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North Rift and Western Kenya farmers project bumper harvest

 Kanina Mwangi harvesting maize at his farm in Kinangop, Nyandarua County on November 3,2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Maize farmers across the country expect a bumper harvest in the current season set to hit its peak in two months.

With timely access to subsidised fertiliser, farmers in the North Rift and parts of Western Kenya attribute good crop development to government-subsidised fertiliser programmes, even as some farmers in the South Rift region stare at a loss due to pesticides and lack of rains.

According to the farmers in the North Rift region, unlike in the past when maize plantations could be dotted with yellowish sections, this year's crop is uniform with dark green and firm stalks.

Samuel Chemweno, a maize and wheat farmer from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County said there is a uniform colouration of the dark green of maize crop across the region, adding that they expect a good harvest.

"The crop development is currently good. We wait and see if we will harvest good volumes and grains that will have a good weight," said Chemweno, who applied the subsidised fertiliser.

Rain patterns

Chemweno also observed that while DAP (Diammonium phosphate) responded fast to crops, the blended subsidised fertiliser was slow and indicated a better yield at the end of the season. He said the rain patterns were also good and that there was minimal leaching of minerals.

Monicah Koech, a farmer in Mumetet area, said: "Our maize is best in the current season, and we expect good yields from September." Koech said even farmers who were reluctant to use the varieties availed to them on subsidy are now happy with the super performance of the input.

Jackson Kwambai, a farmer from Uasin Gishu, said although the blended fertiliser is doing well, those who benefitted are farmers cultivating 10 acres and above.

Most small-scale farmers lacked financial resources to buy inputs, said Kwambai, noting that some farmers relied on partnering with microfinance institutions that distributed non-subsidy inputs to farmers on a loan basis to be recovered after harvest. "The institutions have field officers who link vulnerable farmers for support. The farmers end up paying high interest on the harvest. We urge the State to fund Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) to enable farmers to access affordable credit for farming," said Kwambai.

Farmers from Kakamega interviewed by The Standard said they anticipate a bumper harvest.

David Wekesa, from the Malava sub-county, said his maize crop responded well to the fertiliser. "I thank President William Ruto for rolling out the subsidised fertiliser programme, which enabled me to expand the acreage under maize this season, as you can see, my crop is promising," said Wekesa.

"Some farmers have embarked on harvesting. The price of maize has dropped from Sh200 per two-kilogramme (2kg) tin by almost 50 per cent, an indication that the cost of flour could soon drop," said Philimona Wesaya, a farmer. In Trans Nzoia, farmers expect a good harvest, saying the fertiliser distributed through the State subsidy was performing well compared to the past seasons.

Joseph Lamai, a seasoned farmer in the Kwanza sub-county, praised the government's effort in subsidising fertiliser. Lamai, however, voiced concerns over skyrocketing tractor prices, increased diesel costs, rising farm chemical expenses, and unfavourable loan interest rates, which continue to burden farmers.

In May, President William Ruto defended the government's stand to subsidise fertiliser varieties that would address high acidic levels of the soil in maize-growing regions of the country.

Ruto said despite opposition from some farmers who have stood on the traditional DAP, he made a firm decision on non-acidic NPK fertiliser in the subsidy programme.

"We want to be honest to ourselves and ensure good decisions that will give long-term solutions towards a steady food supply and address the high cost of living. My administration is subsidising production unlike the past administration that gave subsidies to millers," said President Ruto.

"For the first time in the agriculture sector, between 4.5 and five million farmers had registered for the e-subsidy programme."

Food production

Former Uasin Gishu County Executive for Agriculture Samuel Yego said despite soil sampling that indicated high acidic levels, the past governments had failed to adopt measures to address the challenge and improve food production.

"The government has acted with good intentions to address high soil acidity following soil testing reports done over the years," Yego said.

"This year's subsidy is a deliberate move to correct high acidity that had interfered with the crops absorbing the needed nutrients to boost productivity. We expect better yields at the end of the current maize season and thank the government for ensuring adequate distribution of inputs before the onset of rains."

National Cereals and Produce Board North Rift Regional Manager Gilbert Rotich said prices were reduced, following President Ruto's directive.

"Planting and top dressing government subsidised fertiliser is now available in all stores. Prices have been lowered from Sh3,500 to Sh2,500 as farmers prepare for short-season crops," Rotich told The Standard.

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