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Glimpses of hope still linger in cultivation of maize seed

By | March 1st 2011

By Maore Ithula

While the Government has abdicated its responsibility of reviving irrigation farming in the Bura Irrigation Scheme, some fledgling activities are going on. One of them is seed maize production that is being conducted by a few farmers.

Seed maize is the special variety that is selectively grown for propagation, taking into account the climatic conditions of a given area.

Ben Masawe, the scheme manager, says only 2000 of the probable 6250 hectares is under cultivation under the sponsorship of the Kenya Seed Company Limited.

John Musyoka, who watched his toil wasted by flash floods in Bura Irrigation Scheme. [PHOTOS: MAORE ITHULA/STANDARD]

Although seed maize fetches higher prices (about three times of the value of commercial maize), its yield is lower at 10x90 kilogramme bags, which is just a quarter of what is expected of commercial maize. And only a tenth of the crop finds its way to the dining table while the rest is taken away by Kenya Seeds Company for treatment and packaging for sale.

And in many cases, the seeds that are packaged find their way to the same farmer at a price. The manager says the problem with irrigation in the area will be resolved once water for irrigation start being delivered through gravity flow, adding that a project is on course and should be completed within the next three years.

"Use of gravity flow makes irrigation farming cost-effective because farmers save on fuel and the fixed cost of buying generators," Masawe adds.

However, farmers pay for these services either directly or through a grant like the defunct ESP.

Moreover, funds for seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and fuel for pumping the water into the canals must be provided by the farmers or other benefactors.

For now, most farmers are optimistic that the ESP boost was not a one-way, and that a helping hand shall be extended soon. This year the weatherman appears confident that the clouds of rains that wreaked havoc on farmers are not about to melt.

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