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September 26, 2007

Irrigation creates seed maize, horticulture opportunities for Kenyan farmers

The fortunes of small scale farmers in Marigat, Baringo Central District has changed drastically after they entered into a deal with the Kenya Seed Company. The farmers are earning about Sh100 million ($1.5 million) annually through the sale of seed maize to the State-owned firm.

The success of the project in the otherwise semi-arid area has been achieved through the assistance of the National Irrigation Board, which manages the Perkerra Irrigation Scheme.

Perkerra scheme manager Ben Massawe said the farmers had put at least 1,300 acres under seed maize last year. Each was earning slightly more than Sh89,000 ($1326) per acre after selling their harvests to the KSC, which paid them Sh37 (US 55 cents) for every kilo delivered.

Perkerra used to be the main producer of onions in the country but farmers opted for other crops after the market was flooded with imported bulb onions. The scheme also used to produce pawpaws, but the crop was gradually abandoned in favour of the more profitable seed maize, tomatoes and chillies. Currently, the farmers are growing PH4 and DH4 seed maize varieties, which take less than four months to mature.

Apart from seed maize, farmers at the scheme were making good money from the sale of tomatoes. More land would be put under this and other crops but expansion of the land under irrigation was hampered by labour shortage. The majority of the people in the area were pastoralists, which explains why even unemployed youths do not want to work in the irrigation scheme.

The chairman of the Marigat Horticultural Outgrowers, Mr David Ng’eno, said small-scale farmers had established a 20-acre French beans plantation as a way of diversifying production at the Perkerra scheme.

Daily Nation

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