Written by Buxton Siluku
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The government has announced its intention to spend Sh 40.8 million to equip rural farmers with information and skills they need to improve on their production.
The funds are aimed at improving extension services to farmers and other stakeholders through the National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme (NALEP).
Addressing farmers and other stakeholders during the official launch of the Kakamega Agriculture exhibition, Planning and Vision 2030 Minister Wycliffe Oparanya said the government has continued to invest heavily in the sector because, “the remains the mainstay of the Kenyan economy.”
“Currently, agriculture represents about 24 per cent of GDP and accounts for 65 % of Kenya’s total exports and 18% of total formal employment in the country.”
However, he disclosed that productivity has greatly been hampered in Western Kenya due to cultural practices of subdividing land as family members mature which he said was a retrogressive practice.
“There are families where meaningful farming is impossible because of subdivisions which have filed the farm with shelter structures. This is a retrogressive practice in this region that needs to be discarded,” he emphasized.
Adding that, “This has contributed to low productivity and western which was once food secure with sufficient surplus particularly maize is now generally food insecure.”
Oparanya further, advised farmers to embrace irrigation schemes as a means of ensuring crops are sustained even during dry seasons. He gave an example of Bunyala irrigation scheme which has greatly contributed to rice production in the area, in 2011 the area under rice increased to 1,734 while its produces rose to 54,020 bags which brought an income of 324 million to the region. The minister added that the government will continue to support the region to ensure full exploitation of irrigation opportunities. He revealed that the government in partnership with Japanese government has embarked on growing of upland rice which targets to increase rice production by 77,000 to 120,000 annually until 2015.
He urged the region to continues with production of horticultural crops as it has been in the previous years, in 2009 and 2011 the production of bananas increased to 180,400 and 226,.50 respectively.
Oparanya stated that the government will continue to support sugarcane farming in the region to ensure it meets international standards by offering support to the processing firms and undertaking research in the sector.
In the dairy sector, he urged the region to continue with improved method of livestock production like use of artificial insemination to ensure that the industry continue to flourish. In 2011 the milk production in the region rose to 386 million liters which enabled the area to realize an income of 7.7 billion.
Western communities were urged to register with cooperative societies. In 2011, the membership stood at 1.59 million with share capital of 54.5 billion with total assets of 34.79 billion
He revealed the government will continue to committee in support of poor individuals by boosting food security and increasing farm inputs. In 2011/2012 financial year through the NJaa marufuku Kenya the government has released 8.6 million to support small scale farming, He however urged the region to take advantage of the opportunity.
The minister pointed out that the government has embarked on promotion of palm oil farming since the last 3 years; he revealed that 76,000 seedlings have been distributed to farmers in the region and other 35,000 are awaiting collection from farmers.
Oparanya noted that the government is funding construction of Min fish processing plant in Kakamega at a cost of 60 Million and also 4 hatcheries and 4 feed processing plants at 20 and 4 million shillings respectively.
He stated that the government is in the final stages of launching more compressive extension programme in order to create and foster rapid agricultural development. Other programs targeting agriculture and rural development in the region include Kenya agricultural productivity project and farmers field school are also being implemented.
The minister encouraged investors to invest more in the region and the communities within to take advantage of the opportunity to ensure the region grows economically.
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