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Failure of long rains spells doom for North Rift farmers

RIFT VALLEY
By Titus Too | June 14th 2021

Most farmers in the North Rift region are unable to top-dress their land due to delayed rain. [File, Standard]

Farmers in North Rift are staring at losses as their maize crop start to wilt due to climate change.

Kenya’s long rains – which typically run from March to May – haven’t been experienced in the Rift Valley region which is classified as the country’s grain basket. Most parts of the region have instead witnessed sunny and windy conditions for the better part of May and June.

Due to prolonged dry spell, farmers are unable to top-dress their crops as they may not absorb the nutrients.

“We cannot top dress our maize crops at the prevailing dry conditions because they may be scourged by the chemicals and the hot sun. The maize planting season started well, but the only challenge is now the dry spell,” said Thomas Korgoren, a farmer in Uasin Gishu County.

Korgoren further said some wheat planted by some farmers was yet to germinate.

Jackson Kwambai, another farmer, said they are braced for poor crop yields at the end of the season, and this could affect the country’s food situation.

“We were struggling as maize farmers because the government subsidise farm inputs. Some farmers reduced fertilizer application ratio from the recommended two 50 kg bags per acre to only one because they were costly,” said Kwambai.

The farmer said dealers sold fertilizer at between Sh3,500 and Sh3,700 per bag.

“Without a subsidy, most farmers could skip top-dressing since a 50 kg bag of urea currently retails at Sh3,600 while Calcium Ammonium Nitrogen (CAN) costs Sh3,200. This could lead to reduced yields,” noted Kwambai.

Agriculture executive for Uasin Gishu, Samuel Yego, said the dry spell poses a risk of fall armyworm attacks.

“We do not influence natural occurrences like the dry spell. This is attributed to changes in ocean currents,” he said, adding the worst-hit areas in Uasin Gishu County are Soy, Kiplombe and Moiben.

The official said his department is yet to carry out projections on the impact and expected yields after the season.

FOOD PRICES

Dr Kiplimo Lagat, Nandi County Agriculture executive, said Mosop and Chesumei sub-counties have been affected by the prolonged dry spell.

He said this could lead to a drop in crop production, seeing food prices shooting up next year.

However, Lagat said Aldai and Tinderet sub-counties in Nandi are receiving adequate rainfall and the crops are doing well in the area.

He challenged the government to roll out the e-voucher smart subsidy program, which is currently piloted in some regions of the country, to cover all food crop-producing regions in the country. Lagat noted that farmers need to be empowered to produce and enhance the country’s food security in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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