Western Kenya is poised to be Kenya’s source of palm oil which could spare the country the agony of spending Sh16billion yearly on imports, if numerous researches and trials are anything to go by.
Trials have shown that the region has the best growing conditions for the tropical crop. And with the growing having kicked off different institutions, aware of the huge potential of the palm oil, have invested in ensuring farmers now start processing the oil. Already, over 2,000 farmers are extracting cooking oil and soap from the palm oil trees.
The Anglican Church of Kenya Western Kenya Christian Development Service for example has imported small scale machines for farmers in Busia, Bungoma and Kakamega to process edible oil and soap from mature palm oil trees, a departure from the past where the farmers have been using archaic methods to extract oil from nuts of their mature palm oil trees. Palm oil and soya beans are being recommended as alternative crops to replace maize whose income is diminishing due to lethal necrosis disease and sugarcane farming made unprofitable by imported cheap sugar.
Kakamega County Director of Agriculture Johnston Imbira, who witnessed the handing over ceremony said the machines will help farmers add value to their pro-duce and brand it to sell to a large market in the country.
Imbira said the United Nation Development Organisation (UNI-DO) is promoting soya beans in Western Kenya where it has established small industries in Kisumu, Migori and Malakisi in Bungoma County to make different products. He noted that palm oil and soya beans are highly nutritious crops adding that palm oil takes four to five years to mature while soya beans take three months to mature. The officer observed that palm oil which has a life span of 50 years can be inter-cropped with soya beans.
Farmers have been buying seedling at Sh100 each with most of the crops now having reached maturity. Currently the region has 30,000 mature trees but that is still way below market demand with companies like Bidco Oil Company which has huge interest in the oil requiring at least 300,000 to sustain a number, he says, was still lower than required by Bidco Oil Company, which stands at 300,000 to sustain the factory in the area.