Fears of maize seed crisis as floods hit Perkerra irrigation scheme

A farmer at his onion farm at Perkerra Irrigation scheme in Marigat, Baringo County, on November 2, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Farmers contracted by Kenya Seed Company (KSC) to plant maize seeds in Marigat, Baringo county are counting losses after floods destroyed their farms.

While the majority of farmers celebrated the onset of the rains and expected a bumper harvest, the floods have swept away crops in their farms.

Families in Ilngarua, Longewan, Kiserian, Leswa and Ngambo villages have been hard hit by the floods.

Some of the families have sought refuge at Ilngarua Day and Boarding Primary School and Perkerra Mixed Day Secondary School.

Murda Irrigation Scheme farmers Secretary Alvine Lenaiweti said they had planted maize on more than 400 acres of land but it was swept by floods.

He noted that at least 210 farmers along River Perkerra have been affected.

“The entire scheme was swept away by the flood water. We have lost around Sh30 million,” he said.

Lenaiweti revealed that KSC usually gives them the seeds to plant and farmers cater for tilling, planting and fertiliser costs.

He explained that after harvesting, KSC deducts the cost of the seeds given to individual farmers and pays them for the extra supplies.

“This is the only activity we do. Especially farming of maize seed, I must say farmers were happy with the onset of the rains and expected bumper harvest compared to previous years,” he said.

Lenaiweti called on the government to come to their aid saying farmers were staring at hard times as some took loans to invest in their farms.

On a normal year, they usually produce a maximum of 600 tonnes of seed maize which is packaged and distributed for sale to farmers.

Mary Kachike, one of the affected farmers, said she lost all her tomato crops on more than eight acres of land.

Kachike noted that at least 4,000 acres of crops have been affected. 

She said the last time floods destroyed their farms was in 2002.

Baringo County and parts of the country, she said, rely on food supplies from Marigat.

Kachike revealed that she supplies tomatoes to as far as Lodwar and Kampala in Uganda.

The irrigation scheme is the backbone of the local economy, as many residents earn their income from farming activities.

"The entire Marigat depends on irrigation, families work in the farms to earn a living. This is a big loss," she said.

Samuel Gachemu, another farmer, said he has lost at least 3,000 acres of maize to the floods.

Gachemu warned that the effect of the destruction will be felt across the country since most of the food comes from the region.

Dickson Lekesio, Murda cooperative farmers chairperson said crops including watermelon, tomatoes, butternut, pawpaw and other vegetables are supplied to Kisii, Kericho, Nakuru and Nairobi counties.

“We do farming all year round and the crops produced are not only consumed here. Traders come from as far as Nairobi and Kisii counties. They buy vegetables and tomatoes from us,” Lekesio said. 

Perkerra irrigation scheme manager Daniel Waweru said they experienced flooding on the night of May 3 when River Waseges broke its banks. 

A footbridge connecting the Sandai irrigation scheme and Kamaech was swept away.

He said there is a need to de-silt the main canal and sub-mains to enable water flow to the farms.

Waweru advised farmers to improvise makeshift intakes to save the remaining farms.

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