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April 02, 2008

Cotton farming picks up in Kenya's Rift Valley

Cotton farming in Kenya's Rift Valley province is picking up after years of neglect and disillusionment among farmers

The revival of Salawa Cotton Ginnery in Baringo district has played a great role in revitalising farming activities in the Kerio Valley region.

A director with the Cotton Development Authority, Mr Albert Chepyegon, was upbeat that the cotton industry was on track to full recovery. “It is true that farmers were disillusioned following the collapse of the factory but it is now back in business. As a government, we will provide the necessary incentives to our farmers in order to encourage them to grow the crop,” he said.

The director cited the provision of free seed and pesticides as an indication that the government was keen on reviving the industry. In addition, prompt payment to farmers for cotton deliveries to the ginnery is set to rope in more locals to venture into growing the crop.

“Prices for cotton have tremendously improved from Sh15 per kilo in 1993 to Sh25 per kilo currently. Besides, payment is cash on delivery unlike when the Cotton Lint and Seed Marketing Board was in charge. At the time, payment could be delayed for as long as three months,” Mr Chepyegon explained.

And the Salawa Ginnery management projects an increase in bales of cotton to be ginned this season. According to Mr Joseph Chebet, the manager for Rift Valley Products, a private investor that runs the firm, up to 1,500 bales of cotton could be ginned this season, up from less than 700 the previous season.

“We are hopeful that more farmers will grow the crop this season. The government is providing seed, and there is no excuse for people not to grow cotton,” Mr Chebet argued.

About 50 tonnes of cotton seed have already been purchased from the factory by the government for distribution to farmers in Keiyo, Baringo, and Marakwet districts.

Farmers have welcomed the move to distribute seed as going to boost them this season. Mr Jonathan Limo, a farmer from Chegilet in Keiyo says he is going to increase the acreage under the crop this season. “Last year, I cultivated only an acre of cotton but this season, I will put three acres under cotton. It is very rewarding to grow cotton because I earned Sh10,000 from it last year,” he said. He, however, decries destruction of the crop by marauding elephants from the nearby Rimoi Game Reserve.

Elsewhere, the government has donated two tonnes of cotton seed to farmers in Keiyo District. The area Agriculture officer, Paul Musyimi said the donation will assist 200 farmers in Kerio Valley region to grow the crop, aimed at reviving the cotton industry.

Mr Musyimi said the farmers were drawn from Chepsigot and Keu along the valley, and they used to grow cotton 20 years ago, before the collapse of the industry. He added that the government was keen on reviving the industry in the area which has a suitable climatical condition for the crop.

Mr Musyimi said the district earned Sh345,600 ($5500) from 19,200 kilos of cotton it harvested last year up from Sh291,600 of the 16,200 kilos the previous year.

He said the ministry projects a harvest of 60,000 kilos, after the distribution of the seed this year.

“There is more potential in the district and I want more farmers who had abandoned its growing to take it up again,” Mr Musyimi said.

The Daily Nation

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