Farmers from the North Rift – Kenya’s grain basket are shying away from overreliance on maize and other cereals and have begun to embrace the diversity of crops in a bid to enhance their economic status.
In Uasin Gishu for example, more than 800 farmers have already shifted into horticulture. The county government has facilitated the plantation of over 2,000 hectares of avocado in a program where farmers are encouraged to diversify their economic empowerment.
The Uasin Gishu county government will build an Sh200 million avocado factory a move that will cushion crop farmers who have been facing challenges to sell their maize to the National Cereal and Produce Board (NCPB).
Governor Jackson Mandago said the proposed plant will be constructed by Stabex Petroleum Company through its horticultural subsidiary company Herbex.
“We are also in talks with the company to establish a macadamia factory after the completion of the avocado one,” said Governor Mandago.
The most popular avocado varieties, Hass and Fuerte, produced mostly for export purposes in the country has a good market in Europe and Asia.
Governors from the North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB) said the region has huge agricultural potential but noted that it should embrace value edition and diversification to fully benefit.
Apart from avocado, Uasin Gishu County has also identified other crops such as coffee, macadamia, passion fruits, and potatoes as it moves towards diversification.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said the region has started to diversify their crop production with more farmers in his county growing potatoes. The county is the leading in the region in potato production.
On the other hand, Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Kheamba said his administration will procure 150,000 avocado seedling yearly for distribution to the farmers to promote farming of the crop.
Experts say that an acre of avocado trees – equivalent to 70-80 trees, farmers can earn up to Sh500000 annually under good conditions.
While a Macadamia tree can produce 100 kilos per year and with 70 seedlings sold at Sh150 per Kilo, a farmer can earn up to Sh1 million annually.
Mandago noted that there is a huge market for macadamia and avocados in the Middle East and local farmers should exploit the opportunity to boost their livelihoods.
Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty also urged farmers in the region to diversify to other crops such as horticulture as opposed to over-reliance on maize noting that there was a huge demand in Europe and the Middle East.
The CS added that the government had already secured a market for Kenya avocadoes in China and urged farmers to capitalize on the opportunity to plant the crop to meet the huge demand.
“Manufacturing and value addition are some of the key components in achieving the Vision 2030 and we call on the private sector to support the Government towards achieving this,” she said.