The West Pokot County government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rivatex in a bid to improve cotton production and empower farmers in the semi-arid area. In the arrangement, Rivatex will provide certified seeds and pesticides to cotton farmers and will provide a market for the produce in the area.
Currently, at least 300 farmers in the County are growing cotton at Chepkobhe, Riwo, Lomut and Batei. More than 5000 acres are targeted for cotton farming this year.
Speaking while signing the MoU, area Governor John Lonyangapuo welcomed the partnership terming it a breakthrough in cotton farming in the County. “We are planning to engage more than 5000 farmers in the County which is one of the best cotton producing zones in the region,” he said.
Lonyangapuo said that farmers abandoned cotton farming in the recent past due to lack of market and persistent pest and diseases attack. “This will change because farmers will be given pesticides and seeds which have a higher yield production and are disease resistant. Farmers had stopped cultivating the crop due to poor prices,” he said.
Lonyangapuo said that soil testing was done in 2005 and repeated in 2012 and that last year they gave out free coffee seedlings and used Kshs 15 million to buy seedlings. He added that the County has embarked on an ambitious program by putting measures in place to revive cash crop farming that has been on the decline for the past few years in the region.
Rivatex Managing Director Prof Thomas Kipkurgat lauded the partnership adding that the company will partner with the County to increase the supply of raw materials for maximum operations. “We are currently producing an average of 10,000 bales against a capacity of 70,000 annually. We are tapping West Pokot which has the potential to produce more cotton,” said Prof Kipkurgat.
He said that currently, there isn’t enough cotton in Kenya and some is being imported from Uganda and Tanzania, adding that the industry intends to buy cotton worth Kshs 40 million.
He said that West Pokot is the third County to sign the agreement after Kericho and Elgeyo Marakwet. “This is a unique project, small scale farming where farmers need very little input but maximum output,” he said. Kipkurgat assured the County of immense support and ready market for the produce.