehicle for pig production. This is also coupled with soya bean production as a source of proteins in pig feeds,” said Irungu.

Jamleck Njoroge, one of the trained pig farmers, said they are interested in supplying pigs to Farmers Choice and other dealers.

Njoroge said it was absurd that firms dealing in pig meat are forced to import the raw materials from China and Brazil.

“We have been undergoing intensive training on piggery, and I hope Laikipia will have more pigs in the country,” said Njoroge, recounting how bandits stole his livestock at Olmoran.

Jane Mwangi, a local farmer, said the county was transforming as the introduction of pigs and coffee would increase earnings.

“We have suffered for years due to banditry; now, with coffee and pigs, we shall be comfortable and be able to earn higher returns,” said Ms. Mwangi.

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